Senior-Friendly Tools to get Grandma Wired

By | October 15, 2010

(This post has been cross-posted from the NetSquared blog – here)

Over the years my family and I have worked together to help my Grandmother get wired. She now uses Google Search, reads her news online, sends and receives email, and even uses Facebook to check-in with family and friends. Using the internet isn’t a new concept to my Grandmother, though it’s not really something she finds very intuitive either. That said, she understands the power of these tools, and relishes the opportunity to learn more.

My Grandmother also has a whole network of friends who are at various stages of computer use/online adoption. Recently, she asked me if I could share any resources for her and her friends to be able to network, learn and socialize on the internet.

So, I turned that question to my friends and the NetSquared community, and got some really great responses that I’d like to share with you. Below is a list of resources, including the tools my Grandmother is already using, that can help you to teach a retired friend or relative how to get the most out of the internet.

Getting Started

These are the tools that I used to get my Grandmother started:

  • Google Search – So simple! Just make sure you explain the difference between a URL and a search term.
  • Email – If Grandma can write, she can email. Start with a simple service – my Grandmother likes AOL, but I’d also recommend gmail – and focus on the bare necessities (subject line, body, send button).
  • Browser Bookmarks – To start with, I created bookmarks for my Grandma to be able to access her favorite sites without having to use Google Search or remembering the URL.

Getting Social

Once she got a hang of those tools, I introduced tools with more functionality than email that we could use to connect:

  • Facebook – Whether we like it or not, Facebook is the gateway drug to the internet. It’s a bit hard for some folks to feel comfortable posting, but getting them started reading posts and adding “friends” is a good place to start. As my Grandmother became more familiar with the way that Facebook works, she’s become more comfortable posting her own content.
  • Skype – Skype’s video conferencing abilities are a great way to have free long distance or international phone calls to family or friends. Setup of an external webcam can be a bit complicated, but once the initial setup is out of the way the tool is pretty intuitive.

Getting Specialized

The following tools are the ones that have been recommended to check out and share with my Grandmother. They’re all specialized networks targeted at an older audience:

  • Seniors Meetup Groups – This is a list of meetup groups for seniors by seniors. Using this resource, seniors can find local events to attend or start their own. Thanks for sharing this resource, Sarah Marston!
  • AARP Community – The brand new AARP community tool allows users to share photos, publish a blog, join groups, subscribe to e-newsletters and network with other members. Thanks for sharing this, Wendy Harman!
  • Eons – is one of leading online communities for people over 60. The site is aimed at baby boomers who want to explore their passions, keep in touch with friends and connect with interesting people. The network has pretty extensive groups function which focus topics like body and health, learning, love and travel.  Thanks to both Amanda Mark and Wendy Harman for this one!
  • Seniorocity – Seniorocity, is an online community for adults. It was developed to provide a Social Network geared towards Mature Adults and Seniors. The focus is on friendship and sharing of resources and photos. Thanks for sharing this resource, Amy Sample Ward!
  • Silver Surfers – This site aims to help British over 50s get the very best from the internet. It is a directory of links, resources and websites that provides a “guiding hand that can bridge the gap… between getting older and becoming empowered”. Thanks for sharing this resource, Joe Baguely!
  • Over Fifties Friends – Another UK based site, Over Fifties Friends is a social network for over fifties. The site allows users to search for other over 50s, chat with other users and browse activities organized by members, and much more. Thanks for sharing this, Rich Quick!
  • WebMD – This site is pretty good for researching about common illnesses and ailments. While not specific to older people, it’s definitely a useful resource. (As a side note from personal experience this site also regularly tells you that you may have Cancer!) Thanks to my Grandma for reminding me to add this to the list.

What else?

I know there must be loads more sites out there for seniors. If you know of a good one or if you have a review of one of the tools above, leave a comment below…