A Blog For and About Today's Seniors

by Sandra K. Sprague

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sandra's Summer Book and Movie List

Books and Movies Featuring Care Givers

Rear Window (1954)

Alfred Hitchcock's masterful 1954 suspense film, Rear Window, gives us the most classic caregiver ever portrayed on the silver screen!

In Rear Window, based on the Cornell Woolrich story, "It Had to be Murder", (which itself was based on an H.G. Wells story, "Through a Window"), Alfred Hitchcock brings us Jimmy Stewart as adventure photographer, L.B. "Jeff" Jeffries, who is laid up in a hip-high cast following a mishap while photographing a car race. Jeffries passes his recuperation time by looking through his rear window into all the apartments bordering his New York apartment's courtyard. Jeffries observes the unvarnished lives of every manner of New York inhabitant: frustrated composers; newlyweds; lonely spinsters; ambitious Broadway dancers; and finally, the strange, secretive goings-on of a salesman and his needy, nagging wife.

It is this salesman, (played against-type by a pre-Perry Mason Raymond Burr), whom Jeffries suspects of abusing his wife. A few days pass during which Jeffries doesn't see the salesman's wife at all and he comes to suspect the ever-furtive salesman of having murdered his wife and spiriting the body out of the apartment. (Burr's character, made up as a white-haired, chain-smoking, explosive-tempered tyrant - is Hitchcock's amusing send-up of his own former and much-despised boss, David O. Selznick.)

Listening to Jimmy Stewart's rear window observations and his theories on this suspected crime is Stella, his practical, no-nonsense caregiver, played by the inimitable Thelma Ritter. (Sister of Tex Ritter and aunt of John Ritter) While providing a laid-up Jeffries with nutritious meals, linen service, light housekeeping and medication reminders, Stella is gradually convinced that her client's suspicions may have some merit and takes it upon herself to team up with Jeffrie's girlfriend, Lisa (a never-more-lovely Grace Kelly), to snoop on the salesman in order to get the goods on him!

Note: While my caregivers at CARE GIVERS NW are certainly every bit as good as Thelma Ritter's character at providing excellent Activities of Daily Living services, and are also very good listeners to boot, we typically draw the line at participating in murder investigations!

Rear Window is Hitchcock at his absolute best; surrounded by an excellent supporting cast, Stewart and Kelly turn in the performances of their careers. Every time I watch Rear Window, I see something new and am always delighted by how well this suspense film stands up to time. The disputed ownership and broadcast rights for Rear Window were eventually litigated before the U.S. Supreme Court; if it took a Supreme Court decision to make this classic film available to us, it was a credit to the American judiciary system!

Read Sandra's Other Reviews!

The Savages"T" is for TrespassA Man in FullScent of a Woman

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sandra's Summer Book & Movie List

Books and Movies Featuring Care Givers

Okay, you can search high and low on eBay or Toys-'R'-Us and you won't find a single Care Givers action figure! But that doesn't mean care givers are not a part of our popular culture. The fact of the matter is that care givers are featured in many of yesterday and today's popular books and films. Summertime is here and I usually take that time of year to catch up on my reading and film-watching; I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite books and films in which care givers play prominent roles!

The Savages (2007)

Siblings Jon and Wendy Savage have spent the bulk of their adult years trying to distance themselves from the painful memories of their childhood; memories made painful largely as a result of their father Lenny's abusive parenting style. Life has a way of converting twenty years of avoidance into a stark, real-time focus in a matter of minutes. Lenny, now aged and suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, is no longer able to care for himself. A phone call to each adult child yanks Jon (portrayed by Philip Seymor Hoffman, who as a much younger actor co-starred in the Gray Matters-reviewed Scent of a Woman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) from their respective dysfunctional lives and into a new world of in-home care, assisted living facilities, long-term care concerns and financial pressures.

Reluctant Jon and Wendy are forced to deal with all of these challenges while learning to accept their father in an altered perspective as a helpless, aging parent rather than an omnipotent bully. Writer-director, Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) told Terry Gross of NPR's Fresh Air, that she drew heavily on her experiences taking care of her elderly grandmother and elderly father, both Alzheimer's sufferers. In The Savages, Jenkins uses her experiences to skillfully provide a poignant and often funny look at two forty-something siblings who have not been very good at taking care of themselves, suddenly grappling with the complexities of taking care of an elderly parent with Alzheimer's.

