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12 Ways to Help Older Adults Stay Safe Online These Days

by Cyberguy | Last Updated | July 25, 2022
CyberSecurity - Consumer|CyberSecurity Insights

There’s a new lifestyle for many older adults these days – the Internet. An increasing number of seniors use the Internet for day-to-day living, from online shopping to online banking to news to telemedicine and entertainment.

Isolation and lockdowns caused by the pandemic have forced seniors to embrace technology like never before. Seniors have been able to stay connected with family and friends across the miles using social media platforms like Facebook, FaceTime, and Zoom. And as more research reveals, seniors are trying their best to get by. 

What the AARP Says

The American Association of Retired Persons conducted a survey on the use of technology by older adults. It came up with a report called 2022 Tech Trends and the 50-Plus. Here are some highlights of the report:

Older adults’ use of technology for social interaction increased in 2021

For many people, the year 2021 marked a return to some form of normalcy. The number of people socializing in person increased, holiday celebrations resumed, and eateries welcomed back customers. Despite this, older individuals’ use of technology to keep connected with others remained a cornerstone of social interaction in 2021.

Keeping Seniors Safe Online - Smart Devices

More specifically, about 75% of adults aged 50 and above use technology to stay connected with:

The modes of communication included:

Older individuals and seniors also use technology to manage day-to-day living and be entertained

The top motivator for the use of technology by older adults was to stay connected and was pegged at 66% among all older adults surveyed. But they also used technology for entertainment and their needs for their daily life. Here are AARP’s findings on how older adults use technology aside from staying connected:

Helpful Mobile Apps for Seniors

Seniors are embracing mobile apps to manage their daily lives. There’s a mobile app for everything. There are social networking sites, such as Facebook Messenger and FaceTime, for connecting with family and friends. There are also apps for games, video, music, and audiobooks. 

Some mobile apps come preloaded on smartphones and tablets. Seniors can get free or paid mobile apps through the Apple App Store or Google Play for Apple devices and Android devices, respectively.

Here are helpful apps you can recommend to grandpa and grandma or older members of your family:

Food delivery services for seniors

Keeping Seniors Safe Online - Food Delivery Services

So you used to be the culinary queen in your kitchen. But as people age, cooking becomes more difficult and expensive, especially if they live alone. Seniors can have groceries and nutritious meals delivered directly to their home using food delivery services.

Senior transportation services

(Image idea source: https://www.fivestarseniorliving.com/blog/where-to-find-transportation-options-for-a-senior)

Transportation and ridesharing apps can help senior citizens who are unable or unwilling to drive. Uber and Lyft are two of the most popular ridesharing apps. All you have to do with these mobile apps is enter your destination and pick a ride. When the driver arrives, the app will notify you. 

Some services, such as GoGo Grandparent, can look for a ride for you if you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to download a mobile app. All you have to do is call the company and let them know where you want to go. These services are perfect for seniors who wish to stay mobile and independent but don’t want to drive.

Social media platforms and chat app and video apps

As people get older, it’s typical for them to feel disconnected from the rest of the world. Social isolation can lead to a variety of health problems. However, technology has created a way to mitigate its effects. When seniors are unable to physically be together, social media allows them to maintain contact with friends and relatives all around the world.

Social media has become a frequent part of senior’s lives, whether it’s a politician’s tweet, what’s trending on Facebook, or viral videos from YouTube.

Keeping Seniors Safe Online -Video Chat Services

Zoom is also becoming popular among seniors. Zoom’s face-to-face engagement cannot be replaced by phone calls, emails, or Facebook posts or likes. They can enjoy family game nights with loved ones from across the country, or watch their grandchildren show off new dancing or singing talents.

When they want to share and comment on pictures of themselves, family, and relatives, seniors go to the photo-sharing app Instagram. Seniors love this app because it’s like a little photo album. They can look through photographs and videos of their loved ones without having to scroll through lengthy Facebook updates. 

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Convenient Gadgets for Seniors

A smart line of technology is boosting elderly people’s confidence in their ability to live independently. There are numerous devices that are appropriate for any given function or purpose. Here are a few examples:

Smartphones

Ninety-one percent of seniors own a cell phone and 53% of them own a smartphone. Smartphones are handy gadgets for seniors to communicate with friends and family, use social media, and stay up with current events. They can also take adorable pictures of their pets and grandchildren.

Smartwatches

Smartwatches are no longer limited to the young and active. They have a lot of potential for improving senior citizens’ quality of life. Here are some useful smartwatch features for the elderly:

Health monitoring

Most smartwatches keep track of the wearer’s vital indicators. Some contain a built-in heart rate monitor and accelerometer that detects inactivity and reminds wearers to move more frequently. This is a fantastic method for elders to remain active. 

