Getting Things Done: Tips for Older Adults

By Martin Jansen, Owner of Jansen-PCINFO

Double Clicking and Typing

Many older adults with arthritis have trouble double clicking on desktop icons to open applications like Microsoft Word.  Instead of double clicking they can right click on the icon and select Open from the resulting menu.

While typing it’s important to not hold the keys down too long or it will result in multiple characters being typed.  For instance, one press of the z key results in z while holding down the key results in zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  Not like a manual typewriter at all.

Frequently used applications can be located on the fast start panel where only one click will launch an application.

Adjust the size of Fonts and Icons

Older adults sometimes have trouble seeing icons and need larger fonts on the desktop.  In Windows, right click on the desktop to choose between three different font sizes.

Upsizing fonts is a bit more complicated.  This link provided more information for Windows 10 and 11 users.  Windows 11 can scale the whole desktop to appear larger.

In ChromeOS, it takes two steps to scale the desktop:  Settings (the gear icon) available from the time menu (bottom right) and then Display settings.

Unsurprisingly, Android phones also use Display settings to control sizes of fonts and icons as they are both created by Google.

And in Linux Mint as in other OS types Accessibility utilities control visual, keyboard and mouse capabilities to help seniors work with their computers.

Browser text can be made larger by holding down the Ctrl key while scrolling up on with a mouse.

Of course, larger fonts and icons make for less space available on the desktop.

Finding Applications and Files

Most operating systems have advanced search features today.  Rather than doing exhausting browsing for applications and files, I suggest using the search features.  In Windows, the search features have recently been expanded to searching the internet as well as the computer in the search results.  This can be confusing for older adults.

There is a definite bias toward Windows apps.

In Linux Mint Cinnamon, I use the Ctrl+F in the file manager, Nemo, to find files through subdirectories.  The menu system has a search feature to find applications:

Fear of Computing

Many older people are afraid to ‘break’ their computers by doing something wrong.  Let me assure you, computers are very resilient and cannot be broken just by using them.  Sure, many computers won’t survive if you throw them out the window out of frustration, but that sounds like an anger issue best addressed by a therapist. ?  Don’t be afraid of your computer!  At the very worst, computers can be restored to factory new condition.


Along those same lines computers can be restored to a point in time.  Many operating systems offer a backup of key elements of the computer.  In Windows, a periodic backup of the registry (database where computer settings are kept) is performed automatically.  In Linux Mint, TimeShift can be set to perform periodic backups of the OS.  Macs users have Time Machine and ChromeOS is backed up to the cloud.  Each OS can be restored to a point in time when the computer was working well.

How Do I?

Seniors often have trouble with knowing how to do something on their computer.  I suggest searching YouTube for answers.  YouTube is great for tutorials on applications like, for instance, Excel, LibreOffice Calc or Google Sheets.  When going through the videos, stop them (using the spacebar or tapping the middle of the video screen) frequently to try what the instructor is doing.  YouTube has much advertising – nothing is free – so make sure to skip advertising during playback.

Too Many Applications or Tabs

It’s easy to lose track of how many applications or tabs are open on computers.  This is especially true on tablets.  Each open application or tab in a browser uses up memory on a computer.  Too many applications open will slow down or stop computers.  If your computer starts to slow down, make sure to check how many apps or tabs are open and close them.

And if your computer starts doing something weird or unpredictable, it’s always a wise idea to restart the computer.  Restarting closes out all the apps and background operations.  Browsers, however, have a memory and may still may have all the tabs open especially on tablets.  Close tabs by tapping or left clicking the x on each tab.


Computers are wonderful for older people as long as they are set to accommodate their needs.  Icons and text can be enlarged and accessibility settings can be accessed to ease computing.  Seniors need not fear computing as modern computers can be reset and restored.  Training is available online from YouTube and other sources.  Computers run faster when too many running apps and browser tabs are closed.  Restart a misbehaving computer.


I am often asked by older adults which type of computer they should buy. If they do not have to write a lot, then a tablet is a good option.  Oftentimes, seniors only need to read emails, keep in touch on social media and browse the internet. iPads and Samsung tablets are good options for these seniors.  Newer tablets have 10 inch or slightly larger screens and cost between $250 and $500 with accessories.  If money is tight, Chromebooks can provide a simpler and inexpensive way to stay in touch with the world.