Their struggles with this challenge and the surprising end-results are humorous, moving and thought-provoking.

As the CEO of CARE GIVERS NW, I have seen many families like The Savages characters Jon, Wendy and Lenny in a sudden state of crisis. When a family paradigm suddenly shifts and an additional element of care is required for a parent (perhaps both), it is advisable to aarrange for an assessment from a licensed in-home care agency. CARE GIVERS NW (and most other professional services like it) does not charge for an assessment; it is done in the comfort of the client's home and there is no obligation whatsoever. Assessments can help you determine what kind of care needs you or your parents may require and best ways to answer those needs. Even if family members become the primary care givers for a Senior Loved One, there is always the need for a periodic back-up or respite care help from a qualified agency. The assessment can help you determine what particular care strategy is right for you and your entire family's needs.

Read Sandra's Other Reviews!

Rear Window"T" is for TrespassA Man in FullScent of a Woman

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sandra's Summer Book and Movie List

Books and Movies Featuring Care Givers

Okay, you can search high and low on eBay or Toys-'R'-Us and you won't find a single Care Givers action figure! But that doesn't mean care givers are not a part of our popular culture. The fact of the matter is that care givers are featured in many of yesterday and today's popular books and films. Summertime is here and I usually take that time of year to catch up on my reading and film-watching; I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite books and films in which care givers play prominent roles!

"T" is for Trespass
By: Sue Grafton
G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2007

I am a huge fan of Sue Grafton's entertaining Kinsey Milhone series. At nineteen letters ("A" is for Alibi,"B" is for Burglar, etc.) into this popular series, Grafton treated us to a different writing style in "S" is for "Silence", using cleverly woven flashbacks in addition to Kinsey's crisp and often humorous narration. Now, in "T" is for Trespass, Grafton delivers yet another new twist, allowing us to see the story unfold not only through Kinsey's eyes, but also through the eyes of the antagonist, a shrewd, cunning sociopath by the name of Solana Rojas.

"T" is for Tresspass is a cautionary tale about the importance of retaining an in-home care giver through a reputable caregiving service, like CARE GIVERS NW. Solana Rojas is skilled in the art of identity theft and portrays herself as a trained, reliable and caring senior care giver; in reality, she is a dangerous predator who gains entry into the lives of her clients, takes control and strips them of their money, possessions, and sometimes .... their lives! "T" is for Trespass is set in the late-1980's, a pre-Internet world which makes identity theft much easier to go undetected. Nonetheless, even in today's world of computers and instantaneous cross-checking, a careless client can put themselves in just as great a risk without the aid of a professional, state-licensed care service like CARE GIVERS NW.

Kinsey's neighbor is at home after a hospital stay and needs some extra help during the recuperation process. Through a chain of events, private eye Kinsey is hired to conduct a background check on a care giver the neighbor's out-of-town relative has employed. At first blush, the care giver, Solana Rojas, seems to check out fine; but in short time some odd occurences start Kinsey's detective instincts twitching and she looks a little deeper into Solana's identity, qualifications and history. Kinsey is a good detective, but Solana, who soon realizes she's being stalked, is a ruthless and resourceful adversary. Will Kinsey discover the true extent of how dangerous Solana is before it's too late for her neighbor - or possibly herself?

Be prepared to read "T" is for Trespass while you're cooking, vacuuming, mowing the lawn or otherwise ignoring all other responsibilities as you breathlessly work your way through the plot. In "T" is for Trespass you get the point-of-views of both the dogged Kinsey and the cunning Solana as they circle each other and ultimately collide in an exciting climax!

Read Sandra's Other Reviews!

Rear WindowThe SavagesA Man in FullScent of a Woman

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sandra's Summer Book and Movie List

Books and Movies Featuring Care Givers

Okay, you can search high and low on eBay or Toys-'R'-Us and you won't find a single Care Givers action figure! But that doesn't mean care givers are not a part of our popular culture. The fact of the matter is that care givers are featured in many of yesterday and today's popular books and films. Summertime is here and I usually take that time of year to catch up on my reading and film-watching; I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite books and films in which care givers play prominent roles!

