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First steps

Computer courses and taster sessions

There are lots of computer courses and taster sessions available for older people, providing straightforward training using jargon-free terms that aim to get you quickly enjoying the advantages of the internet. To find a course in your area:

  • contact your local Age UK and ask them about training opportunities.

Find your local Age UK

  • ask at your local library about computer training courses
  • contact Online Centres Network to find out about courses based in community venues
  • access a wide range of free online beginners’ courses by visiting websites such as Go ON UK and BBC’s Webwise.

Set up an email account

Setting up an email account should be one of the first things you do online. Email is an effective way to send free messages to your friends and family (no matter where they are in the world) and to receive newsletters about your favourite hobbies and interests. It’s also the primary means of communication for many companies, and you’ll need an email account to register with most online services.

Setting up an email account is straightforward. Your internet service provider (such as BT or Sky) will often supply you with one when you register, but you can also set up an email account with one of the many popular online services, such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo.

How to search

Think of a topic and there’s bound to be some information available about it on the internet, but it’s impossible to remember every web address. Search engines are an effective way to find the page you are looking for.

You enter keywords related to what you’re looking for into a search box, and the search engine will use these to return a number of suggested websites. It will sort the results by relevance with the most appropriate websites, based on your keywords, at the top of the page.

By far the most common search engine is Google, so much so you’ll often hear people say ‘Google it’ when they suggest someone searches for something. There are however many other search engines available, such as Yahoo Search and Bing.

Here are some general tips for searching online:

  • be aware of sponsored links: companies and organisations can pay to have their adverts shown in prominent places, but they won’t necessarily be relevant for you. The sponsored links are usually clearly labelled
  • type 2 or more words to make your searches more specific, e.g. type “how to wire a plug”
  • use inverted commas (“ “) when searching for a phrase to improve search results, e.g. “Cheap flights”
  • use trusted sources when searching for important facts, e.g. always trust an NHS website over an unknown site.

Wikipedia is a famous online encyclopaedia that’s very useful for finding information. You’ll find information on just about any subject and the level of information is often at a very high standard. However, you should be aware that anyone could edit a Wikipedia page, so sometimes you’ll come across incorrect or misleading information.

How the internet changed Brenda's life

How the internet changed Brenda's life

Brenda's son bought her a computer for her 75th birthday and it broadened her life. It's the first thing she checks these days when she gets up in the morning.

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Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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