A couple things to keep in mind when teaching seniors:
· Seniors process new information more slowly than they did when they were younger. Allow plenty of time for them to learn!
· Many seniors have hearing difficulties. Speak slowly and distinctly. If working with one person in particular, make eye contact before telling him something important.
· Ask questions, get them involved in the learning. Why do they want to learn to use the computer? What do they want to do with the computer? This will help you guide them to learn the skills they need.
· Let seniors help other seniors in the class. They like learning from their peers.
· Don’t “talk down” to them about computers or use too many technical terms. They may get that treatment from their grandchildren or children and want to learn without being made to “feel stupid.” Some seniors may be very sensitive about this.
There are many things to think about when setting up the lab for use by seniors. Here are a few tips:
Use large monitors. Many seniors have difficult seeing and need a large, clear monitor. Also, check the height of the monitor. If you wear bifocals or trifocals, you need to be sure the monitor is not too high or else you need to tip your head back in order to see out of the correct lenses in you glasses.
Be sure to have versions of computers that your seniors will likely have at home. If it is their first computer, it may be a hand-me-down from their children and will not be the latest equipment. If your computer has a newer operating system and may be different, please let them know. Be sure to ask what operating system them have at home and explain any differences.
It is often hard to find that simple on-off button on a computer, especially a computer you have never used before. Make a large label and attach it to your computers. Do you want users to turn off the monitor after using? Then make a label for the on-off button on the monitor, as well.
Make sure the chairs have a height adjustment that is easy to use, if it has one. Make a large sign for the wall that explains how to adjust the chairs. If the chairs are on wheels, check to see how fast they slide across the floor. A chair with wheels on a tile floor may move fast when a senior tries to sit down or stand up, and they may fall. If the chair rolls fast, you may want to put carpet pads under each chair to help keep it in place.
Be sure all cords are off the floor. Seniors don’t see the floor well, particularly if they wear bifocals or trifocals, and they not see hazards like a cord. Also, they do not pick their feet up very high and may trip over cords more easily than a younger person.