A Man in Full
By: Tom Wolfe
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1998

Published eleven years after his acclaimed and wildly popular Bonfire of the Vanities, the much-anticipated A Man in Full started out, according to Wolfe, as "a book about everything".; at a hefty 744 pages, one's first impression could very well be that Wolfe achieved his objective! The good news is that in spite of its heft, A Man in Full is an absolute compelling work of modern literature and, once started, is nearly impossible to put down.

A Man in Full introduces us to Charlie Croker, an Atlanta-area real estate developer tycoon and businessman. We find Charlie on the slippery down-slope of a "rags-to-riches" career. Having ridden an Atlanta boom-cycle to the top of the heap, Charlie is scrambling to keep from surfing a wave of crushing debt onto a rocky shore of massive foreclosure, bankruptcy and disgrace. To complicate matters, Charlie is beginning to have serious self-doubts about his personal values, moral compass and his genuine place in life.

Enter Conrad, a wrongly-convicted California fugitive who is working for an Atlanta-area in-home caregiving agency using a false identity. Although circumstances might suggest otherwise, Conrad's life has actually been changed dramatically for the good by a recent conversion to the Stoic school of philosophy; while being retained as an in-home caregiver for a post-operative Charlie Croker, he proceeds to introduce Charlie to his new-found wisdom in an attempt to help Charlie find his way to a better life.

DISCLAIMER: In real life, Conrad would never have been able to secure work as an in-home care giver! At CARE GIVERS NW, all my care givers are subjected to a thorough background check and must provide proof of identity, a valid driver's license and current automobile insurance. Additionally, my care givers are trained to provide our clients with quality care such as medication reminders and assistance with Actitivies of Daily Living, but will probably be less effective in helping to salvage a failing multi-million dollar real estate development firm.

As you may have guessed, a 744-page novel ranges much farther than the simple plot I've just described. A Man in Full is a delightful parade of corrupt politicians, unscrupulous bankers, craven star athletes and other unforgettable characters of all stripes! This is Tom Wolfe at his best and you won't want to miss a word of his incisive, all-observant wit and social insight. Get an extra-strength beach bag and hoist along A Man in Full to your beach blanket and umbrella - you'll be glad you brought it with you!

Read Sandra's Other Reviews!

Rear WindowThe Savages"T" is for TrespassScent of a Woman

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sandra's Summer Book and Movie List

Books and Movies Featuring Care Givers

Okay, you can search high and low on eBay or Toys-'R'-Us and you won't find a single Care Givers action figure! But that doesn't mean care givers are not a part of our popular culture. The fact of the matter is that care givers are featured in many of yesterday and today's popular books and films. Summertime is here and I usually take that time of year to catch up on my reading and film-watching; I thought I'd share with you a few of my favorite books and films in which care givers play prominent roles!

Scent of a Woman (1992)

True Confessions: None of my care givers at CARE GIVERS NW look like a young Chris O'Donnell; furthermore, few of our clients look like a 1990's Al Pacino as a dashing Lieutenant Colonel. Despite this bit of harsh reality, Scent of a Woman is a charming story about Charlie (Chris O'Donnell), a young prep school student enlisted to provide respite care for Frank (Al Pacino), a blind, cynical, cantankerous ex-army officer.

The film quickly sets itself firmly on the path of a "coming of age" story, but Martin Brest's clever direction and Al Pacino's brilliant performance allows the film to transcend the genre. Charlie hasn't begun to settle into a long weekend of care-giving for Frank when he is whisked to New York City, accompanying Frank on an agenda of his own.

Charlie is on hand to witness and sometimes assist Frank as he drinks copiously, flirts smoothly, tango dances in a style worthy of the finals on "Dancing with the Stars", takes a Ferrari on a wild ride and battles to emerge from the other side of a serious crisis of faith. Charlie's help in allowing Frank to reach an epiphany of sorts, along with Frank's ultimate decision to help Charlie out of a jam in school is familiar stuff. ("Finding Forrester" comes immediately to mind.) But the on-screen chemistry between Pacino and O'Donnell combined with Pacino's snappy dialog and powerful acting make this a film well worth seeing. If you've seen it already, watch Scent of a Woman again. You'll be glad you did!

Read Sandra's Other Reviews!

Rear WindowThe Savages"T" is for TrespassA Man in Full

Monday, March 15, 2010

Seniors and Online Dating

If your e-mail inbox is anything like mine, you have probably received at least one e-mail ad for an online dating service in the past month.
Aiming modern technology at the dating process is nothing new. (Remember my observation in my blog, "Seniors and Internet Safety", about sex being one of the first uses for every new technology?)

