The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety

connect-safely-for-seniorsAdult children often find themselves providing technology support services for their aging parents. Now there’s a new, research-based resource to help.

The Connect Safely organization has recently published The Senior’s Guide to Online Safety. The publication contains important information, it’s free, and it’s simple to download as a PDF file. Adult children may want to print the booklet and share this short and easy-to-read guide.

The Seniors Guide to Online Safety addresses a range of issues that are critical for senior and elder adults to consider and understand as they go about online activities. The guide includes safety and privacy tips, information on a range of scams, guidance about securing wifi, and advice about protecting identify and financial information. The goal is to educate older adults with information that comes from experts.

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Facetime: A Simple, Intuitive & Easy Way to Include Great Grandparents

tripod for Facetime

Our tripod set-up

My grandson is lucky enough to have two great grandparents — my mom and dad — and we use FaceTime so they can visit with the baby despite the 500 miles that separates them.

He is too young to understand the importance of communicating with FaceTime. Oh, he’s interested the iPad or iPhone, and he is quite curious about the black silicon tripod. When my grandson sees himself on camera, he is delighted with the images, but right now he does not really get the significance of what’s going on as we all watch one another by telephone.

On the other hand, my parents, his great grandparents, totally understand the significance of the activity. They watch him moving around on camera, eating breakfast, or playing with his toys. No matter what they are doing, they will happily drop it and sit down with the iPad if a FaceTime opportunity arises. Once online they wave (he’s just learned how to wave back — sometimes) or make silly sounds, or just marvel at how much he has grown since the last time.

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Cyber Seniors Documentary: Well Done!

This afternoon at the Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) conference in Washington, DC, I saw clips from a documentary, Cyber-Seniors, about teenage volunteers in Toronto who work with elders — people in their mid to late 80s and older — and the rich clarity of their interactions. Many of these people retired before computers appeared in any significant way into the workplace.

The movie, which travelled around film festivals, has already screened in more than 80 viewings around Canada and the United States — with more to come. It shares special moments, difficult moments, looks of wonder, moderate shock (usually at what grandparents see on their grandchildren’s pages), and the excitement we all feel when we learn something new. And yes, sometimes it’s funny. Cyber-Seniors has garnered lots of good press. (I do wish, however, that people in the media would stop calling elders “cute.” You media folks will grow older some day andhttp://www.mercurynews.com/business/ci_26931356/magid-exclusive-amazon-fire-phones-fight-ebola-west-africa you WILL NOT appreciate being labeled as cute.)

Here’s a clip of a teenage mentor teaching a woman to take a selfie.

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Will Robots Take Care of Us When We’re Old?

Personal robots groupTake a few minutes to read a May 2014 Chicago Tribune article, An Army of Robots May Soon be Deployed to Care for the Elderly. This piece, written by Reuters columnist Mark Miller, explores how robots may be able to perform certain tasks to support elders who can’t aways do those tasks for themselves. Innovating with robots is a much-discussed idea in the technology and caregiving communities because so many boomers are aging into their senior and eventually elder years when they will require extra support.

How much of a role will robots play? The May 2014 Tribune article posits that they may play a significant one, if only because the need for caregiving jobs will rise steeply while the people to fill those jobs will rise negligibly. Author Mark Miller also quotes Cynthia Breaseal, who heads the Personal Robots Group at the MIT media lab, pointing out that many people appear to form emotional attachments with social robots. To see some of the other robots that the group is developing, check out the the MIT lab by clicking on the image above.                       Continue reading

Is There a Digital Divide Among Seniors?

seniors and tech border

Adult children who want to help their aging parents learn to use more technology may want to read the April 2014 Pew Internet organization report, Older Adults and Technology Use.

This fascinating document, freely available online, describes various groups of technology-using seniors and explains how they use or do not use computers and devices. It also offers some reasons why older seniors, especially, slow down in their use of computers and digital devices as they age.

What’s interesting to me is that less of a digital divide exists between seniors and the rest of the younger adult population, and more of a digital divide exists between higher and lower-income seniors. Also the researchers found that after age 75 technology use tends to drop off significantly for many elders.

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iPads for Seniors? My Dad Knows How Cool It Is!

Early on iPad training with my dad.

Early on iPad training with my dad.

iPads for seniors as a way to decrease isolation and stimulate intellectual curiosity?  You bet! After writing over 20 iPad for Dad columns about my dad and his iPad, I could have told them so and my dad can, too.

I know that Steve Jobs was not thinking about seniors in the elder years of their lives when he conceived Apple’s iPad, but it’s the perfect tool for them — lightweight, easy to use, intuitive, connected to a world of resources, and after just a bit of training, it enables seniors to do things that they want to do (check news, watch movies, connect electronically with family members, etc.).

An article in today’s Washington Post (July 14, 2013), Successful Program to Help D.C. Senior Citizens Use iPads to Prevent Isolation Will Expand, that describes a District of Columbia pilot program, funded by the AARP Foundation, that distributed 55 iPads to seniors and offers classes on a regular basis. According to the report, no one has dropped out of the training and no iPads have been lost. Now the program is doubling.

We live in a connected world — in fact we take it for granted. People who do not have access may experience isolation. Moreover, many elders either do not have access to the Internet, or if they do, there’s not get enough training to get started with life’s  technology tasks. As they age into later years, elders are still eager to learn — lifelong learners, actually —  and they can be well served if their adult children or their communities help them gain access to technology tools and entre to the required training.

I’d love to know where else there are other successful iPad programs for seniors.