How to Set Up Windows 11 for Senior Citizens

edited August 2023 in PC Tech

Navigating today's tech can be a tightrope for seniors, particularly those who didn't grow up with it. But what if we turned Windows 11 into their new ally? Thanks to Microsoft's boosted accessibility, you can now help seniors explore the online world, keep in touch with family, or watch YouTube.

With this concise guide, you'll set up a user-friendly laptop for seniors. It's not just about connecting them; it's about unlocking a universe of possibilities.

1) Simplify Windows 11 UX 

"Keep it simple," my grandfather often advised, and when it comes to tech, this wisdom rings more accurate than ever. The fewer the options, the less chance there is of feeling swamped.

Many of the built-in apps in Windows are things we rarely touch, and seniors likely won't need them either. So, feel free to declutter and remove unnecessary apps from their PC. Our removing bloatware guide will help you.

And what about having multiple browsers? You can help by hiding one from the start menu. Set their start page up with links to their favorite sites. Streamlining, in this way, helps to keep the focus on their online activities, not managing the tools.

2) Minimize the Clicks 

Let's aim to make interactions as smooth as possible. Think of desktop shortcuts as tiny digital speedways that let you double-click to instantly open your preferred file, web page, or program. The best part? You can create a shortcut for practically anything:

  • An app you use regularly. 
  • A file you're currently working with. 
  • A website you visit frequently. 
  • A game you love playing.

Make website shortcuts: 

Let's make a shortcut for a site they visit often, like Facebook: 

  1. Open the desired page in your browser. 
  2. Look for the lock symbol next to the URL. 
  3. Drag and drop this website shortcut onto your desktop.

For games and apps: 

  1. Hit the [Windows] key. 
  2. Search for the program you are looking for. 
  3. Drag the program symbol onto the desktop.

Customize the Icons 

Boost visibility by increasing the size of desktop icons to make them easier to spot. To resize desktop icons:

  1. Right-click on any empty space on the desktop. 
  2. Navigate to View.
  3. Choose either Medium icons or Large icons.

Switch out the shortcut's default icon for something more recognizable to add an extra layer of convenience. To change a shortcut's icon:

  1. Right-click on the shortcut. 
  2. Select Properties
  3. Click the Shortcut tab. 
  4. Select Change Icon
  5. Choose a new icon from the list or browse for a custom one. 
  6. Click OK to save your changes.

With these tweaks, their favorite corners of the digital world will always be just a double-click away.

3) Enable Voice Commands in Windows 11 

Who says you need a mouse and keyboard to navigate the digital world? Voice access allows you to control Windows 11 completely hands-free. Open apps, surf the web, dictate documents, send emails, and much more — all with your voice.

Built on advanced, on-device speech recognition, Windows 11's Voice Access understands speech with impressive accuracy, even without an internet connection. This feature is available in Windows 11, version 22H2, and beyond.

How to enable Voice Access: 

  1. Find Voice Access in the Start menu. 
  2. Choose Settings > Accessibility > Speech
  3. Turn on the Voice Access switch. 
  4. If you want Voice Access to start every time, check Start voice access after you sign into your PC.

Use Voice Access with Windows search: 

  1. Type “voice access” into Windows search. 
  2. Choose Open to start Voice Access. 
  3. To make Voice Access easier to find in the future, select Pin to Taskbar or Pin to Start.

With voice commands, seniors can enjoy a hands-free, hassle-free digital experience. It's like giving them a personal digital assistant ready to obey their every command.

4) Turning Off Unnecessary Startup Programs 

A flurry of programs springing to life the moment seniors sign in can dampen their PC experience. Closing each of these individually becomes yet another hurdle to overcome. So, it's wise to turn off any unneeded startup programs.

Here's how you can turn off these pesky programs: 

  1. Right-click on the Windows Start button to open Task Manager
  2. Navigate to the Startup tab. 
  3. Look through the list and identify any unnecessary programs that are enabled. 
  4. To turn off an application, right-click on it and select Disable.

By clearing out all needless programs from the startup list, seniors can avoid having to close numerous applications each time they log in. So, it's easier to use the computer.

5) Install Essential Software 

To elevate the user experience for seniors, you might want to equip their laptops with helpful third-party software.

Essential applications may include:

  • Firefox or Chrome: These browsers offer excellent speed, security features, and customization options. 
  • 7-Zip: A versatile file archiver with high compression ratios. 
  • Microsoft Office: A comprehensive suite of productivity tools, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and more. 
  • VLC Media Player: A free, open-source multimedia player supporting most formats. 
  • Microsoft Outlook: A reliable email client to manage emails, contacts, and calendars. 
  • Skype: For video, voice, and instant messaging. 
  • Adblock: Stop annoying ads and improve internet browsing.

Also, ensure the laptop runs on the latest drivers. Keeping drivers updated ensures optimal performance and security.