Online Dating in the 19th Century

In his book, "The Victorian Internet", Tom Standage describes an 1886 article in Electrical World entitled, "The Dangers of Wired Love". The article tells of a Brooklyn newsstand owner, George W. McCutcheon and his twenty-year-old daughter, Maggie, who assisted him at the newsstand. Business had become so brisk that Mr. McCutcheon installed a telegraph line to his store and Maggie became the operator. Maggie's father soon learned she was "keeping a flirtation" with several young men over the telegraph lines, including Frank Frisbie, a married telegraph operator for the Long Island Railroad. Maggie telegraphed Frank an invitation to visit her, which he accepted. Maggie's father found out and forbade the visit. Nonetheless, Maggie secretly started seeing Frank. Mr. McCutcheon dismissed his daughter from working at his newsstand, but she soon found another telegraph operator position and resumed her "online" relationship with Frisbie. The tale predictably ends with Mr. McCutcheon following Maggie to a rendezvous with Frisbie, where the father threatened to "blow her (Maggie's) brains out". Maggie had her father arrested and charged with "threatening behavior". (Does this story sound at all familiar to any parents of teenagers who participate on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking sites?)

There are Many Online Dating Sites for Seniors - And Just as Many Dangers

Because of the contextual content of many of my e-mails and computer searches, it is no surprise that I've received e-mail ads from a surprising number of online dating sites for seniors. I've received ads from "SeniorMeet.com", "AgeMatch.com", "SeniorDateFinder.com", and, from the same people who bring you Penthouse Magazine, "SeniorFriendFinder.com". There are at least 5-10 more mainstream online dating sites targeting seniors.
There are a lot of reasons so many online dating sites are targeting seniors: a high divorce rate sends many older Americans back into the dating world; men and women are remaining active well into their 80's and 90's; and many seniors, widowed and suddenly alone, seek companionship. Being able to quickly and effectively "cast a wide net" while searching for a new friend can be very attractive to seniors. The online meeting process is quicker and easier than more traditional forms of meeting, such as church meet-and-greets; senior center dances; "set-ups" by "helpful" friends and family members; etc. An Internet dating site profile can often provide much more information about a potential companion than one can glean by regularly meeting with someone for weeks or even months. But there are downsides to online dating for seniors.
Online dating sites, with such easy anonymity, is a preferred medium of many con artists who approach seniors profiled on the site, gain their trust and then swindle them.
As I mentioned in my blog, "Seniors and Internet Safety", the FBI cites one of the reasons the elderly are commonly earmarked for scams and frauds is that those who grew up in the 1930's and 1940's were raised to be polite and trusting. It is very easy for online crooks to appear sincere and trustworthy at the safe distance of online communication. A quick review of various online forums displaying complaints about online dating sites proves not every person posting a profile or responding to a profile deserves your trust.
In 2009, PRWeb reported on a Google statistic showing that the search terms "online dating" and "free dating" were getting the most "hits" from online crooks in African countries. (Not every criminal in Africa can be a Somolian Pirate, afterall!) The review site, DatingMore.com, has devoted a full page to links warning about specific types of online dating scams. There are warning pages about Nigerian dating scams; Russian dating scams; e-mail addresses online dating scammers are known to use; a rogue's gallery of pictures used in the profiles of online dating con artists; the list goes on and on!

Don't Send Money

A typical ploy from an online dating fraudster, regardless of point-of-origin, is to approach a senior with a profile on an online dating site, strike up an online friendship and eventually write their new-found "cyber-pen-pal" and tell them they are short on money to pay this month's Internet service bill or online dating site subscription fee; they're afraid they won't be able to continue chatting online unless they find a way to raise $40 before the end of the week. This ploy may be used once or twice on a trusting senior; without warning the scam artist just disappears, leaving the online senior dater with a reduction of spirits and bank balance! Sometimes the scam is more sophisticated and the damages are potentially much greater.

Ways to Protect Yourself

In the world of online dating, seniors need to protect their hearts, their wallets and their personal safety by following a few sound pieces of advice:

  • Verify the identity of a potential "match" as intricately as possible. If the profile of an online dating "match" does not include a photo, ask for one. If there is only one photo and your new "match" continues to refuse or evade requests for additional photos, chances are the "match" is an imposter.

