Forum Question: Learning the Mac and iPhone for Seniors

What is best way to learn MAC and iPhone for seniors. Are there any basic videos. I gave an iphone to my father recently. Spent three hours on a remote call/ But there has to be a better way. Need general finder/folders/address book etc. Checking with libraries and workshops but not many, Apple store is OK (he went to one), but intimidating and not structured. Those from other generations may need a different approach. Suggestions?

— Brian

Comments: 9 Responses to “Learning the Mac and iPhone for Seniors”

    11/19/09 @ 11:19 pm

    Good question. But I’m not sure there is a good answer. Seniors, like people from all age groups, have different ways they like to learn. The stereotype is that seniors are “afraid” of computers — they think if they do something wrong they will break it. Sometimes that is true. But other times it is more about vocabulary and knowing what is and what isn’t possible.
    I don’t have a good solution, but I’m interested to hear what others have to say.

    11/19/09 @ 11:32 pm


    11/19/09 @ 11:39 pm

    I think seniors are like most folk of any age. Some will learn by reading, others by being told, but there’s the ones who learn by doing. I work at an Apple store. I get many “over 65’s” who come in with questions. I don’t mind at all actually taking them to a Mac, iPhone whatever, and taking the questions step by step. I explain, I show them, then I have them actually do the actions. Taking them thru 2-3 times if needed.

    It can be unstructured, but the specialist can be patient and take the time needed.

    I found by keeping my attention solely on that customer and not looking about all round while they are learning is a big help to both of us. Looking around and being preoccupied can distract them, make them feel like they are inconveniencing us. That is not the case, but they are on edge & sensitive. Once I can put them at ease, half the time is needed for their ‘lesson’ :-)

    11/20/09 @ 2:02 am

    The first thing you need to tell them is to forget every notion they ever had about computers and cell phones. Mac and iPhone are something different entirely. Yet at the same time, people thing Macs are strange alien machines that require them to relearn how to use a computer if they want to switch to one. You need to dispel that myth too. Once you get these crazy notions out of their head, it should get a lot easier.

    Mick Lester
    11/20/09 @ 9:28 am

    You need to show them something that they want to learn. Who cares about folders? Why do they have to learn that? But show them e-mail, and how to use Facebook from Safari to keep in touch and you will get a better response. Once they are familiar with a few tasks, you can start showing them other things. I feel this a better way to teach anyone. My kids started using the computer for games. Then went online, once again for games. Now they are use using word processing and other tools.

    Jenny T.
    11/23/09 @ 1:00 pm

    Had quite an experience trying to teach my mother (72) how to use her iMac. She had very little experience with computers, and so I found myself explaining really basic concepts … like what is an “application”, what is a “window”, etc. etc. As I was doing this at the Mac store, one of the staff came up to me and said, “You’re good at that! You should get a job here!” Heh. Once we got the computer home, we walked through a few examples of how to do things like send email, etc. and she seemed to get the hang of it, although I don’t think she has a real grasp on how it all works.

    It really tested my knowledge of computers and how the more experienced of us really take for granted how computers work. So my advice would be to find a good online resource that explains, at the most basic level, how computers work, describes the terms used (application, icon, window, button, internet, etc.) and then use that as a basic tutorial from which to expand showing basic tasks. You definitely don’t want to confuse them with unnecessary information, but at the same time, some people learn and retain information better by understanding how things work and are related.

    11/23/09 @ 3:40 pm

    Great discussion!

    As Jenny T. said, “Although I don’t think she has a real grasp on how it all works” – – – Is so true. Once the basics are learned from an app side, like using email, google searches and visiting web sites, the MAC becomes useful. But i find basic maneuvering: like saving docs, download locations, bookmarks, backups, well i can tell you, it never gets learned. Another example is having multiple screens open and then moving them to view all content. Thats hard for some! Well tossing the iphone in there, requires a good knowledge of itunes, well at least the iphone / itunes pages. One answer is web based video learning.

    Jenny T.
    11/23/09 @ 4:21 pm

    Another issue my mom had a hard time with was maneuvering the mouse … the “drag and drop” concept was completely new to her, and it took quite a bit of practice to get it right, from a physical standpoint. For experienced users, saying “drag and drop your document onto the application icon” is a no-brainer, but to computer neophytes is like a foreign language.

    Brian, I experienced the same thing with file saving, bookmarking, etc. and the concepts of multiple “windows” being open was also a hard one to grasp.

    Heh, maybe Liz Feldman should create a learning video for seniors; she did a great job with Twitter:

    I think in about 20-30 years, there won’t be as big a learning gap, as seniors in 30 years will have had more computer experience. But for now, it’s definitely a concern.

    12/1/09 @ 10:54 am

    Liz Feldman spoof is funny. Thanks JT!

    With the advice i am giving now, i feel i could write a simple mini guide to using the mac/iphone for seniors.

    But the best guy to present video(s) of this is . . . Gary.

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