Resources for Improving your basic computer and Internet skills

For many people, and especially for senior citizens, learning and or improving computer and basic internet skills is desirable, and there are a number of good websites that make it easy to improve computer and Internet skills. Let’s look at them now.

The HP Learning Center offers classes (with 2 to 6 lessons) are easy to follow. You need to do a free registration before you pick a class to start off. Classes include two to six lessons and may also include interactive demos, quizzes and assignments. For quick sessions check out the 5-minute how-to videos or short lessons.

The BBC’s Webwise is a beginner’s guide to using the internet. But that’s just one part as the online guide starts off with an introduction to the basics of using a computer. The guides on Webwise cover a facet of computer use – each explained very simply and a few of them are supported with interactive multimedia which makes learning computers lot of fun. Webwise meets the usual standards of quality associated with BBC and all its learning resources.
GCFLearnFree.org is an online platform for courses that cover technology, online literacy, and math skills. The site lists around 750 lessons that are designed for basic and intermediate levels. The easy on the eyes design of the site should be suitable for senior citizens to grab basic internet and computer skills. A look down their topics page reveals the range of tech related courses they cover (there’s even a course on how to use an ATM). Courses are interactive and supported with articles, videos, and animation.
Microsoft Accessibility is a Windows resource that lists guides helpful for specific types of difficulties and impairments especially among the elderly. For instance, senior citizens can check out the Windows features that make it easier to view what’s on the computer screens. Available guides cover the assistive technologies built into Windows 7, Internet Explorer, and Office.

Skillful Senior is a computer skills site for the elderly that believes basic navigation skills are important specifically because it is a great help for accessing health information on the web. The site has interactive animated tutorials that teach how to use a mouse, the arrow keys on the keyboard, and touch typing. But first learn a bit about ergonomics too (how to use your computer in a way that won’t result in pain). Each tutorial is helped along with a voiceover by a digital character.
Meganga offers on-line computer training for seniors and beginners and is arranged in a blog-style layout. You can use the category listing on the right to wade through the free lessons. The site is incomplete in some areas and still looks like a work in progress, but you can definitely use it to pick up some free beginner lessons on how to use computers.
Good50 is a Google powered search engine customized to be more readable and user-friendly to everyone including older adults, senior citizens, and school-aged children. The larger text on the search page and the optional high-contrast setting makes it easier for older adults to access content on the web.
If you are an older adult and in the United States, then you can also call upon a support resource like SeniorNet that has learning centers all over the United States for those who are above 50 years of age. SeniorNet is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide older adults education and access to computer technologies so that they can enhance their own lives and also share their knowledge and wisdom.

 

Personal information required for emergencies

At times of a family emergency, a good deal of personal (and sensitive) information is often needed by close family members to make decisions and take action. A well developed documentation system – A Personal Affairs Record (PAR) -can provide this information to those who need it. Historically, this information might be maintained as a single physical document with supporting materials such as copies of wills, insurance policies, and so on. In today’s digital world, it makes sense to maintain such information in digital form allowing for easy maintenance. If this is to be done on a computer, it should be protected using encryption so that it does not fall into the wrong hands. Having a digital PAR reduces the need to constantly access paper based documentation often kept in a filing cabinet, in a home fire safe, or in a safe deposit box at a local bank.
The information contained in such a family information filing system encompasses information about the “head of household” and all dependents, including partner, children, and perhaps aging parents. Someone must prepare and file income taxes each year. For definitional purposes, then, the family information filing system should include information on members of a “family unit” who are claimed as dependents on the federal tax filing form 1040.

The following are examples of physical documents that should be maintained in a filing system

  • Wills
  • Other Estate planning information including Durable Powersof Attorney for Finance, Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care, Revocable Living Trusts, Irrevocable Trusts, Funeral Plans, Obituary information.
  • Copies of beneficiary designation forms
  • Birth certificates
  • Credit union and other financial institution account records (unless they are provided on-line by our financial institution)
  • Marriage certificates or divorce decrees
  • Identification records (driver’s license, passport, green card)
  • Titles, deeds, registrations for property and vehicles you own
  • Mortgage and other loan information
  • Insurance policies
  • Investment records
  • Credit card statements (unless on-line)
  • Employer benefit statements (unless on-line)
  • Income tax information (copies of last 6 years of tax returns, proof of estimated tax payments)
  • Report of earnings from Social Security
  • Social Security card

Contents of a Personal Affairs Record

The web site that accompanies this book has a very detailed breakdown of PAR information that you can use to facilitate creating one for yourself and your family. Just to give you a taste of what you will find there, below is a list of subcategories of information that might be recorded.
PERSONAL INFORMATION — on each family member, as applicable:

