Archive for Supporters and Caregivers

Computers for People Who Are Anything But Dummies

Computers for Seniors for Dummies

My 87-year-old mother-in-law received a gift this week that she hates. It’s a book that she calls Computers for Old People Who Are Dummies, better known to the rest of us as Computers for Seniors for Dummies. She and my 91-year-old father-in-law were given it by one of their children not-so-secretly hopes it might reduce the number of “support calls” she receives.

My mother-in-law doesn’t hate the book per se – it’s pretty good and no doubt she’ll find it helpful. What turns her off is the word “Seniors” in the title. It’s a love-hate thing she’s had going with the word ever since she turned 65. Seniors discounts at the movies? Good. Being thought of as a senior with all the stereotypes that come with the word? Not so good.

She’s not alone. According to a study in the Journals of Gerontology Psychological Science, older people tend to feel roughly 13 years younger than their chronological age. And, according to Jacqui Smith, a psychologist at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and one of the authors of the study, this is probably a good thing. “Feeling positive about getting older may well be associated with remaining active and experiencing better health in old age,” said Smith.

One way to remain active is by staying connected with family and friends, something that’s a challenge for older people who are retired, sometimes less mobile and whose families are far flung. One of the biggest benefits of a program like PointerWare is that it lets people with little or no computer experience easily connect online. And it’s so easy to learn and to use that no one will ever feel like a dummy – old or otherwise.

–          Posted by Karen

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PointerWare Supporter Shares Her Story

We love hearing from PointerWare users and supporters, especially when they share the story of what a difference PointerWare has made in their lives.

We recently received a letter from Suzan Caron. Suzan’s mother lives alone in a small town. She is still running her own small business so, despite the fact that Suzan and her siblings all live elsewhere; moving to be closer to family is currently not a viable option for her mom. Suzan tells us her mom is lonely and depressed. Suzan turned to PointerWare in the hope of finding a solution to their family’s dilemma.

“. . . I am left with being the one to find a better way for us two to talk more frequently,” Suzan writes. Your program allows her in a simplistic way of keeping in touch with other family members as well as myself.”

Suzan raises an issue we hear again and again. Even though PointerWare was designed to improve the lives of seniors, their families often benefit as much, or even more, from the peace of mind they gain from being able to easily communicate with their loved one.

“Well I need to check this out and hopefully this will be the answer to my anxieties of mom living so far away,” she writes. “I believe you are onto a real solution for our parents remaining independent a little longer. Thanks guys, keep up with making your dreams come to life.”

Thanks to you Suzan and all the best to you and your mom.

–          Posted by Karen

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When $17 Million Isn’t Just $17 Million

Free image courtesy of

I guess I’m just lucky – after all, it’s not every day someone offers me $17 million dollars.

I opened an email this morning from Heinrich Albert Ruiten (whom I’ve never met or heard of in my life). Heinrich offered to divvy up $34,995,000US between the two of us, generous guy that he is. All I had to agree to do is have my name listed as a beneficiary of the estate of some poor schmuck (whom I’ve also never met). I know, I know, it all sounds too good to be true but Heinrich assured me in his email that it’s a genuine business. I haven’t had such a good offer since a Nigerian prince sent me an email asking for my help in exchange for a reward. . .

Heinrich and my Nigerian “pal” are perpetrators of fraud and fortunately, I’ve been around this virtual block enough times to know it when I see it but the same can’t always be said for seniors. And the reason why might be surprising.

While lack of experience with email in general might account for some of the reason seniors are often the victims of Internet fraud, researchers at the University of Iowa might have found a different reason. They have identified an area of the brain – the ventromedial prefrontal cortex – that governs belief and doubt. Unfortunately, as we age, this area can deteriorate, possibly explaining why some seniors are particularly susceptible to fraudsters.

The implications are huge. Last year, MetLife pegged the dollar amount for financial abuse of the elderly coming in at close to three billion dollars. According to a survey by Visa Canada, while seniors are the least likely to share personal information through social media, they are the most likely to send personal credit card information via email.

A simple first step is being aware of the findings in the study. If we know that brain changes that occur with aging can make us more susceptible to fraud, there’s a chance we’ll keep our guard up a little bit better.

Seniors should be encouraged to get trusted family members or a trusted financial advisor involved when they’re presented with potential scams disguised as financial opportunities. Family members need to understand that it may be necessary to take a more active role in protecting their aging parents than they might have taken in the past.