Handing over a system with the necessary software and updates not only smoothens their digital journey but also minimizes their chances of stumbling upon technical hurdles.

6) Set Up User Accounts to Limit Administrative Access 

Windows administrator accounts come with vast access and permissions. You can access anything on the system, and malware can use administrator permissions to infect or damage any files in Windows.

Different types of user accounts come with varying levels of control or 'privileges.' Administrators have far-reaching permissions and can orchestrate system-wide changes like new software installations. Standard Users have a limited scope and can only change things within their accounts.

A safer approach is setting up user accounts with limited permissions, offering an extra layer of protection. These accounts let users keep personal settings, preferences, and files secure and private. With separate user accounts, seniors can have a digital experience customized to their needs.

Create a Local User Account

  1. Select Start > Settings > Accounts. 
  2. Then select Family & other users. (You may see Other users in some Windows Versions). 
  3. Next to Add other user, select Add account
  4. Choose I don't have this person's sign-in information, and on the next page, select Add a user without a Microsoft account
  5. Enter a username, password, and hint—or choose security questions—and then select Next.

7) Change Ease of Access settings 

In Windows 11, Ease of Access has been renamed Accessibility settings. It's aimed at helping seniors navigate their computers more comfortably and intuitively. From using the PC via a narrator to enlarging content with a magnifier, Accessibility offers many options. Here are three:  

1) Turn on Magnifier in Windows 11: 

Windows built-in magnifier makes it easier to read small text. Here's how to enable it:

  1. Open Start menu > Settings 
  2. Select Accessibility > Magnifier. 
  3. Turn the Magnifier switch on. 
  4. Use the Zoom level buttons to adjust the magnification to a comfortable level.

2) Increase text size in Windows 11: 

Boosting font size can assist those with visual challenges. Here's how to enlarge the text: 

  1. Open Start menu > Settings. 
  2. Select Accessibility > Text size
  3. Drag the Text size slider right to increase the sample text size. 
  4. Click Apply when done.

3) Make the mouse easier to use: 

Enhancing the mouse pointer size and color can make it more noticeable and easier to track. Here's how to do that:

  1. Open Start Menu > Settings > Accessibility
  2. Select Mouse pointer and touch
  3. Under Mouse pointer, adjust the Size to resize it. Aim for a medium size to avoid an overly large arrow. 
  4. Under Mouse pointer style, customize the pointer color to black, white, inverted, or any other bright recommended colors.

Check the Microsoft page for more ways to customize your mouse, keyboard, and other input devices to enhance ease of use.

8) Turn off Remote Desktop 

Remote Desktop, a Windows feature, enables complete control over your computer from a different location. Useful for remote work, it's, unfortunately, a target for scammers who manipulate victims into granting unauthorized access.

Tech support scams manipulate seniors into activating this feature, granting hackers complete control of their system. They can then exploit this access to:

  • Conduct financial fraud. 
  • Access online banking accounts. 
  • Spread malware.

Turn off Remote Desktop to secure your seniors' digital experience. Here's how you can deactivate it:

  1. Press Win + I to open Windows settings app. 
  2. In the System section, scroll down and select the Remote Desktop option. 
  3. Click on the toggle next to Remote Desktop to switch it off. 
  4. Windows asks you to confirm your decision. Click on the Disable button and exit the settings app.

Remember, phishing emails or deceptive websites often serve as the entry points for such scams. Stay vigilant and avoid interacting with suspicious content.

9) Enable Antivirus 

Cyber threats lurk behind exciting pop-up ads or misleading offers, tricking even tech-savvy users, let alone those with less experience.

However, protecting your computer from online dangers doesn’t require much heavy lifting. Windows comes pre-installed with Microsoft Defender, a robust antivirus program that has performed well in multiple tests.

For an extra layer of security, consider adding a reputable third-party antivirus program to work alongside Defender.

Remember, many cyber threats originate from deceptive emails or websites. Follow our internet safety guide to stay protected in 2023.

10) Turn on Automatic Updates 

Ensuring your software and operating system are up to date is vital to securing your device and data. Regular updates often include critical security patches that help protect your computer from potential threats.

Windows delivers these security updates regularly. You should automate it to close any potential security loopholes.

Here’s how to enable automatic updates:

  1. Select Settings > Windows Update > Advanced Options 
  2. Enable Receive updates from other Microsoft products
  3. Enable Download updates over metered connections.

Also, turn on automatic app updates. Here's how: 

  1. Choose Start > Microsoft Store
  2. In the Store app, select Account > App settings
  3. Turn on App updates.

With these settings in place, the computer stays updated without requiring manual interventions, providing an extra layer of security.

Technology shouldn't be a hurdle but a tool to connect, learn and enjoy. These simple steps create a safer, more accessible Windows for seniors without them worrying they’ll do something stupid or break it 

Robert is a Taiwan-based writer and digital marketer at iamrobert design. He has a passion for helping people simplify their lives through tech.


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