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Supporting Seniors

by briegull / December 31, 2013 11:14 PM PST

I have supported people using desktops and laptops (PC and Mac and Linux) and mainframes starting in the seventies, retired around 2002, but kept up with helping people. Having moved to a retirement community not long ago, I found myself again asked for help, and the word has spread, especially since the woman who usually gave help has moved away.

So here I am, in a community of a couple of hundred, with people running everything from XP to Mavericks, some sharp with everything and one dear couple who thought that because they had a mouse and a printer plugged into the laptop, that was all that was needed to keep it running.

I've used a mac for the last few years so have had to get myself up to speed on the later versions of Windows. Yesterday I opened the box on a new HP laptop and helped my friend get started. I knew there would be a lot of "stuff" to clean up, sample programs, etc, but I was shocked at how intrusive they are now. Downloading simple things like Adobe reader or Avast requires being wary of many programs that want you to download them. I find I have to clean up after grandchildren's visits, or visits by "savvy" progeny who install "really neat things" on their parents' computers and then go to their home 3000 miles away without leaving notes on what they've done. It's challenging, and I love it, but I want to be able to give people the simplest ways to use email and surf the web, and hook to a printer. NOTHING fancy.

So I have two questions.
a) Anyone know of a user group or forum I could join that would give me simple support when I encounter something strange?

b) What advice can you give me about useful, safe things I can carry on a flash drive, for instance, to install. Like Avast, or StartMenu 8? I'm ok with Macs (which seem to have a lot fewer problems) but newish PCs baffle me. The Metro view is like driving through a downtown of billboards on all sides. I know how to get out of it, of course, but how do I stop it from happening at all?/ Etc..

Any advice appreciated.

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This forum is a good place to start
by wpgwpg / January 1, 2014 12:16 AM PST
In reply to: Supporting Seniors

MS has it's set of forums too. You seem to be aware of Start8, I use Classic Shell which is free and does pretty much the same thing. With it, you can set it up to always boot to the desktop and you can disable the charms entirely with it if desired.
I have a 32 GB flash drive I carry a good bit of stuff on including LibreOffice, Free AVG, Picasa, Firefox, Adobe, Windows Essentials stub, Acrobat Reader, AOL, 123Free Solitaire, Belarc Advisor, Easeus Todo Backup Free, EasyBCD, SpeedFan, MS memory diagnostics, NTPasswd, PowerPoint Viewer, Seagate hard drive diagnostics, Thunderbird, Treesize, UbitMenu, Word viewer, Ubuntu ISO, Classic Shell, CrucialScan, Undelete programs, Irfanview, MalwareBytes (free version), Skype, and some licensed software for the 28 computers at senior centers I support.

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Already in the mix
by Willy / January 1, 2014 12:47 AM PST
In reply to: Supporting Seniors

Visiting these forums should give you a heads-up on what's going on or how to resolve the problem of the day.

Depending on your quest or problem, there maybe a forum already geared to resolve it or familiar with that type of issue/problem. I certainly hope you find the:

That forum will help in any malware attacks or intrusive pgms.. Just know what you're dealing and provide the PC details should help greatly at getting the answers you need. Next, while Apple and IBM based PCs are PCs they do vary as you know. While you state the intrusive nature and where-for-all of windows that's the beast as it is. It far more installed than Apple PC and yet they still work well when they want to. Just be prepared that there is a difference and the tools needed are readily available. Just google away for such tools and if they can be "flash stored" they usually provide that detail. Just have more than one flash drive, several as it maybe required for ease of use and general tasks required of it.

Alas, on parting, I have no excuse with Win8 based PCs, they are trying to bridge a tablet and touch screen, etc. and yet still be windoze workable. That alone is a big challenge but it is working but older IBM type PC users it does become yet another learning curve to hurdle over.

You may want to depart some type of crib sheet to seniors when visiting them for simple or quick access of commands, etc. along those lines. Just something they can have "in hand" and refer in plain English and hopefully understood to a degree its helpful. I suggest you make clear the presence of "restore point" feature but NOT the recovery/restore item. It may help when things get sticky. -OR- as a file to store on their PC to refer to.

