How the Net Neutrality Repeal Impacts Seniors

Net Neutrality rules were put in place to protect the Internet and those who use it. These directives prohibited Internet service providers from throttling internet speeds or blocking access to particular websites. Under these guidelines, Internet access was treated as a utility. This means everyone had equal access to services. The growth and freedom experienced through the Internet are largely due to the protections of net neutrality. Unfortunately, Net Neutrality has been repealed, and it is likely to have a significant negative impact on everyone. Many seniors, especially those living on a fixed income, will be affected. Even senior living communities will suffer some consequences. So, how exactly will the Net Neutrality repeal impact senior citizens?

Two Separate Paths  

The most likely outcome of the repeal involves Internet service providers creating two distinct pathways to the Internet. In other words, there will be a “fast lane” and a “slow lane.” In order to access the web at reasonable speeds, individuals will need to pay more money to use the “fast lane.” Furthermore, companies who receive high amounts of traffic to their websites will pay additional “tolls” in the form of fees likely passed on to consumers. People who are unwilling or unable to pay will simply have to deal with slower Internet speeds. Some websites and services may even be completely blocked for users who cannot pay for service upgrades. This would clearly have a negative impact on low-income people, including seniors living on a fixed income. Internet access could be limited or even nonexistent for many people. Seniors use the web, just like younger people. They communicate with friends and family, pay bills, watch videos and acquire information. All the amazing things the Internet has to offer could be restricted unless one can afford to pay the extra fees. Currently, 20% of Americans cannot afford Internet service. This number is expected to increase substantially under the new Net Neutrality repeal, as discussed in The Guardian..

Mobile Plans

Most mobile plans already have data caps. Plan prices will likely increase, and consumers may need to pay extra in order to access certain websites and services via their portable devices. Some older adults are already struggling to pay for cell phone service. Increased pricing may force them out entirely or cause them to switch to a less reliable mobile carrier. This could be dangerous as seniors need to be able to make emergency calls and communicate with important contacts.

The Impact on Senior Living Communities

For communities to conduct business and provide quality services, operators will need to purchase “fast lane” Internet packages. The increased pricing will be an inconvenience, but most senior living communities can afford the additional cost. Specific websites or programs may require special subscriptions. In this case, communities may have to drop some features to stay within budget.

80% of Americans are in favor of keeping Net Neutrality regulations. It is impossible to predict the exact impact of the repeal. In the meantime, some government entities and public organizations are fighting to reinstate Net Neutrality rules. For now, anything is possible and the fate of the Internet is in the hands of the Internet service providers. We can only hope that they will wield their power with grace rather than greed.

 

Protecting Seniors from Scams

Protecting Seniors from ScamsFor countless years, senior citizens have been targeted by criminals. The vulnerable nature of older people opens them to potential scams. With so many tech-savvy seniors, the Internet has created a breeding ground for cons. More than half of the people age 65+ are active Internet users. We can’t stop crooks from singling out older folks, but we can help protect our loved ones from these vultures. Below are some tips to help seniors avoid fraud.

Education

The key to prevention is knowledge. An individual must recognize a fraudulent scheme in order to avoid it. Criminals will contact potential victims in numerous ways. It may come through email, snail mail, telephone calls or texts, and even in person.

Common Scams

  • Identity theft – A thief doesn’t need much information from a person in order to steal their identity. If they are contacting your loved one, they probably already have the birth date, phone number, name and address. All a malicious person needs now is the last four digits of a Social Security number to match with this information. Armed with this data, they can open bank accounts and credit cards in the victim’s name. They may even be able to access current accounts or take out loans, essentially destroying the person’s financial life.
  • Telemarketing – It is not illegal for telemarketers to call and attempt to sell things to retirees . However, callers often use this as an excuse to fish for private data. The fraudulent telemarketer gathers bank account or credit card information to use without authorization. They might also request passwords to access accounts.
  • Grandchild impersonation – In this case, a senior receives a phone call from a distressed sounding person saying, “grandma?” or “grandpa?”  The victim believes this is a grandchild calling, so of course they respond. The grandchild impersonator then tells some traumatic story that requires the grandparent to wire money. The story often involves bail or hotel money, perhaps a lost wallet or a mugging also.
  • Sweepstakes – In this scenario the target receives a very official-looking check and letter from a fake sweepstakes. The sender requires the recipient mail a portion of the money back before depositing the check. So, the victim sends the money but a few weeks later the “sweepstakes check” bounces.
  • Charities – Fake charity organizations contact seniors to beg for donations.
  • Financial exploitation – These are simply dishonest people taking advantage of aged individuals. It may manifest as an “advisor” persuading seniors into bad investments or home maintenance workers who never complete the job.
  • Trusted organizations – Criminals place trusted names and logos on snail mail and email, in order to entice readers to share information. Phishing emails are a perfect example of this. The victim receives an email from their bank or credit card company that seems perfectly legitimate. The message states that there is a problem with the account and the   recipient must click a link to log in and correct the issue.  However, it is just someone impersonating the bank or credit card company with the intention of  stealing account information.
  • Religious affiliations – Your loved one may receive phone calls or texts from a bogus church or religious leader. These will often be signed by a “ “Reverend’ or “Bishop.” They typically ask for money or personal information.
  • Scare tactics – This usually looks like a notification that services or accounts will be discontinued unless the reader clicks a link, shares information, or pays a fee.
  • IRS phone call – This is a relatively new scam where someone calls claiming to be from the IRS stating that if the individual doesn’t pay an overdue tax bill immediately, the police will be dispatched to arrest them. Please note, the real IRS will never call.

