As technology marches onward offering new and expanded opportunities for connectivity and automation, older adults are adopting technology with greater frequency. Although the senior citizen demographic uses technology less than other age groups, seniors are owning and using computers and mobile devices at more than twice the rate than just a few years ago, according to the Pew Research Center. For people over 50, computers can seem daunting. However, with a little assistance and information about safety, computers can be a positive experience for older adults.
Basics of Computer Use
Use of a computer can include a variety of activities, including email, Internet browsing, games, and entertainment. A standard computer system will consist of a laptop or a desktop computer with a hard drive, monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Positioning the monitor at eye level with the user will enable the best viewing. Adjusting the brightness and contrast to higher levels will also help with viewing images on the monitor. Choosing an ergonomic mouse or a mouse with a trackball will help an older adult with dexterity issues. A simple keyboard without excessive multimedia keys will often be more suitable for senior computer users, and it may be useful to elevate the keyboard to make it more visible.
Mobile computers include tablets and smartphones. These devices enable connectivity to the Internet from almost anywhere via cell service or Wi-Fi. With a tablet or smartphone, it's possible to browse the Internet, check email, send and receive text messages, and make and receive calls. These devices also enable users to take pictures, play games, watch movies, and listen to music. Apps on tablets and smartphones can also help older adults maintain their independence. For example, it's possible to set up reminders to take medication, and apps can also monitor activity levels or track a person's location to enable family members to make sure that older adults are safe.
Any device or computer that is used to access the Internet needs to have a strong password to protect privacy. It's also important to install security software on computers and devices to prevent infection with spyware and viruses, which can download from the Internet without warning. The browser used to access the Internet often has settings that can enhance security for users, such as clearing browsing history, blocking pop-up ads, and blocking third-party cookies. When using social media websites, it's important to set privacy controls to limit the personal information others can see. If making online purchases, users must always check to ensure that the website is secure; look for "https" in the URL or a padlock displayed at the top or bottom of the browser. Emails may arrive with attachments that can be infected with viruses, so it's important not to open attachments. If suspicious emails arrive asking for personal information or with links to click to enter personal information, deletion is the best course to avoid scams.
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