Top Eight Mistakes Seniors Make Learning Tech

I have been teaching senior classes on how to use computers for a very long time. There are a few common mistakes many seniors make while trying to learn how to use the tech that just makes things harder for them. The good news these mistakes are easy to avoid once we are aware of them. To be very clear I have the utmost respect for our senior citizens. These are not criticisms but hints on how to make the process of understanding the ever-changing world of tech

Saying they are too old to learn tech

When someone says “You can’t teach a new Dog new tricks” I always reply “You are not a dog”. Seniors will often think they are not able to learn tech due to their age. While it is true that some parts of using a computer will take longer to learn it is far from impossible. My best students are all over the age of 70.

It’s Not the age it’s the attitude. I have found that just like children who hate the idea of reading until they discover comic books, Seniors tend to dislike using computers until there is a reason to do so. Once they discover that reason all of a sudden the major block of age mysteriously disappears. All we need to do is find that topic.

Senior learning how to use a iPhone

Seniors Taking a TAFE course for basic computer use.

Look a TAFE course is not a bad idea for many topics. I am even considering taking a few to balance out my computer skills. The problem is that the TAFE classes are not designed with seniors in mind. So much of the foundational knowledge like “What do the two buttons on a mouse do?” are skipped completely.

The other problem with TAFE computer classes for seniors is that many seniors need to learn how to get over the false fear of the computer. I have found that most of the seniors who take TAFE computer classes end up being more fearful because that aspect of computer use is never addressed at all. As someone who does teach computers at different levels, this is something that I understand, addressing the fears of a few students who have never used a computer does cause a major delay for the other students. This is why a dedicated class is needed.

The TAFE course always assumes that you have at least a little foundational knowledge. The classes are also geared toward those people who are either going for a certification in computers or will require knowledge of computers for their jobs. While TAFE is a perfect way for most people to learn computer skills. The entire learning process is all about passing that certification and is not the best learning environment for seniors who just need to know the basics.

Seniors often feel like they are lost the entire time they are in class. Once again this is only because the classes are not designed for seniors in mind and not a reflection of the classes of TAFE as a whole.

This is why our classes are designed to work at the pace of the students. We tailored the classes to have as little memorization as possible and a focus on where to find the answers they are looking for because there is no manual…

Trying to read the manual

With a toaster or a smart tv reading the manual is a good idea. There is a wealth of knowledge that can be found in the manual. However, with computers, the internet IS the manual. A printer manual that covers everything a computer can do would weigh tons! Then as soon as it is delivered it is out of date. So any manual you get in the box would honestly only be how to turn on your computer.

Manuals are also poorly written. I spend a lot of time reading manuals and I can tell you that they are all rubbish. Most of the manuals about how to use computers only cover the basics or are overly complex. Most computer manuals are also written for people who already have a degree in computer science. So any senior trying to learn how to use a computer via the manual would be lost. …. hell I am still lost on how to configure my printer.

Letting a family member teach you how to use your device

I am really good at teaching people how to use computers. I have even been trained how to teach someone how to use software I have never seen before. (There are ways ….) However, I can not teach my wife or kids how to use even the basics of their computer. WHY? Because the relationship gets in the way.

My daughter will always feel like I am judging her, and my wife is really good at tech will either feel like I am treating her like an idiot or talking over her head. This is because the relationship dynamics always seem to become more important than the actual information being delivered. Do not feel bad. because when I was being trained as a trainer at Apple the first thing that was mentioned was that we should never try to teach a family member. Think about it … it happens so often that it was the first topic in a class about teaching computers..

Your family members are not trainers if they can’t train you its not your fault

“Do not try this at home I am a professional” counts for computer training as well. There is a good chance that little Bobby age seven is a master at Pokemon and looks like he can configure your internet in seconds. But trying to break down that information so a senior can understand is not likely something he thinks about.

Most of your family members will show you by doing it for you and at full speed. Even as a computer tech, there is a good chance I would not understand that information presented that fast. There is a reason why I spend weeks breaking down the steps to do basic things on a computer.

