For Seniors: How to Know What You Can Do with Your Computer

If you’ve never owned a computer and now have one for the first time, figuring out what your computer can and can't do may be a somewhat daunting experience. The following list walks you through some things you can use your computer to do:

  • Keep in touch with friends and family. The Internet has made it possible to communicate with other people in a variety of ways, including

    • E-mail

    • Webcams (tiny, inexpensive video cameras that capture and send your image to another computer)

    • VoIP (Voice over Internet Phone), which uses your computer and Internet connection to place phone calls.

    You can also chat with others by typing messages and sending them through your computer using a technology called instant messaging. These messages are exchanged in real time so that you and your grandchild, for example, can see and reply to text immediately.

  • Research any topic from the comfort of your home. Online, you can find many reputable Web sites that help you get information on anything from expert medical advice to the best travel deals. You can read news from around the corner or around the world. You can visit government Web sites to find out information about your taxes, Social Security, and more, or even go to entertainment sites to look up your local television listings.

  • Create greeting cards, letters, or home inventories. Whether you’re organizing your holiday card list or figuring out a monthly budget, computer programs can help. For example, have a look at a graph that Microsoft Excel created from data in a spreadsheet.

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  • Pursue hobbies, such as genealogy or sports. You can research your favorite teams online or connect with people who have the same interests. The online world is full of special interest chat groups where you can discuss your interests with others.

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  • Play interactive games with others over the Internet. You can play everything from shuffleboard to poker to action games in virtual worlds.

  • Share and create photos, drawings, and videos. If you have a digital camera, you can transfer photos to your computer (called uploading) or copy photos off the Internet and share them in e-mails or use them to create your own greeting cards.

    If you’re artistically inclined, you can create digital drawings. Many popular Web sites make sharing digital movies easy, too. If you have a digital video camera and editing software, you can use editing tools to make a movie and share it with others.

  • Shop online and compare products easily, day or night. You can shop for anything from a garden shed to travel deals or a new camera. Using handy online features, you can easily compare prices from several stores or read customer product reviews.

  • Handle your financial life. You can do your banking or investing online and get up-to-the-minute data about your bank account, credit card balances, and investments.

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