Teaching Seniors Computer Basics One Step at a Time

My newest client is an 85-year-old retired chaplain. He recently completed writing a book encapsulating his philosophy of life and how to deal with it. I do not know the details, but it is obviously self-published, and he wants to market it himself. He has a friend in another State who has done it and helped others, but there is only so much help you can give by Internet. So he asked me to tutor him. His intent is to learn techniques beyond simple surfing and email so he can run an Internet business.

Clients like this can be a real joy. They are enthusiastic and motivated. Watching them get empowered is rewarding. The biggest single problem is laying out a rational course to follow. They call me in because they have a specific task to do. I could do it for them, but that would not be tutoring. I try to explain that they want to jump to step five without going through the first four steps. Then I lay out a hybrid program that attempts to build some basic skills while actually coaching the client on how to accomplish some of the more advanced things.

Sometimes that works, and sometimes the client just gets impatient. A motivated client is always impatient.

In this case, we worked together with me sitting alongside while he sat at the computer. We started by correcting his mouse technique. Like many seniors, he moved the mouse when clicking and soon got frustrated. His arthritis was an issue. He really concentrated and listened to what I said, but the surprising thing was that his wife who was sitting in on the sessions and also had compromised flexibility from arthritis, was taking careful notes and even came up to see how he was doing it. I showed them how to anchor the mouse with thumb and little finger. For most people, using a mouse has become second nature, and we tend to forget that it is not a natural thing.

Simply showing him how to better control the mouse gave him greater confidence and was a win for us working together. Anyone who has not tried to tutor a motivated senior might think such small things are trivial and we should have quickly advanced to file maintenance and organization and other functions. Other things than a mouse were going to become critical to his desire to run an Internet business. But too rapid advancement would be disastrous. It is a delicate line because visible and meaningful progress must be made in each session to keep the momentum going, but in addition to building skills, the tutor must be aware that most people have a limited ability to work for delayed goals. Delaying obvious progress can kill enthusiasm even if the delay is part of a well-thought out program of advancement.

So for that reason, I took the control and set up a new email account and partially organized a filing system to can grow into what he needs. He watched, and his wife took careful notes. We have finished two sessions so far and scheduled a third. He is a happy, progressing camper. I
am looking forward to continuing working with him.

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  • Lorraine

    This website no longer offers the PDA guide..

  • http://twitter.com/toplibrarian toplibrarian

    I work in a public library. We have a program with the nearby Middle school. Kids from the Middle school come to the library after school & are paired one on one with a senior. The kids seem to have an endless source of patience & the seniors get a kick out of being taught by them.

  • Richard Keggans

    @toplibrarian – what a great idea! I always think it’s useful to bring generations together when possible. it think the experience often goes beyond just passing on information.