Thinking Kids are good at computers

Say it with me .. “A two-year-old can not read the screen”

Even the most un-tech-savvy senior has a better chance of figuring out how to use a computer than a two-year-old. The difference is the child is pushing buttons not caring what happens and the senior is so afraid to do anything even if the words on the button say “Click this button to fix the problem”

Trust me when I say that Kids are bad at computers. They cause all kinds of problems because they just keep pushing buttons until something happens even if that deletes important documents. Children are just fearless and do not get stressed about the cost of a computer. Their little fingers will happily click on delete buttons, and reformat hard drives all while never reading a single word. This gives the illusion of being really good at tech. After all, they have been using the computer for over an hour and have not threatened to throw the computer out the window once… Right?

Children however are masters of learning from their mistakes and in the world of computers whoever makes the most mistakes wins. While it is true that kids can become very good at computers the number of mistakes they make along the way is staggering!

Seniors on the other hand can start to get frustrated the moment they start using the computer! This can make even simple mistakes seem like the end of the world. While I am not discounting the frustration someone feels in this situation, the lack of a child’s frustration should not be mistaken for being computer savvy.

I have a ton of stories of having to totally wipe a computer because a child has caused so much trouble that the only way to save the computer is to wipe it clean and start over.

In our classes, we create an environment where learning by mistakes is encouraged. We have computers set up so people can make mistakes without worrying of causing any lasting harm.

Assuming they do not understand the words on the screen

This is what I call screen blindness. Screen blindness is what happens when someone is so committed to the concept they do not understand computers that they assume that they do not understand anything. Even if they are an expert.

The most extreme case of screen blindness was when I was teaching a lawyer how to install the software. The end-user agreement popped up giving the terms and conditions for installing the software. (Basically a legal contract). The student was so flustered by the button and the words on the screen that his post-graduate degree in CONTRACT LAW was instantly useless. But when I printed out the EXACT SAME WORDS on paper all of a sudden he could understand.

Screen blindness is a serious problem. This is why I use a 115-year-old Oxford dictionary to help my students understand the words on the screen. Not that anyone ever actually looks up a word it is mostly a tool to remind them they can read and there is a good chance they can understand once they actually read the words.

And yes there are many terms on a computer that even a computer tech will not understand. What I am talking about is the seniors gave up before even trying to read the message.

Assuming computers are harder to use because they are new

What a lot of people do not understand is that computers are actually easier to use than they were even five years ago at least for the users. While for techs this means that we need to update our certifications and take classes again, everyone else what used to be complex with many steps can be done with a few clicks.

Often my students complain that they do not want to learn anything new and are often overlooking the concept that the new way of doing things may be easier for them to understand.

For example, when I first started using computers it required a little bit of programming just to load a basic app. But now you can go your entire life using computers and never know anything about programming.

Part of what we teach in the senior classes is to show how new ways of looking at software in a way to take advantage of the new and easier way of using the new apps. We understand that many seniors hate change but with computers, we need to embrace this change.

Thinking they can break a computer with a single click

While it was true that most seniors who used computers before they retired would be in a situation where using computers could be damaged just because you clicked on the wrong thing but those days are gone and here is why

Companies like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Samsung are tired of being sued for stupid reasons. So they have made it so that you really need to go out of your way to cause any permanent damage to a computer just by clicking on it.

Basically, unless you see the phrase “Are you sure?” (Or something similar) there is very little you can do to harm your computer. And if you have backups you can be even more fearless.

Taking notes during class

OK hear me out! This is counterintuitive!

In high school and university taking notes was a great idea. It would allow you to recall some of the information that was discussed during the class. Where this falls apart for seniors is that the notes become its own problem. Many people focus so much on the notes they miss the key information of the classes.

There is also the factor where many seniors have complained that when they look back at their notes it does not make any sense to them. This has to do with forgetting what the terms on the notes mean or that the software will often use icons that do not translate well into notes.

While I will not stop someone from taking notes I do mention that most of the time it is a bad idea.

I am working on ways to have pre made notes for my classes so the senior students can focus on the class and not worry about having to write everything down. (Still working on this)

Only using a computer when they have to

This is perhaps the most important of mistake made by seniors when taking a computer class. Many seniors do not enjoy using a computer (There is nothing wrong with that) so they avoid using the device. While I can understand that thinking it does cause problems when kept in practice.

Here is where it becomes a serious problem. When they do need to use the computer to do something important they have not practiced the basics. So an important task that is most likely stressful becomes even more stressful.

Part of the Senior Tech Classes is to explain why using a computer when it is not important is useful for learning how to use tech.

Sign up for our Senior computer classes!

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