In today’s world, ever-changing technological advancements make it increasingly important to be tech savvy. If you are a senior citizen and can remember a time when there was no such thing as a smartphone, much less other more sophisticated technology, it may seem a bit more challenging to adapt than it would if you were born with a smartphone in your hand. But you’re not letting that stop you!
A 2017 AARP study revealed that 73% of adults between the ages of 60 and 69 use smartphones, 63% use laptops, 40% use tablets and 14% use some type of wearable like a smart watch.
Another report from Pew Research showed that in 2017, roughly four in 10 senior citizens above the age of 65 own smartphones, which is more than double the number who did in 2013. Seniors are using these devices to do things like surf the web, make purchases, get news, perform financial transactions, access social networking sites, play games and watch shows.
If you are a senior hoping to get more connected in this digital world, we’ve got you covered. We’ll review everything you need to know to choose the right internet service for your needs.
Only Pay for What You Need
If you do some internet shopping, you’ll quickly see a wide variety of promised speeds with a similar array of prices. Before you dive into a commitment with an internet service provider (ISP), let us show you what kind of speeds you need to avoid paying for more than you need or not getting quite enough.
The correct speed depends on how you use the internet and how many devices will be online at the same time. For example, if you live alone and do basic web browsing, your speed needs will be different than if you live with others who also use the internet.
Additionally, if you stream high definition (HD) videos, you will need higher download speeds than if you are just a basic web browser.
The FCC offers this basic guide showing various online activities and the minimum speeds each activity will require. Keep in mind these are minimums and they do not guarantee that you’ll be able to do everything you want to do without delays.
- Web browsing and social media usage: 1 to 10 Mbps
- Watch videos (SD or HD): 3 to 25 Mbps
- Video calling: 1 to 6 Mbps
Most ISPs offer speeds “up to” a certain megabit per second (Mbps). “Up to” is not a guarantee. Whether or not you will get those speeds will depend on where you live, what providers are available in your area and what types of internet they offer.
For example, fiber internet is one of the highest speed internet options available today. But fiber optic isn’t available everywhere. Those who live in more rural areas may not have fiber or cable internet as an option. In that case, a slower speed satellite or DSL may be your only option. However, depending on your internet usage requirements, satellite or DSL may offer more than enough speed for you.
Connecting with Loved Ones
Technology has made connecting with your family and other loved ones easier than ever. Now, no matter how much distance is between you, you can still hear their voices and see their faces as if they were in the same room with you.
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the ability to connect at a distance even more than before. During this time, many of us have even experienced our first virtual doctor's appointment. Whether you’re social distancing or just love to see your grandkid's face from miles away, there are lots of tools at your disposal.
Zoom is a great video conferencing app that allows you and someone else or many others to see each other and talk. You can also join a Zoom call with audio only if you’re not feeling camera-ready at the moment. Zoom can be used on desktop, laptop or mobile device (like a smartphone or tablet). There are many tutorials available to help you through your first Zoom call.
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are social networking sites that are useful tools for staying in touch with family and friends. Whether you want to see what they’re posting in the newsfeed, privately chat, call to talk or watch a live video of a grandchild's dance recital, these social networking sites have a way to make it happen. Like all social networks, these sites can seem a bit intimidating at first, but there are tutorials and help articles available to assist you.
YouTube is a video-sharing platform that allows people all over the world to communicate by recording videos. After you set up your YouTube account, you can upload your own videos, share videos or subscribe to channels of YouTubers who share videos you enjoy.
Skype is a great resource for chatting with loved ones whether you want to chat via messaging, make a phone call or video chat. As with Zoom, Skype depends on an internet connection and does not require you to have a phone service. Another plus is that you can make international calls at no charge. Skype is easy to set up with tutorials available to assist you.
Internet safety is very important. While you should not spend your time online in fear, you should be aware of the risks that are present so you can be sure to avoid them. The National CyberSecurity Alliance offers seniors tips for staying safe online. We’ll cover a few of those here:
- Protect your personal information: Always be mindful of sites where you must share personally identifiable information. This includes things like your home address, credit/debit card number and Social Security number. While this information may be needed on secure financial sites, like your bank site, be sure you are on the appropriate site before considering entering this information.
- If you are shopping online, take extra precautions to shop only from reputable sellers who offer secure and encrypted payment processing.
- If you have personal information stored on your device, be sure the device gets locked before you leave it so that someone else cannot pick up the device and access your private information.
- Never give out your passwords: Reputable and legit businesses will never ask for your password. For example, if someone appearing to be from your bank contacts you and asks for your banking password, do not give it to them. Legit businesses have a way of resetting your password if needed without ever needing to know your password.
- Share with care: Be careful about what you share on social networking sites. Remember that once you share something online, it is never truly gone even if you try to delete it.
Common Internet Scams Against Seniors
Cyber crimes like scams are prevalent. In 2017, CNBC reported that internet scams against seniors resulted in more than $650 million worth of losses. Another survey reported than nearly two-thirds (67%) of seniors have been victim to an online scam. As more of the older population are using the internet more frequently, it is increasingly important to be aware of scams and how to avoid them.
As reported by the FBI, here are some common internet scams against seniors:
- Romance scam: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims’ desire to find companions.
- Tech support scam: Scammers sometimes pose as technical support specialists who try to convince you that something is wrong with one of your devices or programs. Then, they may try to gain access to device or programs so they can steal your personal information. This may result in identity theft.
- Grandparent scam: Typically using social media networks, scammers may create a clone account of one of your children or grandchildren. Then, they may message you claiming to be in some sort of desperate situation requiring your financial assistance.
- Government impersonation scam: Scammers may pretend to be some sort of government official, for example, an officer of the federal government, and try to convince you that if you do not give them certain information, you will be penalized or even imprisoned.
- Sweepstakes/charity/lottery scam: Scammers pretend to work for a charitable organization or lottery in efforts to get your financial information such as bank account, credit card or other personal information.
Staying up-to-date with modern technologies can seem difficult, but is important in today's world of digital communication, social distancing and staying in contact with loved ones all over the world.
Once you’ve determined what internet speeds you need, shop around for the ISP that offers you the best value on the speeds you need. Don’t pay for more than what you need, but don’t get less than what you need, either.
Once you’re using the internet, or even if you already are, stay “in the know” on scams and other cyber crimes so that you don’t fall victim and can help your friends and loved ones be aware, too.