Email for Seniors: A Comprehensive Guide

Email is a great way to communicate with each other. Email is professional, but it can just as easily be used with friends and family. But we have so many different ways of communicating now that emailing may fall through the cracks. If you have found yourself wondering where to begin with email, no worries: this comprehensive guide is written to demystify email, keep you safe on email servers, and clarify etiquette for digital messaging.

Setting Up: Creating an Email Account

Email accounts can be created through a number of different organizations. Major Internet providers like Comcast offer plans that include email; check to see if yours does and if so, take advantage of that feature.

If you’re looking for something simple and free, there are plenty of organizations that have you covered. Microsoft and Google are two companies that offer free email accounts with simple setup. Outlook and Gmail are both excellent options for first-time email users. Each has their own benefits: Outlook provides a calendar service along with the email server, and Gmail automatically creates you a Google account that includes access to Google Docs, Google Photos, and more.

Setting up a free email through Gmail or Outlook

Senior Citizen with Smartphones

To set up an email account through either of these servers, simply visit their websites. For Outlook, go to their website and click “Create Free Account.” You will be guided to choose an email address and enter information like your name and phone number.

For a Gmail account, visit gmail.com and choose “Create Account.” You will be asked to enter a phone number to verify the account and personal information like your birthday, similar to the Microsoft setup process.

The Basics: Using Email

Email is simple once you get the hang of it. Every email has three main sections that you, as the writer, should fill out. These are the recipient line, the subject line, and the body. Follow these steps to finish a complete email.

  1. The recipient line contains who the email is going to. Type in the email address of the user or users that you want to send to.
  2. In the subject line, give the recipients an idea of what you’ll be talking about in the email. Make it as simple as possible; if you’re emailing a friend about the all the details of the food you’re planning for Thanksgiving, “Thanksgiving menu plans” lets them know what the email will be about in a few short words.
  3. The body of the email is where you can write everything you need to say before sending it off to the right recipients. Explore the email server you’re using; you should be able to change font size and format if you so desire.

If you need to include a picture, you have the option of inserting it directly into the email or attaching it as a file, both through the “Insert” button.

Once you’ve finished your email, you can hit “Send” to deliver it to your recipients. Check your inbox often to see when you receive replies!

Staying Safe: Email Scams

Email is one of the most common ways for hackers to attempt to reach their victims. Because emails can be sent out to hundreds of people at once, it gives scammers a broad platform. It’s important for all email users to know what to watch out for and what not to do when it comes to suspicious emails.

Never open an email from an email address you don’t recognize until you can confirm that it’s someone you know. Many scam emails will come from long, complicated email addresses because they were created for the sole purpose of phishing.

Don’t click on any links that you receive via email telling you that you won something or that you can be entered in a giveaway or contest. This is one of the most common email scams, but it never fails to collect a few clicks from unsuspecting users. You don’t want to be the victim of a virus or have your information stolen!

If someone you don’t know emails you, be wary. It could be a misdirected email, or even someone attempting to reach out, but chances are slim. In general, only open emails from people or companies you know and trust.

Email Etiquette: Tips and Tricks for Using Email

If you use email in a personal setting:

If you plan on using your email for work or in a professional setting, choose an email address that is professional. It’s always a safe bet to use your name, like [email protected] or [email protected] . Avoid including any of your hobbies or interests as your email address; [email protected] is a fine personal address, but won’t work professionally. Let the recipient know who is sending them an email by creating a clear, straightforward email address.

If you give your email out to businesses:

Most businesses or brands now use email to send coupons and deals out to customers. If there’s a store you love to shop at, give them your email! You’ll receive information on sales and new products.

However, be aware of how many companies you give your email address to, because they can add up quickly! You don’t want to have an inbox full of spam mail. Pick one or two businesses that you really want to hear from instead.

Before you enter your email address to any online business, make sure it’s reputable. Some online brands are notorious for spam email; a quick Google search can tell you whether it’s a safe choice or not.

General tips 

Delete emails frequently so your inbox isn’t cluttered.

If you receive mail that you won’t need again (say, an expired coupon), go ahead and delete it from your inbox. Collecting the mail won’t really serve a purpose; it will just make your inbox full.

Respond promptly.

This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but it’s common courtesy to respond to an email as soon as possible. Consider just checking your email once a day to make sure you don’t have any new messages and if you do, set aside a few minutes to respond if it’s warranted.

Know the difference between personal and professional email.

Emojis and text shorthand are a great way to communicate with those we know, but it’s best to limit the use of these things in an email to a business or boss. But if you’re emailing a friend or dropping a line to your family member, feel free to use all the tools email servers have to offer to relay your message!