  • Identity Data
  • Employment History
  • Medical History
  • Education History
  • Marital History
  • Civil Service Record
  • Military Service Record
  • Memberships

ADVISORS — Religious, Legal, Accounting, Financial Planning, Real Estate, Last will, Living will, Trusts

ASSETS — Account numbers, contact information, key details, URL, account login credentials, etc. on each of the following:

  • Bank Accounts
  • Brokerage Accounts
  • Individual Retirement Accounts
  • Employer Defined Benefit Programs
  • Employer Supplemental Retirement Programs
  • Pensions / Benefits, for Civil Service, Social Security, and/or Military Service
  • Private Loans – Money Owed To Me
  • Employer Defined Contribution Programs
  • Self Employed Retirement Account
  • Deferred Annuities
  • Immediate Annuities
  • Education Savings Accounts
  • Health Savings Account
  • Real Estate, including Residence(s), Investment Property, Burial Plot
  • Closely Held Business
  • Vehicle information including Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles, Watercraft, and Aircraft
  • High Value Personal Property
  • Intellectual Property
  • Mineral Rights
  • Leaseholds
  • Web Sites
  • Time Share Properties
  • Fractional Share Ownership
  • Club Memberships
  • Stock Certificates
  • Stock Options
  • Pre-paid Services
  • Warranties
  • Rewards Programs
  • Bonds
  • Investment Trusts
  • Foreign property

LIABILITIES — Account numbers, contact information, key details, URL, account login credentials, etc. on each of the following:

  • Secured debt information including Mortgages, Reverse Mortgages, Vehicles, and Other Personal Property
  • Unsecured debt information including Credit Cards and Installment Loans
  • Student Loans
  • Retirement Account Loans
  • Life Insurance Cash Value Loans
  • Business Loans
  • Alimony Payments
  • Child Support Payments
  • Private Loans
  • Vehicle Leases
  • Property Leases

INSURANCE — Account numbers, contact information, key details, URL, account login credentials, etc. on each of the following:

  • Life
  • Accidental Death
  • Disability
  • Veterans Benefits
  • Health care information including Major Medical, Hospitalization, Dental, Vision, Long Term, Medicare -Part A, Medicare – Part B, Medicaid and Medigap
  • Auto information including policy information for Cars, Trucks, Motorcycles, Boats, Homeowners, Household Goods / Renters, Excess Liability (Umbrella), Flood or Hazard, Travel/Accident, Mortgages, and Credit Life.

 

Contact Data Related to a Household

This is a fairly exhaustive list of types of services used by households. Few people will use all of these services, however, the list does point out how much information can be lost if this isn’t documented (and backed up) somewhere. Perhaps losing this information will not cost any money out of pocket, but it will be a good deal of extra work (and time) to start all over again building up such a list of trusted service providers.

For each item, contact information such as name, phone number, address, etc. is often maintained. Wouldn’t it be great to have all of this information on your phone (and backed up on your computer or in the cloud)!
Health Care

  • Physicians (GP)
  • Specialists
  • Chiropractic
  • Dentists
  • Vision
  • HMO/PPO
  • Hospitals and Clinics
  • Pharmacies
  • Pharmacies, Internet
  • Nursing
  • Mental Health
  • Fitness
  • Dietary

Personal Services

  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Massage
  • Skin
  • Tanning Salon
  • Personal Trainer

Household Maintenance

  • Computer Repair
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Major Appliance
  • Pool
  • Heating and Air Conditioning
  • Extermination
  • Piano Tuning
  • Security System
  • Wells and Septic
  • Lawn and Garden
  • Sprinkler System
  • Carpet Cleaning
  • Domestic Help

Automotive Care

  • General Auto Repair
  • Paint and Body
  • Tires
  • Brakes and Lube / Oil Change
  • Glass
  • Transmission
  • Audio and Security

Utilities

  • Electricity
  • Natural Gas
  • Home Heating
  • Water
  • Waste Water (Sewer)
  • Garbage Collection
  • Telephone
  • Television
  • Internet (ISP)
  • Mobile Phone

Family Services

  • Florist
  • Catering
  • Travel
  • Equipment Rental
  • Child Care Facility
  • Child Care in Home
  • Tutoring
  • Tax Preparation
  • Transportation
  • Home Deliveries
  • Dry Cleaning
  • Laundry

Pet Services

  • Veterinarian
  • Grooming
  • Sitting
  • Kenneling

Subscriptions

  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Web services

Other