1Fellow BoomerTECH Adventures guides, Jill and Chris, and I work with boomers and seniors helping them learn to use their iPhones.

Here is the problem: When receiving instruction about some aspect of their device, almost to a person, we see boomers and seniors with a similar and distinctive learning pattern. That pattern typically involves trying to write out step-by-step directions to complete a tech task, i.e. sharing a photo, sending a text, or saving to a folder.

I say “trying to” because this is not easy to do. Each task on an iPhone involves learning other tasks.

Here is an example of how this works.

Let’s say our client wants to use the alarm clock on her iPhone. We’ll assume that our boomer student knows how to turn her phone on, enter her passcode or use touch ID, and access the clock from a home screen or through the Control Center. (Too many assumptions already?)

Here are the tasks our student needs to know

1. She must select the ALARM icon at the bottom of her screen, next to the World Clock, StopWatch and Timer. When she taps ALARM it will be highlighted in red. That means the alarm clock is active.

2. Next, she must tap on the + icon in the top right corner of her screen (+ means add or start new) to add a new alarm setting.

3. Then she must slide the hour, minute, and AM or PM settings in place to set the time for the wake-up call.

4. Finally, she must make several decisions—about repeating the alarm at specified times…touch to set; label this particular alarm to better keep track of it…make up a name for this particular alarm setting that she will remember; listen to a number of sounds and decide which one she would like to be awakened by AND select that sound by highlighting it, and; deciding whether she wants an opportunity to snooze after the alarm buzzes. Toggle on for a snooze. Toggle off for no snooze.

5. And one last thing, she must tap SAVE in the upper right-hand corner to save all of her work!


Whew! All of that simply to set an alarm. And that is a relatively straight-forward task.

There really is no way that a person can write all of those steps down. More importantly, that is NOT the way to learn to use your iPhone.

This is not a criticism of our clients (or us as boomers) because most of us were taught to learn in a linear fashion. One and one equals two. C follows A and B. If you do this, that will take place.

(Another thing that many boomers do to learn about their personal technology is to purchase the largest “How-To” manual they can find. That too is another mistake because they often get bogged down in the immensity of it all. Or the manual is out-of-date compared to the what they see on their devices.)


But learning to operate a device like an iPhone (remember it is a computer in your pocket) requires a different way of thinking. And learning.

If writing down each and every step to follow is NOT the way to go—how can boomers learn to use their devices?

The best way to learn is to know some basic elements of how your device works and learn the language of your device. That includes symbols, icons, and directions that are applicable in many different settings on your device.

A bonus? These skills are often transferable to other devices. They are also cumulative. The more you learn the more you will be able to do.


Let’s see how any boomer or senior can get started learning to use her iPhone.

Let’s answer two key questions first.

How do I want to use my iPhone?

What tasks do I want to accomplish with it?

In addition to making phone calls, your iPhone also allows you to take photos and videos; send text messages including text, photos, and videos; send emails; search for all kinds of content on the internet; do your banking at home; learn about health and monitor your own health; listen to, record, and produce music. It also has a flashlight, compass, a level, a calculator, and a recorder. And on top of that there are millions of apps that once installed will allow you to do many other things—play games, learn about virtually any subject, listen to the best orchestras in the world, visit places you’ve never seen.

No wonder it can be overwhelming at times!

We recommend that you learn the language of the iPhone, the basic symbols, icons, and directions to navigate your way around your phone. There are many, many symbols and icons but here we’ll investigate five key features that will significantly improve your ability to use your iPhone.

If you know how these features work you’ll be well on your way to successfully making your iPhone do what you want it to do.

Please send me the FREE iPhone Icons Tip Sheet

Do you know how these five key features of your iPhone work?

iPhone home button1. You can go home again and you will often with the HOME BUTTON the best way to move about your iPhone. Instead of tapping your way through a number of buttons simply tap the home button (the round indented button at the bottom of your screen) to return to your home screens to move to your next destination. Here are two other specific uses of the Home Button: Tap and hold to summon your virtual assistant, Siri; double tap and then swipe up to close some apps and save your battery. And don’t forget that a single tap will bring you back to your first home screen, ready to go again.


 iPhone Search2. Never get lost again. Use your SEARCH BAR instead. Swipe down from the middle of one of your home screens and you have the search bar waiting for you (to type or dictate key words) to locate anything on your phone or on the web. For a fuller search experience, swipe right from the first home screen to see an advanced search page complete with recent websites or apps used, recent contacts, nearby restaurants, gas, shopping and even several headlines from trending stories. Handy!




 iPhone Control Center3. If you like the Search Bar, you will love the CONTROL CENTER, a full-featured control panel for several of your iPhone’s most essential tools. Simply swipe up from the bottom of the screen to open Control Center. Here you will find volume controls and on/off switches for music and audio; airplane mode setting; Wi-Fi, Bluetooth; do not disturb setting and locking in portrait mode. Additionally, you can access the flashlight, alarm clock, Night Shift, a calculator, and your camera. (You also access AirDrop and AirPlay from the Control Center.)

 Settings4. You have to start somewhere and SETTINGS is the place to be. This gear-like icon is your entree into a variety of settings to make your iPhone do your bidding. From essential pieces such as accessing the correct Wi-Fi network to connecting with your cellular provider to dealing with the battery and keeping it healthy, settings is where it all happens. There is a lot of information so don’t be overwhelmed but do spend some time learning about settings in this article or this one.


5. A new feature in iOS 9.3, 3D TOUCH gives us a new way to interact with your phone. To make sure your 3D Touch is activated follow this path: Settings > General > Accessibility and turn on the 3D Touch toggle. In addition to the Tap/Swipe/Pinch in the Apple lexicon, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop a way to experience a photo or a website. As the name implies this is all about your touch to fully open a photo or document. Sometimes getting used to your touch sensitivity on your iPhone is difficult to do. An excellent place to start learning about the new touch system starts here.


Let’s get started

I always encourage BoomerTECH Adventures clients to jump right in and try out various aspects of their devices.

Play is the correct word. And I encourage you to do just that with these five helpful features.

The next step is to learn the key symbols and icons on your iPhone, what they mean, and what they will let you do. Click on the yellow box below to get a copy of our very useful FREE Tip Sheet—10 iPhone Icons. These icons will help you understand how to navigate your iPhone with expertise.

Please send me the FREE iPhone Icons Tip Sheet