  • Create a separate e-mail account for use as the contact e-mail address with both the online dating site and with any online "matches".

  • Use a post office box or mail service box as the billing address for your cell phone. Never use your home phone as the contact number with the online dating service or with new-found "matches".

  • When creating a profile for the online dating website, or when e-mailing and communicating with new "matches", keep yourself on a first-name basis until you're absolutely certain the "match" is a legitimate online dating participant.

  • Never let your new "match" send you a personality quiz or some other survey to fill out "for fun" or to "see how compatible" you two may be. Many online dating scams involve this ploy; the quiz or survey is loaded with highly personal questions, the answers to which allowing a clever con artist to build a solid credit profile of you.

  • Never reveal your home address or any other personal information (birthplace, mother's maiden name, your full name, etc.) to a new-found "match" until you're absolutely certain of their legitimacy and trustworthiness.

Online dating for seniors is here to stay; for the most part, the fun, ease-of-use and effectiveness of the process makes that a good news issue. However, there is nothing wrong with exercising some caution in the process. Remember what a boxing referee advises in his pre-fight instructions: "Protect yourselves at all times!"

Monday, February 15, 2010

Want Your Home Robbed? There's an App For That!

As mentioned in my blog, "Seniors and Internet Safety", more seniors than ever before are on the Internet and are actively engaged in social networking, blogging, maintaining websites and using any number of other high-tech devices, many with Internet and Multi-Media enabled features, such as cell phones, digital camcorders, e-books, GPS units, etc.

Seniors Are Becoming Active Social Networkers

While my previous blog, "Seniors and Internet Safety", focused mainly on the prevention of identity theft, the proliferation of interactive technology combined with a growing seniors' participation in its use presents other dangers to be aware of as well. A recent Pew Research Institute study indicated the age bracket which increased its Internet usage most since 2005 was the 70-75 segment! Seniors participating in social networking is increasing daily. The media-measurement firm, comScore, reported that in 2008 the number of seniors visiting social networking sites such as Eons, MySpace and Facebook grew at almost double the rate of general computer use.

Social Networkers Are Sharing Their Thoughts AND Their Locations!

Social networking can be fun; it is a great way to instantly communicate with your entire circle of close friends and family. One of the latest forms of communication finding its way into social networking communication is location-sharing. With the advent of social networking sites such as Twitter, Google Buzz, Foursquare and others, participants with information - the written word, images and video - about where they are right now! In an effort to build a community of users, there are interactive elements as well. For instance, on Foursquare.com, participants gain recognition for being first on the network to document a visit to a restaurant, bar, cafe, or other locations; Foursquare.com awards members virtual "points" and "badges" according to how often they go out and where they visit; the most-frequent patron of a particular location is crowned "mayor" - another member can usurp the "mayoral crown" by racking up more visits. This can get quite competitive and other members watch the activity for fun and to keep track of where and when their friends and family go most often.

Many Internet security experts and law enforcement specialists are starting to believe crooks may also be watching!

New Twist On an Old Burglar Trick

The idea of burglars using social networking to keep tabs on potential targets is nothing new. One of the oldest social networking instruments, the newspaper, has long been a prime source of location-sharing information for burglars.

For decades burglars have used newspaper society pages and obituary notices to target homes that will be vacant at specific times. A 1996 Pasadena, California newspaper article reads like something out of "Arsenic and Old Lace". Two ostensibly meek and mild sisters, one a nurse and the other a bookkeeper, regularly pulsed newspaper obituary notices and other articles to gather information on homes that would be vacant during viewings, funerals, vacations, etc. Keeping a complex list in a black book and using notations like "D" for dead or "V" for vacation, the police estimated the two sisters committed over 300 burglaries before their arrest.

A "Horrific Crime" Against the Elderly

The little old ladies from Pasadena are just one example of burglars using newspaper information to orchestrate robberies. In 2007, a Reno, Nevada man was arrested and ultimately convicted of leading a three-man burglary team on a multi-state spree of home burglaries using the obituaries to target homes. After their arrest, Reno police stated their opinion that these crimes were particularly "horrific" because the large majority of households targeted were those of vulnerable, elderly persons and couples.