Last, except only "CASH" no cookies, pies, cakes or foods in general. Maybe, make a deal so the degree of they're knocking on your door is reduced. Yeah, I know, but there are only 24hrs. in a day. Put up an electric fence if they allow that in the community. Happy

tada -----Willy Happy

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by briegull / January 2, 2014 12:48 AM PST
In reply to: Already in the mix

Yes, I know these forums are great, have been reading them forever. But the list of all the things you've found useful - that is very helpful! I'd forgotten all about dear old Irfanview!! And a Powerpoint viewer.

I do have a crib sheet I hand out. I called it "avoid-a-mousies" way back when and almost all of it is still accurate for people using the machines. This morning I had to explain to someone why I couldn't come (I'm in the northeast and it is not a blizzard YET but may be coming) and she was very understanding. She just couldn't get to her Schwab accounts!! Another kind hearted soul was getting roughly 300 emails in the morning and the same number in the evening. And they weren't spam, they were "asks" from all her charities. At this time of year of course there's a lot of that. I showed her how to a) mark them as spam - I don't like to do that but the pile was too high to shovel! and b) when she clears them out, how to unsubscribe.

Thanks, guys, keep the ideas coming!

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Having read your post and others in the thread
by Steven Haninger / January 2, 2014 7:42 PM PST
In reply to: Supporting Seniors

I'll just say I'm in a similar situation but those I try to help are much younger. I've found myself as a volunteer in a small school. I don't work directly with the children but somewhat with the tech coordinator and teachers. Actually, my wife is the tech coordinator so we collaborate. I'm not much with software and my wife is excellent with using it. I've become the hardware installer and troubleshooter which includes some software issues. You'd be surprised...but maybe not...what sort of gremlins can get into PCs by both the phobic and the curious. I don't fancy myself to be any kind of computer expert but I do consider myself to be fairly good at "logical" troubleshooting. This means you don't just try things to see what happens but spend more time thinking and analyzing than than turning a screwdriver.

In any event, what I didn't see in your writing was any objective regarding developing independence in those you help. I notice that that when I need to visit repair facilities, the techs don't care to explain much to their customers about what the problem's cause was found to be and how they fixed it. Their business depends on people not wanting to or knowing how to resolve their own problems. What we try to do anytime we help someone is add a little knowledge to the user's brain in the process. This helps them to both resolve some of their own issues or provide better clues when they ask for help. If you're not doing so already, I'd suggest you always sit down with your "customers" and walk through what you are doing. Try to learn their level of expertise and tailor your conversation so as not to insult their abilities or talk over their heads. It's no easy job. Encourage people to work with a problem a bit before asking for help but do so in a respectful manner. We older folks retain more of what we learn from banging our heads on a problem than from any verbal instruction we get. You might find that the seniors you help will appreciate that little bit of extra interest you show and will also receive a little bit of self satisfaction when they figure something out themselves. Good luck.

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Additionally...I forgot to mention software to carry
by Steven Haninger / January 2, 2014 11:12 PM PST

I'll never tackle another person's computer problems unless I can restore the thing to how I found it just in case a repair attempt fails. I will carry with me a hard drive imaging utility and a means drive large enough to accommodate that image. The imaging software can be on a bootable flash drive or CD ROM type disk. In some cases, such a utility can disclose physical issues with a hard drive such as unreadable allocation units. The last thing I want to do to another person's machine is make things worse.

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by briegull / January 3, 2014 1:39 AM PST

There's been a drought around here of people having anyone to turn to except the expensive Geek Squad, which isn't very sympathetic to older people's needs. So in many cases they have BEEN banging their heads for a while, plus the last local person "didn't do macs". And I can't tell you how many times I've heard that "the last person just did things and didn't tell me what she was doing".

BUT: if what you are doing is uninstalling a bit of ad-ware that has gotten on, going into ms-config, etc - they really don't want to know, however much they may sit avidly by and take notes. What they need to know is how to avoid it coming back, and THAT I explain carefully.

I think the hardest part for the older novice is having stuff pop up unexpectedly. Unlike many kids, this does not delight them. And having spent lives of being obliging, when a piece of software says "click here for something amazing" they are likely to do just that, and get themselves snookered into installing something they don't need. I am a senior myself, and am furious at the paternal attitude that many take towards us in many areas of life. I try to avoid it when dealing with others! (oh, and I never do any kind of hardware repair more than making sure the right cables are plugged into the right holes)

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by rajroy009 / January 6, 2014 7:34 PM PST
In reply to: Supporting Seniors

Yes i know this forum is good for new computer user......

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