While many take modern technology and its incessant and exponential advances for granted, older generations often find keeping up – or merely skimming the surface – to be an arduous and daunting task. Fortunately for them – and often unfortunately for us – we the experienced and all-knowing are forced to manage the task of educating those less informed. While it is in some ways flattering to feel that your ability to distinguish between a web browser and a word processor is rather exceptional, it often becomes a rather pain-staking process. The following serves as a brief tutorial, highlighting the dos and don’ts, key points and points of notable confusion.
The Internet Browser
It’s important to explain to your elderly person that the internet browser is both separate from the rest of the computer, as well as unaffiliated with any particular website. As most people have their homepages set to Google – and most old folks are aware of the term “to Google” – a common misconception is that the internet is Google. They’ll refer to the browser as Google, new tabs as “new Googles” and in general be confused by anything that isn’t Google. It’s often easy to go along with this; call the Home button in the taskbar the “Google Button” as they will inevitably want to return to Google before navigating to any other webpage. If at all possible, don’t let them find out about multiple tabs, as they will most assuredly forget how to navigate them, as the Pacman lady recently taught us.
My grandmother has Facebook. Its primary function for her is to play Scrabulous online with friends. Nonetheless, however, Facebook has achieved such a level of popularity that even elderly people are interested in getting involved. Don’t bother explaining the address bar, simply tell them to plug Facebook into Google and hit “I’m feeling lucky”. You’ll want to set them up an account and make sure the browser remembers their login details as chances are they won’t. If you explain how to upload photos, you can only blame yourself when embarrassing photographs of you as a child begin springing up online, so I’d warn against it. Don’t bother explaining events, as they will never be invited to anything by anyone ever. In fact, they don’t really need to know how to do anything whatsoever: they’re only getting it so that they can brag to their friends and relatives that “they are on the Facebook.”
Downloading and Torrents
Honestly, it’s not worth the effort. Explaining that you need to download and install a program which uses small files that you download to then download full files is like trying to teach them how to synchronize their iPod: it’s absolutely never going to happen. Hell, half of my less tech-savvy friends still don’t know how to use torrents. Chances are they want to download music, so I’ve found lying to be your best bet: explain that when people say “download” they mean “go to HMV, purchase the CD, insert it into the computer and press play.” It saves everyone a lot of time and energy, and if anything is going to save the music industry from piracy, it’s ignorant old people.
Skype is hands-down the most annoying thing an old person can learn to use, hence why so many of them are interested in doing so. No longer can child or grandchild use a convenient “I’m driving” excuse on the phone, as Skype allows even the daftest old person the ability to call bull****. It’s important to explain that they can only call when a friends icon is green, otherwise you’ll receive an angry phone call inquiring as to why you screened a dozen of their Skype-calls at 6:30am on Sunday. Also, every time you answer a Skype call from them, be warned that they’re going to say “Oh hi honey, it’s your grandma here” no matter how many times you remind them that you can see their face – but you should remember this from when you tried to explain Caller Display to them ten years ago.
Apologies to my grandmother and any other seniors who have managed to find this article on the world wide web. If you want to get back to Google, remember you probably just need to click the little house up there beside those two arrows. If not, you know you can always call your grandson, as he always has time to explain things to his lovely grandparent; just don’t forget him in the will!