[HOW TO] Getting the Elderly Up To Speed On The Internet: Making Friends (part 2)

In the first part of this series, we created a computer environment that requires little to no intervention by the users to get them from powering on their laptops to accessing their profile on Facebook. Using this setup, my mother had more focus on what she needed to learn and deal with, sometimes we forgot how much is required in order for us to navigate a website such as Facebook. Unless we break down the website into its smaller and simpler elements, the first time computer users will be presented with a very high learning curve and might be inclined to give up in frustration over how much they need to grasp before they are able to do anything with a computer.

So to deal with Facebook I broke it down in order of importance for my mom:

  • Sending and accepting friend requests
  • Viewing photos
  • Checking and replying to messages
  • Using the Facebook Chat

Friend Requests

Facebook Navigation

A Facebook without friends is like an empty canvas; there is only so much you can do with a Facebook with ‘zero’ friends. So the first thing we tackled is adding some people to my mother’s Facebook. We kept it limited to close family and friends so that my mother doesn’t have to worry about what she shares, and also I went ahead and changed the privacy settings for her Facebook explaining to her that only the people who she adds and accepts as friends will be able to see what she does on Facebook.

So before we went ahead with anything else, I explained the navigation bar – the top part – of Facebook. And what each icon does, how a click on Facebook will take you to the first page of Facebook, the icon to its right will show you any friend requests, the next will have messages people have sent you and the fourth icon will indicate if anybody mentioned you or left you a comment.

With that, my mother has gained rudimentary understanding of what she can do on Facebook. Using the search bar, I got her to type my sister’s name and at this point it was her first experience with sending data over the net, and how to execute anything that is written we either press ‘enter’ or click on the button next to the space that we have written in.

This point was the first time that my mother had to type on a keyboard, so I went on to explain how to execute anything written we either press ‘enter’ or click on the button next to the space that we have written in.  So now she got used to clicking on items that interested her, she clicked on my sister and added her after I pointed out the location of the ‘Add as a Friend’.

The Photo Album

The interface of Facebook is intuitive enough that the next step came naturally to my mother, after seeing the profile picture of my sister she instinctively clicked on it so that she can see more pictures. After being faced with a list of pictures and clicking on one of them, I showed her how clicking on the ‘photos’ link on top on the image will take you to all that user’s albums while clicking ‘back to Album’ will take you to the list of photos in the same album as the one that you are looking at.

Looking at Albums

After adding a few other friends, I indicated to her that by going to the Facebook home – clicking the ‘Home’ or Facebook button on the navigation bar – you can access all the photos of all your friends by clicking on photos link on the left side-bar and flipping through various albums with the left and right arrows on the bottom right.


Hi Mom!

At that point two things happened, a red bubble with a number 1 appeared at the top of the page and a window with my sister’s picture appeared at the bottom right of the page. At first, that confused my mother but she quickly picked up on the bottom window and recognized it as a chat since it said “Hi mom! Welcome to Facebook” but wasn’t quite sure that she had to click on the bottom part of that window, type a message and press ‘enter’ to send it. So after replying to the chat, I explained to her that the red bubble means that there is something that needs her attention whether it’s a new friend, a comment or a message in this case. And the number indicates the number of items she has to deal with.

Following that, I told her to click on the icon on top of the red bubble and click on the message to open it up. She was relieved that it’s not as ambiguous as the chat window was and went to to type her reply to the message.

With my mother was already able to communicate with her family and have a live chat with them and see the photos that they posted. Things that she was dependent on others to do for her for the longest time. So saying that she was feeling jubilant might be and understatement.

How do you feel about teaching someone how to use the computer and the internet? Share with us your thoughts and experience in the comment section below.

The series:

Comments and Reactions

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/2010/11/getting-the-elderly-up-to-speed-on-the-internet-the-prerequisites.html [HOW TO] Getting the Elderly Up To Speed On The Internet: The Prerequisites

    [...] Getting the Elderly Up To Speed On The Internet: Making Friends [...]

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com/ Beiruta

    Again, very useful and simple steps to follow for the elderly… Really enjoyed the post! I also think it could be used for kids as well!

  • http://blog.thoughtpick.com M.Bamieh

    Well the difference is that kids grew up with technology around them and end up learning at a much quicker pace by learning with their peers and imitating adults ;)

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