To help minimize frauds that present themselves via email, seniors should use email programs that have a spam filter. Unfortunately, this can’t be relied upon 100% since the scammers and fraudsters who send these emails out tailor their message in order to get around spam filters. More reliable is a program like PointerWare. PointerWare not only has a spam filter for email, it allows supporters to turn on a “white list” feature that results in the senior who is using PointerWare only receiving messages from known and trusted people who are listed in the senior’s address book.

What about you? Have you been the victim of fraud? Have you got any other tips for keeping seniors safe online? Let us know, we’d love to hear from you.

– Posted by Karen

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Living Well with Dementia Photo Contest

Photo by Rebecca Tisdelle

Thanks to our friends at for passing on details about the Living Well with Dementia Photo Contest.

A diagnosis of dementia is challenging for both the affected individual and their loved ones. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common manifestation of dementia, accounting for 64 per cent of all cases in Canada. That’s why there is an urgent need to increase awareness and understanding so that we can reduce the stigma and create a more supportive community environment.

How you can help:

Share this with friends and family and encourage them to enter the Living Well with Dementia Photo Contest, proudly presented by the Alzheimer Society, in partnership with Comfort Life and the Toronto Camera Club.

Your photos will do two things:

•    Help increase awareness about free counseling, information, and education provided by the Alzheimer Society.

•    Show that dementia sufferers are unique individuals whose lives should be valued and celebrated.

The entry deadline is August 31st. For more details, visit the Alzheimer Society of Toronto’s website.

– Posted by Karen

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Online Communication Bridges Generation Gap

A joint research-report examining how people of all ages use online communications and social networking was released by Microsoft and AARP earlier this month.

Connecting Generations explains how online communication is bridging the generation gap. No longer seen as simply something for kids, computers and the online communication they facilitate is being embraced by elders as a method of improving family ties. “Going online actually helps them to better understand other family members or helps other family members understand them,” the report’s authors point out.

Among the report’s findings:

  • 83 percent of the 13- to 75-year-olds surveyed considered online interactions a “helpful” way of communication with family members
  • 30 percent of the grandparents surveyed said that connecting online helps them better understand teen and young adult grandchildren. 29 percent of grandchildren felt the same about their grandparents.
  • The majority of teens surveyed believe the computer increases both the quality and quantity of communications with family members who live far away.

– Posted by Karen

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Hospital Watch Live

Let’s face it, technology is everywhere.  We can choose to ignore it or we can adapt to it.  Besides, one of the most prominent places where technology has life saving capabilities (under the direction of human contact, of course) is in doctor’s offices, health clinics and hospitals.

Take Toronto General Hospital, for example.  They are starting a new project this month that, according to The Globe and Mail, “uses ultrasound technology to paint a detailed picture of staff hand-washing practices.”  It may seem like it is a waste of time and resources, but what many patients don’t realize is that the hands are prime “hot-spots” for passing along unexpected illnesses.

The goal the hospital hopes to accomplish is to track how diseases are spread within the healthcare system and what can be done to reduce the chances of passing them on.  Post-surgical patients contracted too many illnesses due to unexpected circumstances during their recovery. Because of this, their stay in health-care facilities gets extended, resulting in space being taken up in hospitals that are already at capacity.

The Globe reports that, “the equipment is sensitive enough that it can recognize when physicians are facing a patient, when they turn their backs and when they step out of the room. It also picks up when staff members should wash their hands (every time they step out of the “patient environment”) and records whether or not that’s done.”

The device, dubbed Hospital Watch Live, will consist of more than 1,000 devices that will be positioned throughout the hospital.  The intention, to better patients stay and prevent harm to their recuperation process, is important but will this help or harm the hospital environment?  Only time will tell.

To read more of this article, click here.

Share your thoughts!

– Posted by Megan


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House Call? There’s an App for That

Are you afraid that when your family doctor is away on vacation, that’s when you’ll need him the most?  Well put your fears at ease, all because of the touch of a button.

Two weeks ago, The Globe and Mail published an article about the development of an application created for patients to help ease their anxiety.  The article said the app, “is one part of a technological revolution poised to reshape the health-care industry in Canada”.  The design was inspired when its creator, Dr. John Semple, was vacationing in Nepal and was sent pictures of a patient’s post-surgical wound with information about the patients’ symptoms.  From his location, Dr. Semple was able to diagnose the state of her recovery and that all was well and on track.

