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Will Seniors Struggle As Microsoft Refreshes File Explorer?

Microsoft is overhauling its File Explorer icons to bring them more in line with Windows 10 design – but there are concerns they may cause problems for seniors used to the old icons.

In the new Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21343, released to Windows Insiders today, Microsoft has updated a number of system folder icons, following changes made in earlier builds to icons including Windows Security, Narrator, and Notepad.

According to Amanda Langowski and Brandon LeBlanc at Microsoft, more icons will be updated over time.

“Several changes, such as the orientation of the folder icons and the default file type icons, have been made for greater consistency across Microsoft products that show files.

“Notably, the top-level user folders such as Desktop, Documents, Downloads, and Pictures have a new design that should make it a little easier to tell them apart at a glance. And yes, the Recycle Bin icon has also been updated,” they said.

The change has raised concerns, with some on Twitter pointing out that many elderly Windows users are uncomfortable with computers, and rely on the icons’ appearances to navigate; one user who works at a repair shop said elderly customers will bring their computers in for repair when system changes happen without their permission, and that some customers stayed with Windows 7 because Windows 10 was too dramatic an overhaul.

However, according to 2019 research by National Seniors Australia, a not-for-profit organisation which offers services including technology mentoring to seniors, 68 per cent of the 4500 members surveyed did not feel frustrated using new technology, and 63 per cent didn’t feel technology was designed for younger generations.

Prof. John McCallum, National Seniors Australia.

National Seniors CEO Professor John McCallum said the idea that older Australians are being “left behind” by digital technology is a negative stereotype.

“There are just too many blanket statements that are very negative about older people’s skills, such as ‘they’re behind the times’, ‘they’re digitally illiterate’ or ‘there is a digital divide between young and old,” he said.

In the survey, 73 per cent of respondents were categorised as “very comfortable” with using digital technology. McCallum also highlighted the high levels of digital use among respondents aged 80 years and over.

“You would expect that people who are 80+ would be those left behind by these technologies.

“Our research shows that over half those 80+ used an internet search engine everyday and more than 50% of these did online banking once a week if not daily,” he said.

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