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Hawaii_Jake's avatar

What are the essential things to learn about an iPhone for seniors who are not computer literate?

Asked by Hawaii_Jake (32735points) December 22nd, 2016

My parents (87 and 85) have completely skipped computers and got themselves an iPhone 6 yesterday. Actually, my niece upgraded her iPhone and gave them her older one.

They want to be able to see pictures of my niece’s son, so this has the potential to open up many things for them.

Even though my niece practiced with them a great deal yesterday, when I called them this morning, they could not answer the phone. They heard it ringing and saw my name displayed but could not answer. They were able to call me right back, so that’s a relief.

As soon as we hung up, I jumped on Amazon and had a copy of iPhone for Seniors for Dummies shipped to them. I also asked them to go to the senior center in their town to get some more practice. It’s a good senior center where they have many types of computer classes, so I feel certain someone there will help them.

I have another sister who lives in their town, and she uses an iPhone. I’ve contacted her to go over and do some more practicing with our parents. Of course, she works, so it will have to be when she’s able.

This has wonderful potential for my parents. They will be able to be closer to their great grandson who is four. We all will be able to send and share pictures very easily. Now, I have to print out pictures and mail them. It’s not difficult, but it’s slow.

Here’s how you can help. What features do my parents need to know how to use on their iPhone? It must be kept simple for now. As they get used to basic features, they can expand their abilities. I’m imagining they need to start with
– answering calls
– making calls
– reading text messages
– sending text messages
– Facetime
My niece showed them Facetime, so I’m sure they will want to continue using it.

What do they need to know now?

(I’m an Android user, so I’m not completely familiar with all the features of an iPhone. No, I do not know for certain which iOS the phone has on it. For now, let’s assume it the latest version, because I doubt my niece would have skipped an upgrade.)

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16 Answers

LuckyGuy's avatar

I’d use a silver Sharpie and mark the phone to indicate places they need to touch.
I also mark where the power cord is inserted and mark the cord so all they have to do is line up the silver marks.
It is not a perfect solution but it does help.

janbb's avatar

Some step by step simple bulleted written instructions help me with technology.

So – what to learn:

How to answer a call – changing the ringer volume up and down, on and off

Listening to a Vociemail messge and calling back which is easy


It would be nice if someone could enter “Favorites” for them for frequently called phone numbers

How to charge

Texting as you say

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@LuckyGuy I don’t think we want to mark the screen where it’s necessary to touch to do things. Marking the sockets and cords is a good idea. Perhaps I am not understanding what you’re suggesting.

@janbb Yes, step-by-step written instructions is a good idea. I’m hoping the book will have that. The AT&T store entered their frequently called numbers, so that’s covered, but I’m sure they will eventually have more.

I would like to add that this was not my choice for them. I would not have encouraged them to get a smartphone, but that’s done. Now, we have to make sure they are comfortable with this new technology.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I put a mark or two along the top surface edge . It just serves as a reminder.
I also have a mark that shows where the front facing camera is located .

janbb's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake If the book has them and they are simple enough, maybe your sister can post it the pages that have the instructions they need so they don’t get confused by having to look through a lot to find it.

My Ex had written out instructions on how to use the DVD player with the internet TV that I still refer to occasionally.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I am not sure about the iPhone equivalent steps, but with an Android phone, I log into Google on my computer with my mom’s account, and any changes I make to contacts are made on the phone as well.

Thanks for asking this, I can use the tips, too. She is not having an easy time using the smartphone.

She needs this Onion story to be real
“The popular search engine Google announced plans Friday to launch a new site,, to appeal to older adults not able to navigate the original website’s single text field and two clearly marked buttons.”

canidmajor's avatar

The book will help immensely. It’s very comprehensive. I got my first iPhone (a 4) in 2011, and the book really covered a lot.

Stinley's avatar

Facebook, if the family are on there and interacting with each other? So downloading and using the Facebook app. it’s a little different to the Android app.

LuckyGuy's avatar

For the power cord I put two white/silver dots on the top of the plug and two dots on the phone where it goes. There is never a mix up I imagine the pins last longer, too, since nobody is forcing anything.

MollyMcGuire's avatar

Why give them an iphone. A simple flip phone would be much easier for them to use.

JLeslie's avatar

I think the trick is to practice doing the things they want to do a lot for a solid week.

Answering the phone actually sometimes can be a tap and sometimes a swipe. Just to be annoying.

Some people have a hard time remembering “messages” are texts and not phone messages. For the life of me I don’t know why they didn’t name that icon “text”. I mention it because you might go on and on about texting, but they won’t be able to find a text button.

You can take a picture of the home screen, print it 8.5×11 with room for notes, and write on it what the icons do and how to use them so they can refer to it.

If they drive they might like the map feature.

Teach them how to take and send a photo.

Teach them how to save a photo when they receive them from family.

Set up for them:

Family photos to phone numbers so they pop up when the person calls.

Favorite phone numbers. Android is way better at this one function. In android you can easily add a phone/person to your home screens.

Make sure they understand the screen works by your warm touch. If they try to do it with gloves on it doesn’t work.

canidmajor's avatar

@MollyMcGuire: Read the first sentence of the details.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

My parents have settled in with their new iPhone. They can answer and make calls and take pictures and use Facetime to see their great grandson. Yesterday, iPhone for Seniors for Dummies that I ordered for them arrived in the mail, and they’re studying it some today. Really and truly, the only thing I think they need to learn how to do after what they’ve already mastered is text messaging and email. Eventually, they can learn how to navigate the internet. However, if they’re going to get onto the internet, I think they should get an iPad.

JLeslie's avatar

^^That’s awesome. :)

Stinley's avatar

Yep really good. Well done Jake’s mum and dad!

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