In today's Internet-driven social networking world, the growning trend of location-sharing allows burglars to identify targets and learn exactly when a homeowner is awy from the house, where they are and how long they'll be gone.

In 2009, Israel Hyman, an Arizona videographer, took a trip to the Midwest. He used Twitter to let family and friends know how his trip went, that he had arrived safely at his Midwest destination and how long he was going to stay. While he was gone, his home was broken into and thousands of dollars of video and computer equipment were stolen. Hyman and the police believe he may have unwittingly tipped off the thieves with the info on his "tweets". Although Hyman intends remaining active on social networking sites, he has stated his intention to cease his online sharing of future travel activities.

What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

As I've already remarked, social networking is a great interactive resource for older people wanting to keep in touch with loved ones. We're not advocating a complete withdrawal from social networking - simply take precautions to avoid problems:

  • Don't Post Your Address: As mentioned in my "Seniors and Internet Safety" blog, don't post your address or specific information about your home location on your social networking site profile pages. Your family and friends already know where you live; don't guide a potential burglar to your home!

  • Don't Pre-Announce Upcoming Trips: If you want to let family and friends know you're taking a trip, do so by private e-mails or phone calls; don't post an announcement on the home page of your social networking space!

  • Remove Any Posted Comments About Upcoming Trips: If an exuberant contact in your social networking circle of friends posts something like: "Have fun in Mexico on Cinco de Mayo!", delete it from your page. It is a nice sentiment, but don't let it remain on your site for the world to see.

  • Don't Post Real-Time Trip Updates: Once again, if you want to keep family and friends updated on your trip's progress, do so via e-mail or cell phone. Don't post a real-time stream of updates on your Facebook, MySpace or Twitter accounts; you may be informing more people than just trusted family and friends of your whereabouts!

Remember, when most of us go on a trip, we take great pains beforehand to stop our newspaper delivery, have our mail held at the Post Office, and set timers on lamps to make it appear as though someone is home to discourage burglars. Don't defeat all these precautions by publicly announcing when you're away from home and exactly where you are!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seniors and Internet Safety

It is said that since the introduction of the Gutenburg Press, the first uses for every new technology have been for the purposes of religion and sex. While that may be true, fraudulent activities certainly cannot rank far behind the first two!

As early as 1922, not long after regularly-scheduled U.S. Postal Service airmail delivery began, the first chain letter found its way into the popular culture. Although most of these early chain letters were entitled "Prosperity Club" or "Good Luck", they were almost universally known as "Send-A-Dime" letters. A mail recipient would receive a post card bearing six names and addresses with instructions to make five copies, scratch the top name off, add theirs to the bottom and mail a dime to the top (scratched off) name, then wait for your name to work its way to the top of the "chain". The promised pay-off was $1562.50 if no one broke the chain! (Dire fates were promised for those who did break the chain!)

"Send-A-Dime" crazes popped up every few years; on April 19th, 1935 the Denver Post Office noticed they were being swamped by "Send-A-Dime" postcards. In spite of a publicly-announced threat of prosecution, the craze continued - and spread! On April 28th, 1935 the Denver Post Office processed 165,000 chain letters; ten days later, on May 8th, the St. Louis daily mail average skyrocketed from 450,000 letters to 800,000 - the increase attributable to a surge in "Send-A-Dime" postcards!

Internet Scams and Fraud: Seniors Are A Big Target!

The fraudulent scams of today are not too different from scams of the past and play out all-too-often on the Internet with far stronger viral behavior than the old "Send-A-Dime" chain letter scams. The ubiquitous e-mail about the Nigerian prince requesting your help to siphon millions away from his country is regular sitcom and late-night television joke fodder. Other scams and fraudulent Internet activities are more subtle and less publicized.

Unfortunately, seniors are one of the primary targets of these cyber-scammers.

Seniors Are On The Internet in Increasing Numbers

According to the respected Pew Research Center's "Internet and American Life Project", the largest percentage increase in Internet use since 2005 has been in the 70-75 age bracket! Nearly 60% of American adults maintain a profile on a social networking site; almost a third of American adults post at least once a week on Facebook or Twitter.

Many seniors claim they find it easier to keep up with friends, children and grandchildren by accessing MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites. Many retirement communities and assisted living facilities offer sophisticated computer rooms for their residents; the Buckingham Senior Retirement Community in Houston, Texas started holding bi-weekly Facebook classes in their computer room - there is now a waiting list! "The reason (for the popularity of the class) can be summed up with one word," says executive director Julie Fenske, "grandchildren!".

