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Alexandra in Tech Talk,

It's never too late! Help your elderly to master their computer skills!

Only 54 percent of Americans over age 65 have access to the Internet, according to Pew Research studies. Among those 77 and older, the proportion drops to about a third.

In an era when everything, from personal health records to nursing home quality ratings, is moving online, when the best way to stay in touch with grandchildren may involve texting it's necessary to follow the progress.

Sometimes our elderly just need a little help to go through all the innovations.

Here're some useful tips for you:

1.Be Patient

No matter what, don’t get frustrated with your grandmother for her lack of knowledge or the speed at which she catches on. Using a computer may be a very new and different experience, so be extremely patient throughout the entire process. You don’t want to make them feel ignorant or put undue pressure on them, you just need to take extra time and effort.

2. Go Over the Basics

Don’t assume that your grandmother knows the basics of working a computer, because every computer is different. First go over the basic aspects of using the particular computer she has.

3.Set Up Useful Features and Apps

Next, help your grandmother use her smartphone by setting up some things for her. For example, bookmark her favorite websites and show her how to get to them. Then, download the apps she knows she wants and help her practice using them. You may want to suggest some useful apps for her. Think about what your grandma will primarily be using the phone for, and help her accordingly. She probably wants to communicate with her loved ones, so think about installing an app that allows her to video chat with her faraway relatives, and teach her how to use it. In the beginning, don’t try to do too much at once. Give her some time to practice using the features and apps she’s most interested in before introducing her to more. The more she practices, the more she will get the hang of things on her own.

4.Consider Her Physical Needs

Don’t forget to consider if your grandmother requires any particular modifications for her phone. If she is hearing-impaired, help her find the volume that works best for her. If she has difficulty reading small text, change the text on her computer to a larger font. There are also many accessories available for disabled or impaired people, and there are things that will help make using a computer easier.

5. Explain the browser

A good analogy for explaining an Internet browser to older people is to liken the Internet to a road and the browser to the car you choose to drive as you explore that road. While older people may feel more comfortable sticking with Internet Explorer simply because it's the default browser, it's never a bad idea to introduce them to the wonders of Firefox or Google Chrome. They just might like the way they handle the open road of the Internet.

6. Technology uses a strange language

Not just the obscure words such as ‘cookies’ and ‘buffering’, but even more basic things that are simply part of our vocabulary - ‘upload’, ‘browser’, ‘URL’. Sometimes we have to translate terms, which are commonplace to us, but without the context of technology, mean very little to someone else.

7. Help them choose, download and install anti-spyware and anti-virus programs. Plenty of such programs are available but a great option for older folks on a budget is to look for free online programs. Spybot Search and Destroy and AVG Free are two of the many free options that protect a computer from spyware and viruses.

8. Search a term on the Internet to show them how it's done. How and where a search is done on the Internet is the difference between a satisfying browsing experience and a world of frustration. Make sure your grandparents or older friends know where to find what they're searching for on the Internet.

9. Teach the wonders of e-mail by helping an older Internet user set up an e-mail account. If Microsoft Outlook proves too difficult your grandparents or older friends to master, you might want to consider helping them set up an email account with one of the many free e-mail providers on the Internet. Yahoo! and Hotmail are two free e-mail classics, but for maximum ease of use I would suggest setting older folks up with a simple Gmail account.

10. Show them how to shop safely online.

Older folks will appreciate these reasons to shop online: no tiresome running from store to store, no standing in lines, abounding great values and more. However, inexperience with online shopping and the occasional shady online merchant can make shopping online dangerous for the elderly if they aren't told what to watch out for. Lead your grandparents or older friends to trusted shopping sites like Amazon and have them bookmark them for later use.

11. Introduce them to social networking.

There's a wealth of social networking sites online, and while Myspace may not suit them, your grandparents or older friends may appreciate social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.