Internet 101: Cyber Advice for Michigan Seniors

Internet 101: Cyber Advice for Michigan Seniors

Dear Donna:

My 84 year old grandmother recently got an iPad and started surfing the internet. She lives in northern Michigan away from all of her grandchildren. We think this will be a great way for her to stay connected. My husband and I are setting her up with an email account, but she also wants to join Facebook. I’m not sure where to start in giving her advice on what to be careful of when she is online. This is all brand new to her. Any tips?

Denise in Grand Haven, Michigan

Dear Denise:

Sounds like a good plan for helping your grandmother stay in touch with all of you! For someone new to the internet, there are a lot of potential risks to learn about to avoid becoming the victim of some type of a scam.

Here are a few tips from our web team to keep your grandmother safe online:

  • Use strong passwords on all accounts. The best ones are a combination of letters, characters and numbers. Her passwords should always be at least eight characters long. Never use family members’ names, the names of pets or other familiar terms that may be easy to guess.
  • Never open email from strangers. These are often spam and can lead to an account being hacked. Ones to be especially wary of have subject lines such as “You’ve Won…” or “Free for a Limited Time.”
  • Protect her home WiFi. If your grandmother will be working off of a home Wi-Fi, as most tablet users do, make sure the network has a strong password set up too. Having an unprotected network can make her vulnerable to hacking.
  • Shop with caution when online. Talk with her about the importance of shopping online only with security-enabled sites. Those are the online stores with a URL that begin with https://. The “s” signifies the data is encrypted in transit. Never enter financial information into a site that begins with http://
  • Facebook privacy and security. When you help your grandmother get set up and rolling on Facebook, be sure to enable her privacy settings and review those with her. Help her to set up her account so only friends can see her information. Encourage her not to accept Friend requests from people she doesn’t know. Doing so may lead to problems. A final Facebook tip is to caution her about what she posts. For example, she shouldn’t share that she is going to be out for an evening or gone on vacation.

We hope these tips are helpful to you Denise! I’ve also shared a few more resources for you to visit at the bottom of this page.



National Sandwich Generation Awareness Month

National Sandwich Generation Awareness Month

If you know someone who is caring for an aging parent in Michigan at the same time they are raising a family, you know a member of the Sandwich Generation. These men and women are caught in the middle of their need to care for their younger families and their duty and desire to care for their older parents.

Caregivers in the Sandwich Generation might be responsible for meal preparation, shopping, housekeeping and transportation for parents and for their own children. They also might manage medication and therapy schedules, and oversee a senior’s financial matters. These dual caregivers are essentially running two busy households.

When you consider that 60% of these caregivers also have jobs, it is easy to see how self-care is shuffled to the bottom of their priorities.

According to The American Psychological Association, the stresses of caring for a senior loved one can take a toll on the health of members of the Sandwich Generation. Studies show that adults caring for multiple generations experience weakened immune systems, more frequent headaches and backaches, and higher levels of depression.

Easing the caregiving burden is essential to a Sandwich-Generation caregiver’s well-being.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Lend a hand. Offer to help, but know that simply asking the caregiver if he or she needs help may not be enough. Look for a specific task or opportunity you can assist with to lighten their load.
  • Give them a break. Stay with the aging loved one while the caregiver enjoys lunch with friends, has their hair done, or just takes a quiet walk alone. Consider volunteering your time to allow for a regular “caregiver’s day off.”
  • Be a good listener. Allowing the caregiver to vent or share the day’s experiences over the phone can help them avoid feelings of isolation. Socializing is a great way to relieve stress.
  • Be positive and supportive. If you are the spouse of a mufti-generational caregiver, you may feel some resentment when your husband or wife is busy caring for an aging loved one. Focus on admiring your spouse for their commitment to their elders and their hard work.
  • Do some research. Most family caregivers aren’t aware of the many resources available to assist them. Visit the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging website for more information about services like Meals on Wheels and Michigan Adult Day Services that can make caregiving easier.
  • Help them to prepare. The hard work of the Sandwich Generation allows seniors to stay in their homes, but there may come a time when they must move to an independent living or assisted living center. Encourage the caregiver to visit several senior living communities. Knowing the amenities and expenses of each will help them create an emergency back-up plan just in case they need it.

For more information to help a friend or family member of the Sandwich Generation care for themselves, visit the AARP Caregiving Resource Center.


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StoryCorp’s Memory Loss Initiative: Preserving the Past

StoryCorp’s Memory Loss Initiative: Preserving the Past

Sharing memories with the younger generation is an important part of creating a lasting legacy. Listening to these life experiences helps caregivers bond with older adults. If your aging parent in Michigan has dementia, it can help you capture cherished memories before they slip away.

The StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative (MLI) can help.

This non-profit organization records the stories of people from all walks of life for future generations. In 2006, StoryCorps began the MLI to preserve the stories of people with memory loss.

Until recently, all MLI interviews were conducted in a mobile studio or in StoryCorps booths located in major US cities. Some of the 2,000+ recordings are available at the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative website. All of the interviews are archived in the Library of Congress and are now part of the nation’s oral history.

The StoryCorps App

Thanks to technology, Alzheimer’s caregivers in Michigan can preserve their senior loved one’s stories and contribute them to the Library of Congress archive.

In March, StoryCorps introduced a mobile phone app that makes it possible for anyone with a smartphone to record an oral history interview and contribute to the project.

The software includes a tutorial that helps users to set up the interview space, to ask good questions and to edit the interview. The app features a sharing button that instantly uploads the interview to StoryCorps and the Library of Congress collection.

Do-It-Yourself Recording

You don’t need a smartphone to preserve precious memories. Caregivers can use the Commemorate: Memory Loss Initiative Toolkit to record an Alzheimer’s loved one’s important life stories. This guide was created for dementia care centers, but family members will find it useful, too.

Reminiscing with a senior loved one has many benefits, including

  • Making them feel important and valued. Interviews place an older adult at the center of attention. Research has shown that sharing life’s memories with an audience can boost self-esteem and optimism.
  • Strengthening relationships between caregivers and older adults. Conversation and interaction help people connect and understand one another.
  • Exercising the mind. Reminiscing can serve as a stimulating mental exercise for an Alzheimer’s loved one.

We hope this helps you start recording the memories with your Alzheimer’s loved one for generations to come. If you have questions about specialized dementia care, contact one of the Heritage Senior Communities near you.

UV Awareness Month: Sunglasses to Protect Vision

UV Awareness Month: Sunglasses to Protect Vision

When you think about summer sun protection for your Michigan senior, don’t forget the sunglasses.

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause serious damage to the eyes of people of all ages. But the threat is even more serious for older adults. Years of unprotected sun exposure injures the eye and can cause cataracts, cancer and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is the leading cause of blindness in people over age 65.

Seniors who venture to Great Lakes State beaches or the pool face a greater risk of vison loss. Water and sand reflect the sun’s rays, doubling the exposure to ultraviolet light.

Sunglasses are the best defense against harmful solar radiation. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says wearing sunglasses year round, even on cloudy and hazy days, can help protect an older adult’s vision.

Advice for helping your senior loved one select the right sunglasses to shield their eyes and safeguard their sight:

Be a Savvy Eyewear Shopper

  • Effective sunscreens block UV-A and UV-B light rays. Protective eyewear should be no different. Choose sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays or that offer “400UV protection.” Don’t purchase a pair if they aren’t labeled.
  • Buy from a reputable store or eye care center. Flea markets, street vendors and online auctions might offer incredible deals, but you cannot be sure that the UV protection ratings are accurate.
  • If your senior wears eyeglasses, suggest that they invest in photochromic lenses, which block UV rays and automatically darken when exposed to sunlight. These can be helpful for older adults with Alzheimer’s or in dementia care, who may need to be reminded to use sunglasses.
  • A set of prescription sunglasses is another option. Prescription lenses block 100% of the harmful ultraviolet light. Many eye care providers offer specials on multiple pairs.


Choose the Right Features for Your Senior’s Sunglasses

  • Polarized lenses don’t block harmful UV light, but they do help to eliminate glare and reflection. This feature is a must for older adults who drive.
  • Lens color doesn’t play a role in UV protection, but it can affect an older adult’s comfort level. Aging loved ones who have had cataract surgery may prefer amber lenses or “blue blockers.” These absorb HEV-rays that are more irritating to sensitive eyes.
  • Dark lenses are no more protective than light tints, but they do reduce brightness and reduce squinting.

Select a Style: Bigger Is Better

  • The US Food and Drug Administration recommends wraparound frames that fully shield the front, side and top of the eye from damaging UV rays. Wraparounds are available in a number of styles, including a goggle design that cups over and encloses the eyes.
  • Over-lenses are another maximum coverage option. These larger frames slip over prescription frames.
  • Flip-up and clip-on sunglasses attach to the top of prescription frames with a clip or magnet. Some clip-ons offer minimal side-coverage.

We hope these tips help you choose the right sunglasses for your senior loved one. Don’t forget to grab a pair for yourself! Protecting your younger eyes from intense sunlight helps to prevent age-related eye disease.


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