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If you’re reading this, you’re either a senior holding a sheet of paper that a friend or family member printed out for you, or you’re that friend or family member looking for some information to print for a senior. Look no further. This is the definitive guide to computers designed specifically for the senior citizen who’s apprehensive, but ready to move into the twenty-first century. With this guide, readers will learn the how to utilize the wonders and efficiency of the modern computer.


A computer has five main pieces of equipment. The monitor is the piece that looks like a television and it serves the very same purpose. The keyboard and mouse are devices that are used to input information. As you can see on the keyboard, words are typed by the letter the same way as a typewriter. As for the mouse, when the system is completely set up and turned on, you can drag it along a flat surface to move a white cursor across the monitor screen. There are also output devices such as speakers and printers. The central processing unit (CPU) is the part that does the “computing.” It has two types of memory: random access memory and read only memory. The simplest way to explain the difference is that RAM is what you’re doing, and ROM is the information that you save for later. The fifth and final piece is the modem which allows you to access the internet.

Introduction to Computers

Basic Computer Literacy

Computer Basics

The Senior’s Guide to Computers


If you have a disability, you might be staring at your computer thinking that you can’t use it for one reason or another. There are ways to modify any computer to make it usable for people with poor eyesight or even missing limbs. If you click the right mouse button when on the main screen (the desktop) of the computer, you can select “properties” or “screen resolution” and modify them to your liking.

Guidelines for Computer Accessibility



You need to pay to use the internet. There are dozens of providers out there with some popular ones being Time Warner and Verizon. Once your computer is internet-ready, you can use an internet browser to access it. If you’re using Windows, this is probably Internet Explorer. If you’re using Mac, then it’s probably Safari. You can download a different browser such as Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome if you wish. In order to find information on the internet you need to use a search engine. Move your mouse cursor near the top of the screen where you see a long white bar. Click the left mouse button and type in “google.com” or “yahoo.com.” These are the two most popular search engines. Find the white bar on whichever site you’ve chosen. For Google it is in the center of the screen, for Yahoo it is near the top. Then simply type in whatever you would like to search for. No need to search in the form of a question.

Internet Tutorial

How the Internet works

Users Guide to the Internet

Barriers between seniors and the Internet

Back Up Your Files

You can type documents on your computer with word processing programs. These programs are more efficient than pen and paper because you can easily go back, change sentences and add content. Even though computers make writing more efficient, they aren’t completely reliable. Hard drives within the CPU have been known to break. Also, computers with access to the internet are susceptible to viruses. If you are writing a novel or a diary that you would hate to lose, back up the file each time you update it. How can you do this? With smaller files it is easy to e-mail them to yourself. With larger ones that contain music or video, it is recommended you save them to an external device. Blank compact discs are sold cheaply in stores. The tower that holds the CPU of your computer likely has a small button that releases a tray in which you can set the disc. Flash drives are also available for around $15. Ones with larger storage capacity are also available for a slightly higher cost. They plug into the small rectangular holes known as USB ports that are on the front of the CPU tower or sometimes on the side of the monitor. There are thousands of other types of programs and their files can be saved in the same way. There is no need to back up e-mails. They are saved on the internet.

Tips from Microsoft

Why back up data more than once?

Backing up data

Frequently asked questions about backing up data


In order to use e-mail, you need to sign up for an e-mailing service. Most basic services such as Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL Mail and Gmail are free. Find them by using one of the search engines recommended earlier and click on the screen where it suggests you create an account. Enter your personal information including what you would like your e-mail address to be. You also must create a password for this e-mail account. Use one that is complex, but that you won’t likely forget. If you are still concerned about forgetting it, write it down on a piece of paper, not in a file on your computer. This will ensure the safety and privacy of your e-mails. Once the account is made, you can log in with the information you provided. To send e-mails to friends or relatives, you must first know their e-mail address. If you receive mail from an address you do not know, do not open it. It could potentially give your computer a virus. For more specific information, visit one of the links below. 

E-mail Basics

E-mail 101

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