Teaching Nan to LAN: Turning grandparents into GranTechies

How grandkids can help the older generation discover the internet.

During her much lauded appearance on Saturday Night Live, octogenarian comic Betty White joked that back in her day there was no Facebook, and that she and her friends stayed in touch using something they called “Phonebook”.

Those who were born as part of the pre WWII or Baby Boomer generation have been witness to a huge wave of technological change, from the introduction of television, to mobile phones and now the internet, which is available everywhere we look.

According to Nan Bosler, President of the Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association, seniors can make the most of the internet, no matter what their interests.

“We may be hesitant at first and nervous about making a fool of ourselves, but once we gain confidence we are off and running.”

For many members of the older generation, the fact that the internet is new can make it seem overwhelming.

However, introducing your parents or grandparents to the internet can potentially make a big difference to their lives.

The trick is to take it slowly. “We need to learn at our own pace”, says Nan.

When introducing someone to the internet, break things down into steps and write down instructions that can be kept near the computer.

For example:

  1. Turn on computer
  2. Click on browser icon to open (Firefox, Chrome, Microsoft Edge etc)
  3. Type email address into browser
  4. Enter username and password

Better yet, help your grandparents to set up bookmarks or set the homepage on their browser so that their email is the first thing they see.

As with any kind of learning, it is easier when the subject is something you enjoy.

If your grandparent loves cooking, introduce them to the world of online recipes. Show them how to search and how to use sites like Pinterest so that they can save their favourite recipes.

A gardening fan might appreciate being shown instructional videos on YouTube, or how to post questions on a gardening forum.

Someone who enjoys history would appreciate being walked through a family tree website or a demonstration on how to access local archives.

Taking it slowly, going over things more than once where necessary and writing down the steps will help make things clear and easy to remember.

Nan Bosler points out that the internet opens up a whole new world for staying in touch. “You can visit with overseas relatives via the internet, read the newspaper from back home and see photos of the town you grew up in.”

Downloading Skype and bookmarking favourite sites from around the world makes it easy for seniors to feel connected.

In terms of social media, take it one step at a time! Facebook can be an excellent way to stay in touch with family and friends, but the steady stream of sponsored and recommended posts can be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t experienced this type of thing before.

Walk your grandparent through how to ‘like’ posts and make comments, reminding them to be careful when accepting friend requests and interacting with people who they don’t know.

Nan Bosler would like to see seniors being “aware but confident users of the internet”.

As with anything, there are risks when you go online and it is a good idea to remind your beloved elder, should they be new to these things, to check with you before replying to emails that claim to be from the bank, the police, or the tax office.

Show them how to shop online but remind them to use reliable websites that offer a secure checkout procedure.

One of the most confusing elements of the internet is remembering the many passwords that each account requires.

This is the case for everyone, not just seniors! Setting your grandparents up with a service like a LastPass account means their passwords can be safely stored and they only need to remember one.

The internet has so much to offer the older generation and there’s no reason they should be missing out.

Offering free tech support not only opens up a new world of information and communication, it provides the chance to bridge the generation gap and make new discoveries together.

More and more grandparents are turning to technology. Read about how, in research commissioned by nbnup to 90 per cent of grandparents admitted to jumping online at least once per day.