Unlike traditional interaction methods where the same command (e.g. mouse click) is used for different purposes, mid-air gesture interaction often makes use of different gesture commands for different functions, but first novice users need to learn these commands in order to interact with the system successfully. We describe an empirical study with 25 novice older adults that investigated the effectiveness of 3 “on screen” instruction types for demonstrating how to make mid-air gesture commands. We compared three interface design choices for providing instructions: descriptive (text-based), pictorial (static), and pictorial (animated). Results showed a significant advantage of pictorial instructions (static and animated) over text-based instructions for guiding novice older adults in making midair gestures with regards to accuracy, completion time and user preference. Pictorial (animated) was the instruction type leading to the fastest gesture making with 100% accuracy and may be the most suitable choice to support age-friendly gesture learning.