While an increased familiarity with and use of the Internet is great for seniors keeping more in touch with family and the outside world at large, there is a possible downside: an increased Internet presence means more American seniors are potentially at risk of being victimized by an Internet fraud or scam!

Why Seniors are Targets of Internet Scams and Frauds

According to the FBI, the elderly are prime targets of fradulent scam-artists for several reasons:

  • Elder Americans are more likely to have larger-than-average savings, a high percentage of home equity and better-than-average credit ratings.

  • Americans who grew up during the 1930's and 1940's generally were raised to be polite and trusting; con artists will exploit this trait, knowing a senior will have more difficulty saying "No!" to a clever "pitch" or "scam".

  • Seniors are less likely to report being victims of a fraud; sometimes they may not realize they've been victimized for a lengthy period of time; often they are reluctant to report being defrauded to the authorities out of fear that their family members may find out and draw the conclusion they can no longer remain independent caretakers of their own finances.

  • If seniors do report being victims of a scam, they often make poor witnesses, with a weaker memory for important details.

  • In many instances, popular scams involve sales of dubious products with claims of abilities to improve cognitive functions, boost general physical health or that they contain anti-cancer ingredients, etc. These "snake oil" products dovetail directly into the primary concerns of many elder Americans.

The following are a few specific areas where seniors are at-risk from their online activities along with some simple ways to protect against potential dangers:

Social Networking and Identity Theft: Don't Talk to Strangers!

From the comfort of their own easy chairs, seniors can log onto their Facebook accounts and instantly be surrounded by the warmth of family and friends, their photos and affectionate messages scattered all over the computer monitor. This virtual family gathering can lull the most wary of us into a false sense of security; there is a tendency to let your guard down when you're amongst loved ones, even if it is on a social networking site.

Scam artists, identity thieves, hackers, spammers, virus-writers and other nefarious types know this and are watching! If you want to participate in the social networking world, exercise caution and follow a few easy and sensible safeguards:

  • Keep Personal Things Personal: Symantec, the computer security software giant, released results from their Norton Online Living Report 2009 which indicated at least one-third of social networkers post at least three pieces of personal data which could lead to identity theft. Full names, birth dates, addresses, childrens' names, pets' names, phone numbers, mothers' maiden names are just a few of the dozens of personal data points which could enable an identity thief to patch together an identity profile of you. Your friends and family already know a lot of personal details about you; don't make it easy for an identity thief by posting a lot of superfluous information.

  • Don't Talk to Strangers: If you've ever warned your children or grandchildren not to talk to strangers, take you own advice when social networking. Don't accept a friendship request from someone you don't know, even if the request came from within a circle of friends of your brother, son or granddaughter. A criminal could have gained access to that circle in just as anonymous a way with the permission of someone not as cautious as they should have been.

  • Freeze Thieves Out: Go online to consumerunion.org and find their credit freeze information. Follow the instructions applicable to your state to freeze your credit file to prevent an identity thief from opening new accounts against it. (You can still open new accounts whenever you'd like by temporarily lifting the freeze with a PIN number you establish when freezing your credit file.)

  • DIY - Build Your Own Contact List: When opening a new social networking website account, you are often asked to let their system scan your e-mail contact list(s) in order to quickly build your contact list on their site. Their system will scan your contact list(s) and automatically e-mail "friend" invitations to each and every e-mail address on your list(s). This is a very effective way for sites like Facebook to grow their subscriber base, but it is also a good way to unknowingly allow unwanted people into your "inner-circle". Build your own contact list with trusted family members and friends.

  • Fire Up a Firewall: It is possible for social networking users to unintentionally pass computer viruses to other users; some viruses can steal your log-in information to e-mail accounts, banking accounts and social networking sites and send this data to hackers! Protect yourself and your social networking contacts by installing a firewall in your computer.

Social networking sites can be fun, emotionally-reassuring platforms for interaction with family and friends. It is great if you enjoy and benefit from social networking, just remember to play it safe and DON'T be robbed of the enjoyment!

Symantec and Symantec logos are the registered trademarks of Symantec Corporation. All other names and logos are the registered trademarks of their owners.

