Selecting a Computer for a Senior Citizen

Selecting a Computer for a Senior CitizenIf you have a parent, older relative or older friend who has expressed the desire to own a computer, you may have volunteered to help them out without thinking – and right now you may be wondering how, exactly, to select a computer for someone who will not need the machine for video gaming, business purposes or fancy programs.

It’s true: Senior citizens probably don’t need a computer for the same reasons you need one. But they too deserve satisfaction with the purchase. If you’ve volunteered to help pick one out, there are a few guidelines that will ensure the new computer owner ends up happy – and appropriately educated – with the selection.

Before Buying a Machine

Purchasing a computer can be a daunting task for someone who’s never done it. Arm yourself with a few ideas before hitting the store.

Laptop versus Desktop

The first question to ask is whether the senior wants a laptop or a desktop. There are certainly pros and cons to both choices, but consider the following reasons that a laptop may be the better bet for an older person:

  • Laptops are portable and lightweight, which means the senior can travel with it easily.
  • Laptops require less wiring and parts – the monitor, keyboard and mouse are all included in one machine, which may appeal to someone older and intimidated by technology.
  • Laptops are often less expensive.

Mac versus Windows

If you’re a warrior of the old Mac versus PC argument – and you’re devoted to one answer – you may be tempted to convert a senior citizen to your own preference. But don’t be. Instead, share the following benefits of each computer type and let them decide.

Mac Pros

  • It’s often easier to learn a Mac’s software; they are known to be more user-friendly.
  • Macs are durable and long-lasting.
  • Macs are less susceptible to viruses – which could be a plus if your senior is just learning to navigate the Web.

PC Pros

  • PCs are less expensive.
  • PCs are also less expensive when it comes to repair and purchasing software.
  • The PC world offers more software options and a wider range of peripherals, from printers to speakers to joysticks.

Helpful Features

Make sure the computer you’re buying has the proper features to help seniors navigate easily and in comfort. Here are some to consider. Most computers come with these features built in, but checking them out and learning how to use them is important.

  • Screen resolution and contrast:
    Depending on the computer owner’s preferences, most screens can be adjusted for size of text and contrast. Typically, you can use keyboard shortcuts or menu options to achieve the desired effect.
  • Touch screen:
    Many computers now offer a touch screen option, which a senior citizen may find more comfortable – especially those who suffer from arthritis or who have trouble moving around easily.
  • Sound:
    Obviously, you can turn up the volume on the machine to the new owner’s liking. But voiceover – when the computer “talks” to the owner – can also be a helpful tool.
  • Software:
    How do you determine what software packages to install for the new machine? First of all, find out what the owner has in mind. Quiz him or her about interests. In most cases, the built-in software in the computer will be sufficient, but there also are programs that “simplify” software for seniors, including Internet access.

After Buying a Machine

We can’t stress this enough: If the new owner is not tech-savvy, set up the new machine to make it easy for the user to carry out basic functions.

Accounts and Passwords

Don’t let the new owner get confused by the bevy of usernames and passwords he or she will need in order to sign into various accounts such as email, video chat and social media. Keep some of these tips in mind: Simple is best. Don’t make usernames and passwords too complex. On the other hand, don’t get lazy about passwords – the name of a pet, grandchild or another point of reference is better than something easy to hack such as sequential numbers. Urge the new computer owner to write down usernames and passwords and keep this information in a safe place.


Inexperienced Internet users may stumble upon websites that will compromise the computer. That said, setting up a simple virus protection program is a good idea. It’s also important to teach the new computer owner to protect private information such as physical address and Social Security identification – especially if he or she will be using the Internet for medical or other personal matters.

Web Access

Don’t depend on accessing the neighbor’s Internet – such a plan compromises security, and it’s far from dependable. Instead, suggest that your senior citizen friend invest in cable Internet and use a direct ethernet cable connection, which is simpler than going wireless.

Remember, helping a senior citizen purchase and set up his or her first computer is easier than you might think. With a little patience and humor, they’ll be up and running in no time.

Norman Fong

Norman Fong

CEO and Co-Founder at Buy Via
He is CEO and Co-Founder of, an online, Android and iOS App smart shopping service that finds high quality products at the best price available. At, deals on popular products like tablets, including the iPad and Android tablets, can be sent automatically to users.
Norman Fong

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