Keeping Seniors Safe Online -Smart Watch and Exercise Services

Smartwatches can also track blood pressure, stress levels, blood sugar levels, and weight to help seniors stay fit and healthy. Some can even monitor the amount of calories burnt during intense physical activities.

Emergency calls

A senior wearing the watch can manually make an emergency call. Better yet, certain smartwatches will automatically detect falls and send an emergency call to the right family member, caregiver, or emergency help center. Furthermore, the wearer’s location can be sent to the caregiver or service center via GPS.

Navigation

A smartwatch can provide instruction on how to get to a designated destination. It’s beneficial for seniors who become disoriented when going places.

If necessary, the watch will alert the wearer and assist them in navigating their way back home. An alarm is sent to the caretaker or a family member if the wearer is unable to come home within a certain time limit.

Tablets and E-readers

For reading, watching videos, playing mental games, and browsing social media, seniors prefer the larger screen of a tablet. Some tablets are intended specifically for elderly who have vision problems.

For older folks who enjoy reading, an E-reader is a great companion. The illuminated screen and large letters are easy on the eyes. It’s smaller and lighter than most books, and some are waterproof.

Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers are small, wearable gadgets that monitor your heart rate, steps, calories burnt, and sleep patterns, among other things. They’re ideal for active seniors who want to keep moving but need to know the health effects of their activities. 

Medical alert systems

Seniors who are living alone should consider medical alert systems. If they can’t get help or reach the phone, a fall or medical emergency can quickly turn tragic. Most personal medical alert systems are wearables, such as smartwatches, blood pressure cuffs, and glucose monitors. Most doctors encourage senior folks to wear them especially for patients who live far from traditional health centers.

Keeping Seniors Safe Online - Medical Alert Services

Voice-activated smart speakers

A voice-activated speaker is a gadget that uses speech recognition to do a growing number of functions. It’s based on the Internet or cloud computing. It includes a completely programmable service that can integrate with other online services to perform a wide range of tasks, like playing music, listening to news updates, checking the weather, and setting prescription reminders. Some examples are Alexa, OK Google, Siri, and Cortana.

Surveillance cameras

You can talk to your senior loved one even if you are at work if you have a surveillance camera, also known as a nanny cam, installed in your house. You can keep watch on them in case they fall or get hurt in any other manner. When you have to leave them alone at home, being able to observe that they are okay can help reduce stress.

Risks Posed by Technology on Seniors

Seniors, like everyone else, have special vulnerabilities in addition to the common Internet risks. They have specific characteristics that make them vulnerable online. Here are some of the major factors that make seniors vulnerable to online frauds:

Lack of computer and Internet skills

While some elders are adept at the Internet, the majority are not. Their PCs are frequently not properly secured. Even after installing security software, it is necessary to set up automatic updates, enable a firewall, and use strong passwords, among other things.

Even if someone has computer skills, this does not guarantee that they will be safe online. They must still comprehend the reach of Internet material, how criminals attempt to deceive people, and the credibility of a website, for example.

Too trusting

Many elders, unlike younger generations, are more trusting and respectful of official-looking material, making them more vulnerable to scams. Seniors are also more concerned about letters claiming that there is a problem with their information that could tarnish their reputation.

For relatively little money, anyone can create a website that appears to be as genuine and authentic as any other site. They can deceive search engines into displaying their websites as one of the first results when someone searches for something. Any website’s precise look and content can be copied by anyone. This means that fakes can be extremely difficult to spot, especially so for the elderly.

Online quizzes and surveys

Seniors who use senior social networking sites are bombarded with quizzes and surveys that ask intrusive questions about their health, finances, and personal lives. Quizzes are designed to generate revenue.

Understand that any information you provide in these quizzes will most certainly be used by people or companies that get hold of your information. If you take a medical questionnaire, you may be vulnerable to insurance fraud. Quizzes can potentially create spam ‘offers’ based on your responses.

Online dating

For seniors who have lost a companion due to death or divorce, they sometimes turn to online dating. While this is a fantastic method to meet new people, it also allows predators to look for potential victims. Their purpose could be to get your money or to damage you physically or emotionally.

Cyber criminals use social engineering to earn their profession by exploiting people’s trust. A lonely senior who has possibly had a long relationship with one spouse and is now looking for a new companion is typically an easy prey.

Myths about information exposure

Seniors tend to believe some myths concerning online information exposure.

For example, you may believe that you are not exposed to the internet if you do not use a computer. In truth, just because you didn’t put anything on the Internet doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Almost everyone has information on the Internet that was put there by others. These could include public records, your phone number in a phone directory, or your volunteer information, among other things.

Another misconception is that if you haven’t been a victim of Internet fraud, you will never be a victim of an Internet crime. The truth is that in most crimes, you may never know what the Internet connection is. For instance, online information may provide a thief with the motivation and tools to rob your home or steal your identity.

