For senior citizens who have all the basics, how about a New Year's gift that will enable them to better manage their lives and keep in touch with the family?

For senior citizens who have all the basics, how about a New Year's gift that will enable them to better manage their lives and keep in touch with the family?

Buy a simple computer and provide the lessons to use it. In fact, you might be able to kill two birds with one stone — using the gift to help two generations in the family. If a grandchild can provide lessons, the grandparent could pay for the training by putting money into a Roth individual retirement account. That's an account that will fund the child's retirement, and while the last thing on your mind for a teen might be retirement, look at the impact.

Say that Grandma pays $3,000 for computer lessons from her 14-year-old grandson. If she helps the boy deposit the $3,000 in a Roth IRA and invests it in a fund such as the Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund, the child could have more than $400,000 by the time he retires. Based on a one-time investment of just $3,000, he will be on his way to a cozy future if the fund averages 10 percent a year. That's been the historical average over the past 87 years.

A computer and patient training also is likely to help Grandma enhance her future. Increasingly, functioning without one is difficult.

"One of the biggest challenges for people 65 and over is that half aren't online," said Terry Bradwell, executive vice president of AARP. Only 1 in 3 people older than 75 are online. "And they could take advantage of a computer and have a better life," said Bradwell. "You can't rent a movie anymore without going online."

Convincing some that a computer will ease their life might be a tough sell. But as seniors age and are tied more closely to their homes, or become unable to drive, computers "can combat isolation," he said. Seniors can use them to talk with family members via Skype without leaving home or spending a penny.

And getting tasks done is becoming increasingly difficult for people who are not equipped with an understanding of the technological world.

Seniors might like to do their banking in person with a teller, but that form of banking is fading. Even those who use the telephone for their bank must jump over technological hurdles like pressing this number and that to run through a maze of computer instructions.

Yet with a little computer practice, a person can go online and find CD rates that are typically better than the bank down the road. For example, recently was showing a five-year CD at Pentagon Federal Credit Union with a 3.04 percent interest rate.

Many banks are offering less than 1.7 percent.

Other savings are available for common purchases such as airline tickets. Being able to search online gives a senior a chance to check for the best deals and rates.

If seniors get to the point where they can't drive and family members are out of town, they will be able to order everything from groceries to discounted medicine online and have them mailed to their door.

If grandchildren offer lessons, make sure they remember that their terminology will be a foreign language to a novice.

To entice a person to learn, show them on your own computer or tablet how you can pull the statement up from your bank on the spur of the moment — even in the middle of a worrisome night — to see the numbers they might not see until a paper statement arrives in the mail.

The experience with the computer is best when Grandma is still sharp. Following multiple steps as people age can become overwhelming, so starting before any cognitive decline is a good move.

When choosing a computer, be aware of eyesight issues, less dexterity in hands and simple steps.

One computer that has been recommended for seniors by technology reviewers is the Telikin. It has a touch screen that lists large blue labels down the left side. Simple labels such as "Email" or "Photos" or "Web" help seniors go directly to what they want. Some reviewers have noted technological glitches in the past, while others say recent models have been improved.

Bradwell suggests tablets, although the screens are small and the devices can lack word-processing software — leaving seniors unable to write a business letter that must be mailed.

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Gail MarksJarvis is a personal finance columnist for the Chicago Tribune.