Computer Resources for Seniors: The Best Books, Videos, and Websites for Learning About PCs and Gadgets
If you’re over 55 or so and have a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you may be a little hesitant about using all this new technology. Not to fear, there are lots of resources, specifically for seniors, that can help you get up and running with your new computer or other device. Whether you prefer books, videos, or online learning, there’s something out there just for you!
I’m a writer, so forgive me for starting with the most traditional – and, in my opinion, effective – way to learn about new technology. I’m talking about books, whether the old-school, ink-on-paper kind or the new-fangled electronic versions. There are several publishers that offers technology-related books geared specifically to senior readers, available in both print and e-book editions. Prices listed below are suggested retail and don't reflect reseller's discounts, if available.
Let’s start with some general computing books. These books typically walk you through all aspects of using a new computer and look at different types of PCs, determining what kind to purchase, getting everything connected, going online, and learning to use your new computer hardware and software. A number of good books are in this category, including the following:
Easy Computer Basics Windows 7 Edition (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $21.99). A confession: I wrote this book, so obviously I think it’s pretty good. Although it doesn’t have the word “seniors” in the title, I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from seniors who’ve purchased and found the book quite useful. This book, like all those in Que’s Easy series, differs from traditional texts in that there are more pictures than words. Just follow the four-color instructions, and you can learn all you need to know about setting up and using a Windows 7 PC.
Easy Computer Basics Windows 8 Edition (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). This is the Windows 8 version of the previous book, a four-color guide for users of all ages – but particularly appealing for seniors who like to learn visually. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online. (By the way, there’s also a Windows Vista edition of this title still available, if you have an older PC.)
My Google Chromebook (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). A Google Chromebook is a notebook PC that runs Google’s Chrome operating system instead of Windows. Chromebooks are particularly popular among older users, who like the simplicity of the Chrome OS. This book (which I wrote) is a four-color guide to the latest generation of Chromebooks, particularly suited for senior readers. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Windows 8 Computer for Seniors (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). This is a new entry in Que’s My series, with larger pages, larger type, and larger graphics for senior users, written by yours truly. Ii covers the most important computer-related topics for seniors, with a focus on notebook and desktop computers running Windows 8. There’s lots of good information about buying and setting up a new Windows 8 PC, connecting to the Internet, setting up a wireless home network, sending and receiving email, connecting via Facebook and other social networks, and surfing the web for senior-related information. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
PCs for Grown-Ups (Paul McFeddries, Que Publishing, $24.99). I’ve known Paul McFeddries for a few decades now, and he’s a writer I both respect and admire. This is his approach to computer learning for seniors, an easy read filled with useful information in a larger-print format. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
If you want to learn more about the Windows operating system that powers most computers today (except Apple’s Macs, of course), you want a book that covers Windows in more depth than do the general computing books. Que and Wiley both offer seniors-specific Windows books – just make sure you get the right book for the version of Windows installed on your PC (either Windows 7 or Windows 8).
Easy Microsoft Windows 7 (Mark Edward Soper, Que Publishing, $21.99). This popular entry in Que’s Easy series walks you step-by-step through all that’s important about Windows 7. It’s not written specifically for seniors, but seniors I know really love the big, four-color illustrations and visual learning approach. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
Easy Windows 8 (Mark Edward Soper, Que Publishing, $24.99). The latest version of the previous four-color book, covering all the new aspects of Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
Social Networking and the Internet
If you’re like most seniors, you’re going to spend a lot of time on the Internet with your computer. You can read the latest news stories, send and receive email, keep in touch via Facebook and other social networks, and even buy and sell items online. Here are some senior-oriented books that can help you connect and be more productive online:
Easy Facebook (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). This is another one of my books, written for Que’s four-color Easy series. It’s not specifically for seniors, but older readers appreciate the everyday language, large four-color illustrations, and visual step-by-step lessons for using the Facebook social network. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
Facebook for Grown-Ups (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). This is another one of my books, written specifically for “grown-ups” – that is, anyone who’s a parent or a grandparent and using Facebook. (It’s not for kids, in other words.) Lots of specific advice for using Facebook in an adult fashion and for overseeing children online. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Facebook for Seniors (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $24.99). This is my latest book, covering all the latest Facebook features and functionality. It’s a four-color, large print book that follows a visual step-by-step approach. It focuses on how seniors use Facebook, especially for connecting with long-lost friends and family.
My Pinterest (Michael Miller, Que Publishing, $19.99). Twitter is a relatively new social network that appeals to adult women. It enables you to “pin” images to online pinboards; some of the most-pinned categories include clothing and fashion, home décor, and DIY projects. This is a four-color guide to Pinterest that is particularly appealing to senior women. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
Selling Your Crafts Online: With Etsy, eBay, and Pinterest (Michael Miller, Que Publishing $19.99). Many seniors like to make their own crafts and then sell them online. This four-color book shows you how to sell your crafts on various online marketplaces, from the biggies like Etsy and eBay to smaller, more-focused craft sites. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
iPad and Other Tablets
Many seniors are either supplementing or replacing their desktop and notebook computers with lightweight tablets, such as the Apple iPad. If you’re a tablet user, don’t fret –several books are out there just for you.
My Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 (Craig James Johnston, Que Publishing, $24.99). Google’s Android tablets are giving the iPad a run for its money and are gaining in popularity among seniors. This book covers both the 7-inch and 10-inch Nexus tablets in a four-color visual format particularly appealing to seniors. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My iPad (Gary Rozenweig, Que Publishing, $24.99). This four-color My series book covers everything you need to know about the latest Apple iPads, with step-by-step, four-color illustrations. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Kindle Fire HD (Jim Cheshire and Jennifer Ackerman Kettell, Que Publishing, $19.99). Amazon.com is also getting into the tablet game with its popular Kindle Fire HD. This four-color book leads you step-by-step through all the Fire’s important functions – perfect for readers of all ages. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (Eric Butow and Lonzell Watson, Que Publishing, $19.99). This four-color book cover both the 7-inch and 10-inch versions of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 2 tablet, in the established My series format. (Look for the Galaxy Tab 3 version of this book in late 2013.) Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
iPhone and Other Smartphones
The other piece of technology embraced by a multitude of seniors is the smartphone. You can use your iPhone or Android phone not just to text and make phone calls, but also to run apps, play games, and connect to the Internet. Here are a handful of books that seniors like you should find useful for getting the most from your handy smartphone:
My iPhone (Brad Miser, Que Publishing, $24.99). The latest in Que’s four-color My series. Covers everything you need to know about the iPhone in step-by-step fashion. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Samsung Galaxy Note II (Craig James Johnston and Guy Hart-Davis, Que Publishing, $24.99). A step-by-step, four-color guide for users of the Galaxy Note II smartphone. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
My Samsung Galaxy S III (Steve Schwartz, Que Publishing, $19.99). Que’s four-color, step-by-step guide to the Galaxy S III smartphone.
My Windows Phone 8 (Brien Posey, Que Publishing, $24.99). Yes, Microsoft has its own smartphone operating system – and if you use a Windows phone, this is the book for you. Like all My series books, it’s a four-color, step-by-step approach, perfect for readers of all ages. Also available to read online in Safari Books Online.
Online and Video Training
Some people like to learn by reading; others like to learn by watching. If you’re more of a watcher than a reader, check out these video tutorials that lead you step by step through a variety of tech topics.
Facebook Essentials Video Training - This is a series of online video lessons for using Facebook that I put together for the folks at Que Publishing. It’s not necessarily senior-specific, but seniors can appreciate the step-by-step approach of these 21 video lessons. Individual lessons cost $0.99 each, or you can purchase the entire course for $15.99.
Computers for Seniors and Kids - This company offers a series of training videos on a variety of computer topics, in DVD format. Start with the Beginning lessons, move to the Intermediate training, and end up learning about email and the Internet. The company promises video-based learning based on repetition of tasks that enable you to learn at your own pace. Individual DVDs run $39.95 each, or you can purchase all three for $119.95.
GCFLearnFree - If you want free online tutorials, this is the site to visit. An offshoot of Goodwill Industries, GCFLearnFree offers free video tutorials on a variety of topics – not just tech topics. You watch the videos and walk through the tutorials online, using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. There are free technology tutorials available for Computer Basics, iPad Basics, Internet Basics, Email Basics, Social Media, Facebook, Google, Windows 8, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Office, and other popular applications.
Meganga - More free online computer tutorials, with lessons for basic computer use, popular software programs, and Internet-based technologies. (There’s even a tutorial on how to use a mouse!) Learn at your own pace, for free.
MyPCSchool - This site offers more than 500 tech-based lesson plans specifically targeted at boomers and seniors. There are classes on Windows, Microsoft Office, Photoshop Elements, and a variety of online topics (Facebook, Twitter, email, online searching, and the like). You pay $39 per 3-month semester or $79 for a full year of lessons.
Senior’s Guide to Computers - This site is chock full of training, information, and advice for seniors using computers and the Internet. You can find step-by-step (text-based) tutorials, informative articles, an extensive glossary of computer terms, and even an online discussion board where you can discuss tech topics with other seniors. The site also offers a number of free online instructions videos. It’s a good place to start if you’re looking for help with your new computer.
TeachUComp - TeachUComp offers a large variety of video-based training courses for users of all ages. Seniors will especially like their courses on Windows (Vista, 7, and 8), Microsoft Office (with separate courses for Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and the like), and Adobe Photoshop Elements. You can access courses online. You can take all the courses for $25/month or on DVD ($25 each).
Even with all the print and online resources available, many seniors still prefer a little human handholding. To that end, check out Geek Squad Tech Support and Guidance for AARP Members, provided by Best Buy’s Geek Squad. This subscription-based service gives you unlimited access to Geek Squad personal by phone, on the Internet, or in your local Best Buy store. You also get discounts on in-home calls, if that’s what you need. You pay approximately $169.99 for a 1-year subscription, which includes a personal tech shopper; setup and installation of computers, tablets, and other devices; and 24/7 tech support. There’s also tech training available, if you want it. Learn more at aarp.geeksquard.com.