If you believe that the information you submit online will only be seen by individuals you know, you may fall victim to online scams. Everything on the Internet is actually copied and referenced. Even if you delete your information from the Internet, a copy may remain. 

12 Tips for Seniors to Stay Safe Online

Awareness of the risks lurking on the Internet expressly targeting seniors isn’t enough. Be very vigilant with what you do online. Your brain, eyes, and fingers could betray you to click on a malicious link or attachment. Here are practical steps to keep you safe online:

When connecting with family and friends online

1. Think twice before you post

Whether it’s a photo, video, or comment, what you share online is a reflection of yourself. Make sure you don’t upload anything you wouldn’t want everyone to see. Even if you use privacy settings to limit who sees your content, there’s still the possibility that it will be duplicated and shared by others.

2. Use strong passwords

Only use strong and unique passwords. Never disclose them to anybody unless you’ve delegated account management to someone you trust. One reason for this precaution is to prevent someone from impersonating you.

Ensure that your passwords are at least eight characters long. Include numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and symbols. Don’t use names or dictionary words.

When shopping and banking online

4. Avoid clicking on just about every link

Phishing is a common scam in which someone sends you a link to a website that appears to be real. It’s a phishing site set up by thieves to steal your login and other sensitive information. Even if the company name is included on the URL, it could still  be a hoax. 

The links from fake banks, credit card companies, or known shopping sites can come through email or on social media. Never ever click on them. The safest option is to type in the Web URL as you normally do. If in doubt, contact the company through phone.

5. Protect yourself from identity theft

Never give out your Social Security number online unless you are sure you are on a trustworthy site and the service has a real need for it. Be very careful when entering any other sensitive information, such as your home address or date and place of birth. When in doubt, conduct some research or read some company reviews.

Keep track of your offline and online financial accounts. Check your credit, debit, or bank accounts for recent activity to ensure there are no fraudulent transactions. If you see anything odd, contact your financial institution’s fraud department or the toll-free number listed on your credit or debit card right away.

On dealing with scams

6. Don’t fall for scams involving personal emergencies

Scammers send emails or messages on social media that appear to be from someone you know, claiming that they have been robbed or have been in an accident. It’s likely that the sender is a criminal looking to steal your money. If you receive such a message, find another way to verify its authenticity, such as contacting the sender personally. 

7. Ignore messages involving infected computers

You may receive a call from “Apple” claiming that your computer is infected, with an offer to repair it. Hang up. These calls are never made by Apple or other legitimate companies. These are thieves attempting to steal your money and infect your computer with viruses.

Be wary of any email messages or pop-up warnings on your computer or phone that warn you of a virus or a security issue. If you believe your device is at risk, seek advice from a reputable specialist, but never download software or apps from unknown sources.

8. Be wary of “you owe money” scams

Be cautious of emails claiming you owe money. If a bill collector or a government agency contacts you about money you owe, don’t answer until you really owe them money. Scammers are notorious for using fear to scam their victims.     

9. Guard against online dating scams

Seniors have been duped into parting with their money and left heartbroken. There’s always the possibility that someone you meet online isn’t who he or she really is.

Look for warning signs. The individual could be someone who appears to be much younger than you or much more physically attractive.

You should avoid anyone who is never available for a face-to-face meeting. He or she could be in another nation and have no intention of ever meeting you. Be especially careful when the person asks for money. Never send any.

10. Watch out for health and wellbeing scams

Cyber thieves are using the names of Medicare, Social Security, and the IRS to scam unsuspecting targets, including senior citizens. 

Any calls or emails from someone purporting to be from the Internal Revenue Service should be avoided. They are from con artists. If the IRS believes you owe unpaid taxes, you will get a hardcopy letter in the mail. If you’re unsure, consult an attorney or a tax counselor, or contact the IRS immediately.

Responding to emails from Social Security or Medicare with personal information is not a good idea. Email will not be used by the Social Security Administration to request personal information such as your Social Security number or date of birth. If you’re unsure, contact your local Social Security office.

Anyone posing as a doctor, healthcare provider, or insurance company and asking for your Medicare number or claiming to represent Medicare is a scammer. They should be avoided.

Other safety tips

11. Install antivirus software to guard malware on your computer

Malware is any software that is intended to harm your computer or get unauthorized access to your personal data. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware are all included. Most malware is spread via the Internet and is frequently embedded in other programs.

Antivirus software is the best way to protect your computer and other devices from infection. It helps prevent malware from being installed and removes malware from your system.

12. Secure your Internet connection

Seniors should have their systems set up and maintained by a computer expert. So, you don’t have to be concerned with the technical details here, but there are some things you should do to safeguard your Internet connection:

Our final thoughts. Seniors shouldn’t have a hard time staying safe online. The key is to guard your information well and protect your computer and other devices from malware. It’s better to say no or check further than to be ripped off. 

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