It’s believed that this kind of innovation will help save overcrowded and under- budget hospitals.  In the United States, an app has already been created that can perform an eye exam and produce a prescription, all for a total of $2.  Even electrocardiograms are being performed on smartphones.

But how far is too far?

The Globe article made for a lively discussion at my breakfast table one Saturday morning.  Could long-distance house calls really be the face of our future health?

Yes, it very well could be, and it appears that it is on its way.  The ability to have your doctor have a first or second glance at a concerning wound, rash or scar, from a distance, is comforting.  Will you go for it?

To read the full article, click here.

– Posted by Megan


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How Old Do You Think You Are?

I’m fascinated with one of the ideas presented at the Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN) breakfast meeting this past week, namely that regardless of our age, we rarely think of ourselves as old.

The speaker, Director of Publications for FYI Magazine, Vicki Dillane, related the story of her parents who are in their late 60s and enjoyed the social calendar of college kids. When she suggested to them they might like to take up bocce ball, a popular pastime at the Florida condo where her parents spent part of the winter, their response was something along the line of, “Why would we do that? It’s for old people.”

Dillane thinks it’s great her parents are well and robust and that they don’t think of themselves as ‘old’ but she does point out their response highlights a commonly held belief amongst, well, everyone: while we all realize we’re aging, most of us don’t think of ourselves as old.

What are the implications of this? Plenty.

Dillane related how this ‘forever young’ attitude resulted in the need for her magazine to re-brand. Twice. When Forever Young first began publishing, the typical reader was someone who was born between 1900 and World War II. Top-of-mind issues were things like personal safety and the betterment of society. Compare that to someone who is just turning 65 today. This cohort, a.k.a. The Baby Boomers, is associated with privilege. They are actively looking for ways to stay healthy and engaged as they define a different way of living. (Good news for companies like PointerWare whose mission is to keep people engaged and connected no matter how old they are. Or think they are.)

What do you think? Do you think of yourself as ‘old’? Do you think you ever will? And is that a good thing or a bad thing? We’d love to get your thoughts on this.

–          Posted by Karen

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Helping Seniors Live Longer

An article on the website brought an important point to our attention.  Seniors today are living a duration that a century ago would have been considered two lifetimes.

Thanks to advances in health care, the overall standard of living has increased since the 1900s.  According to the CIA World Factbook, the current average life expectancy has risen to 78.4 in the U.S. and 81.5 in Canada.  Many of us probably know seniors who live into their 90s and beyond.

We hear over and over that staying active leads to a strong mind and body. Exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, don’t smoke and don’t drink excessively, these are the four Do and Don’t habits that can increase our life span.  This was underscored in Live More Good Years, an article published in AARP’s, The Magazine. Researchers found that people who followed these four Dos and Don’ts were 63 per cent less likely to die as compared to people who didn’t follow any of them.

Engagement is another critical component to healthy aging and a long life. It isn’t always easy for seniors to see the positive side of aging.  Some find it hard to become engaged, or remain engaged, in their communities.  Caregivers can make a difference by helping seniors find more purpose in life and by showing them how to reach out to the people in their lives, as well as the outside world. Working towards taking up a hobby, attending senior center activities, volunteering in the community and spending time online with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren can enlighten their spirits and help them find a new passion.

– Posted by Megan

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Caregiver Reality Check

If you’re a member of the Baby Boom generation, we sure hope you enjoyed yourself when you were younger because judging from some of the literature recently floating around the Internet, you’re in for a pretty rough ride. Some of you might already be hanging on for dear life.

An article in USA Today, Sandwich Caregivers Balance Dual Responsibilities particularly caught our eye. While it’s not surprise that caregivers frequently have to divide their time between their teenagers needs and those of their aging parents, there were a few things in this article that gave us pause.

For one thing, the article suggests caregivers today have a greater burden than their counterparts would have had a generation ago because today’s caregivers have fewer siblings. Seems logical enough but we can’t help but wonder if it’s true in all cases. Even when there are multiple siblings, the buck has to stop with someone who can take charge and coordinate everyone’s efforts. And this was true in our grandmother’s day just as much as it is today. Any thoughts?

The other thing that caught our eye was a quote by Evelyn Volk, the caregiver who was interviewed in the article: “On a good day, I feel like Superwoman.” What this says to us is that, despite the challenges, there’s some satisfaction and self-respect that comes from stepping up to your responsibilities.

If you’re a caregiver, what do you think?

– Posted by Karen

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