How to explain e-mail to your grandparents

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Explaining e-mail to your grandparents requires patience and persistence. While some grandparents take to e-mail like a fish takes to water, others respond to e-mail like ketchup to ice cream. Whether your grandparents are tech-savvy or tech-phobic, here is a guide to help you introduce e-mail to your grandparents:

Start with an e-mail
You may want to show your grandparents the process from the very beginning -- starting
with the log-on. Instead of the linear approach, try working backwards. Logging on and maneuvering the page can be frustrating and confusing, and you want to begin on a positive note. Start off with a blank e-mail already open and ready for typing. This shows your grandparents that writing an e-mail is just like typing on a typewriter.

Start off by helping your grandparents send an e-mail right to yourself. If possible, have an e-mail capable device with you, such as a laptop or smart phone, so you can show your grandparents that you have received their e-mail. This initial success will hopefully encourage your grandparents to keep working with the system, while illustrating the ease of instant communication.

Cover computer basics
Before your grandparents can access their e-mail, they need to turn know their way around a computer. Practice turning the computer on, and if you are working with a laptop, show them where to plug the charger. If your grandparents have difficulty seeing, you may want to put a colored flag next to the power switch. Explain how to turn on the computer and why they may have to wait a little while before using the computer. Point them to the browser, and if you would like, change the browser's home page to their e-mail provider. You should also walk your grandparents through the turning-off process.

If this seems like a lot of information, create a print-out with screenshots that your grandparents can keep by the computer.

Set up easy e-mail access
To help your grandparents access their e-mail easily, either set up an e-mail program such as Outlook or Apple's Mail application. You can also add a desktop icon that goes straight to the e-mail provider like Gmail or Yahoo. Also known as a website shortcut, simply go to the e-mail provider's website, click the logo next to the URL and drag the icon onto the desktop. You should see an icon that opens a browser up right to the website. Whether you choose a program or a website shortcut, make sure your grandparents can access e-mail easily -- without having to click through a series of menus.

Keep sending e-mails
Grandparents may enjoy e-mail initially but give up if they see no purpose. Make sure to keep e-mailing them, and encourage them to send e-mails back to you. You can even try sending them electronic greeting cards or photographs embedded within the e-mail. However you decide to correspond, make sure to write consistently and check in every once in a while. Every e-mail gives your grandparents a great opportunity to practice.