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's Winter but I Spend the Entire Year Avoiding "The Fall"!

Why Rollator-Style Walkers Make a Better Choice Over Standard Walkers for Most Seniors

Of course, the "Fall" I'm referring to is an actual fall; you know, one of those sudden, accidental events when you lose your balance and the ground rushes up to smack the wind out of your lungs!

Pratfalls may be funny on "America's Funniest Home Videos", but for an elderly person, a fall may be a life-changing (or life-ending) event. The National Osteoporosis Foundation maintains that "about one out of every 2 Caucasion women will experience an osteoporosis-related fracture at some point in their lifetime". Hip fractures are particularly serious for the elderly; 10% - 20% of elderly persons suffering a hip fracture will die within six months of the event. A large majority of hip-fracture survivors stand a good chance of spending the rest of their lives in a nursing home or requiring constant in-home care.

Fall Prevention is a Key Senior Care Imperative

As president of a busy senior care agency, helping seniors to maintain maximum levels of independence in their own home is one of my primary objectives. Falls can be the worst enemy of senior independence; my caregivers are trained to help our senior clients avoid falls in many ways.

Standard Walkers vs. Rollator Walkers

Given my personal vendetta against senior falls, it is no wonder that one of my pet peeves is the standard walker.
A standard walker is a four-legged, light-weight (often less than 6 pounds) aluminum frame assistive apparatus with rubber leg tips - some models have wheels or "glide tip balls" on the leading feet. Many standard walkers fold almost flat for convenient storage. Standard walkers are intended to give an unsteady user a little extra help with movement stability. They are less expensive than other solutions, which is probably why most hospitals will send post-operative patients home equipped with a standard walker to assist in movement stability.
My considerable senior care experience has taught me that seniors needing stability assistance are taking a big chance using a standard walker. Remember, falls are unexpected and sudden; they can cause irrevocable injuries. Standard walkers can contribute to the probability of a fall in several ways:
  • Lightweight Aluminum Frame: The lightweight nature of a standard walker can allow it to get too far out in front of the user's center-of-gravity as they shuffle it forward, increasing instability and easily leading to a fall.

  • Rubber Feet or Glide Tip Balls: The standard walker is definitely best-suited for consistently-flat walking surfaces. Most seniors don't live on basketball courts - their living spaces have rugs, transitional issues such as a carpeted area leading to a linoleum floor, etc. A standard walker with rubber feet, glide tip balls or self-affixed tennis balls can unexpectedly snag or "scuff-stop" a user in mid-movement, resulting in a sudden loss of balance and possibly a fall.

  • Lead-Leg Wheels: Those standard walkers featuring lead-leg wheels only increase the likelihood of a fall. If the rear legs are lifted to free the feet from a snag, the user's weight is then only supported by the front legs with the free-rolling wheels. Without the stabilization of the rear legs, the wheeled front legs can careen away from or collapse under a user, sending them tumbling to the floor.

Rollator Walkers for Better Stability and Safety Features

Rollator Walkers are a much better option for seniors needing added stability in movement. A rollator walker is a heavier-duty assistive apparatus with a more sophisticated, ergonomic design and many more built-in safety features for unsteady users.

Typically fitted with integrated padded seat benches, baskets, cup holders and dual-lever locking hand brakes on the wheel chair-like soft-grip handles, rollator walkers have large-diameter rubber wheels which allow the unit to effortlessly and seamlessly roll over many surface-level obstructions. (Small pebbles, short-height curb edges, sidewalk cracks, etc.)

While standard walkers have relatively low weight limit ratings (generally 250-300 lbs.), many rollator walkers, with sturdier construction and load-bearing designs, are rated between 275-600 lbs.! A standard walker user may quickly tire and experience the immediate need to sit down. Most standard walkers do not offer seat features; those that do are too light to provide a great deal of stable support when used. A senior can easily lock the wheels on a rollator walker and then effortlessly sit down on a comfortable padded bench seat to take a rest before resuming movement.

The Potential Hidden Cost of a Standard Walker

It is true that walking rollators cost a bit more than standard walkers, but an unexpected fall can cost an unfortunate senior more than just money - it can cost a senior's independence and enjoyment of good health!

"America's Funniest Home Videos" and its "AFV" logo, are the copyrighted trademarks of Vin di Bona Productions.