Prevention Tips

  • Stop unsolicited communication – Add phone numbers to the National Do Not Call Registry. This will stop the majority of sales calls. Make all phone numbers unlisted or private. Most phone carriers offer this as a feature. You can also opt out of receiving junk snail mail.
  • Email safety – Avoid opening emails from unfamiliar people/companies. Furthermore, even if the sender appears official or familiar, you should not click on a link or share confidential information.
  • Do not divulge personal data – It is important that you never share identifying information unless you are 100% certain that you are communicating with a trusted organization/person. The best way to ensure that you are speaking to the correct person and not a crook, is to call an official phone number or log into your account through the browser, not by clicking a link. For example, if you receive an email stating that your account is going to be closed unless you login to correct some information; simply type the address in your browser and visit the site. You can then log in safely, without compromising your information. Moreover, if you receive a phone call or email from what appears to be your bank, find the actual phone number from one of your statements or their official website and simply contact them directly, rather than sharing information with someone who calls you.
  • Online payment method – Use a credit card rather than a debit card for use on the Internet. Credit cards generally have better security measures in place.
  • Antivirus software – Make sure your device has up-to-date antivirus protection.
  • Passwords – create strong passwords
  • Do not wire money – This is an outdated method of sending money. It has been replaced with safer, more efficient ways of transferring funds. If someone asks you to wire them money, it is most likely a scam. Additionally, if someone asks you to purchase gift cards and read them the serial numbers, this is a red flag.

Knowledge truly is power, and it is our best defense against fraud. Unfortunately, criminals are not going away anytime soon so we must be vigilant in educating older individuals about these dangers.

 

The Crucial Role of Adequate Sleep for Elderly People

Sleep for Elderly PeopleWe know that sleep is important for everyone. The body needs rest in order to repair and energize. Serious mental and physical problems are associated with sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, many seniors suffer from inadequate sleep. In this article, we examine the unique role sleep plays in the lives of seniors.

How much sleep do seniors need?

There is some debate on this issue. Most experts believe aging adults need the same amount of sleep as they did in previous life stages . The average amount being 7 to 9 hours per night. Some researchers believe elderly people need a bit less sleep, closer to seven hours. Seniors often split their sleep throughout the day, getting four hours at night and another three or four during the day napping. This is considered healthy and safe, as long as the individual gets enough sleep during a 24 hour period. The one thing everyone agrees on, is that the quality of sleep is the most important factor. Seniors suffering from sleep deprivation often have poor quality of sleep rather than insufficient quantity.

Why do seniors have poor quality sleep?

When sleep is interrupted, it disrupts the sleep cycles and diminishes the quality of sleep. Elderly people experience interrupted sleep patterns for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common causes are:

  • Medication – A number of medications cause sleep disruption and insomnia. Combining medications may also lead to these issues. Most aged people are on numerous medications.
  • Anxiety/depression – It is common for elderly people to have experienced the loss of loved ones, spouses, and close friends. This causes significant anxiety and depression. Major life changes that seniors experience during this stage of life also create a lot of stress and anxiety.
  • Biology – As we age, our bodies slow production of chemicals and hormones we need for sleep. This includes things like melatonin.
  • Neurological conditions – Conditions that affect neurology like parkinson’s and stroke may create disruptions in sleep.
  • Pain – Arthritis and other painful physical conditions make it difficult for elderly people to remain asleep for long periods of time.
  • Sleep apnea – This is the most common sleep disorder among seniors.

Dangers of inadequate sleep

  • Falls/injury – Without proper sleep, people become more prone to falls and injury.
  • Illness – There is an increased risk of illness when the body does not receive proper rest. This can be something as simple as a common cold or more severe like a stroke.
  • Anxiety/depression – These mental issues are exacerbated by lack of sleep.

It is vital for elderly people to receive the proper duration and quality of sleep. Seek professional advice if you think your loved one is sleep deprived.

Featured Daily Living Aid – Electronic Magnifiers

electronic magnifier

 

A significant number of elderly people are visually impaired. There are many low-vision aids to assist individuals in their daily living activities. One of the most useful devices is the electronic magnifier. Visually impaired people generally cannot read standard-sized print. These magnifiers allow people to read virtually anything. With a little practice, an individual can also learn to write using the magnifier. For instance, it can be used to fill out forms, write checks, and sign papers.

What is an electronic magnifier?

It is simply a camera that feeds into a screen. So whatever the camera “sees”, is fed into the screen. It is often an 18 inch or larger flat screen monitor. The image size can be adjusted, as well as contrast and color. 

How is this more beneficial than a handheld magnifier?

Handheld magnifiers are limited in their capabilities. It is very difficult to hold a magnifier steady to keep the image clear. Furthermore, they only magnify a small window of the overall text or picture. Additionally, it is nearly impossible to write while holding a magnifier in one hand and attempting to keep it steady enough for a clear image. Most electronic magnifiers are tabletop devices that remain in one place, providing a stable image. There are also no options to change colors and contrast with a traditional magnifier.

What is the cost of an electronic magnifier?

As with any product, prices vary by a considerable amount. The more features your magnifier has, the greater the expense. Generally speaking, prices range from $1,000-$5,000. A number of different companies sell these devices. A quick online search will reveal plenty of options.

Understanding the value of an electronic magnifier

It is helpful for sighted people to comprehend the immense positive impact these devices have on the lives of visually impaired people. Imagine your loved one being able to independently read recipes, the newspaper, a favorite book, or even look at family photographs. They can fill out their own paperwork, sign birthday cards and important forms. The person does not need to ask for assistance every time she has something to read or write.

 

If your family member suffers from any type of severe vision loss, consider this month’s featured daily living aid-an electronic magnifier.