When $17 Million Isn’t Just $17 Million

Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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Which Phone is the right (Smart)phone

Last night, at a family function, I was passing the time with my grandmother.  It was wonderful. Although we live down the street from one another, we are both always on the go, and so it was nice to catch up. As we stood chatting, my grandfather approached me to let me know he had received the text message I’d sent him earlier in the evening, informing him of my new number. Then, the 75-year-old, quick-witted man I know and loved whipped out his Blackberry to reply back to me. In less than a minute, he had his message typed and sent, proudly showing me that I could look forward to reading the same one on my phone later on.

My 75-year-old grandmother had a different view about Blackberries  (and smartphones altogether). “I couldn’t type on that thing if I tried,” she said.       

“Oh I don’t believe that Grammy,” I responded, “I’m sure you could if you gave it a chance! I’ll bet you could be a texting wizard!”

“Here,” said my grandfather, passing his phone to her, “Give it a go.”

As she stood there, staring at the small screen with even smaller keys, she finally looked up and said, “Well I could probably do it if I sat down and took my time.”  We chuckled and quickly moved on to other topics of conversation but that small moment got me thinking.  If the aging adult wants to be up-to-date with the latest technology, yet is intimidated by the many functions mobile devices have to offer these days, how do they know what the right phone, or smartphone, is for them?

I decided to look into it when I got home, and came across an article, Smartphone Shopping for Seniors, that helped answer this question and a few others. It also gave me some ideas about how you can simplify a mobile phone for yourself or a loved one. There are several design features to consider when you are ready to purchase a phone.  A lot of the time we overlook the fact that a smartphone can be made to be complex or simple; it’s all in what we choose to have on the mobile device.

The number of pre-installed applications most phones come with can be hard to see if you’re an older adult who wants a big screen for easy reading.  What you may not realize is that these can be customized. By decreasing the number of apps that are there, you can replace them with others you actually want or need. Also, with the ability to install applications, you can expand the utility of your phone to include things like GPS capabilities, so that caregivers and family members can know where you are. While you may not want that, it’s not a bad feature for an aging adult with disabilities such as Alzheimer’s.

The future of technology is moving quickly and appears to be more complex than ever.  If we take the time to sit down and look at our options and realize that ‘simple’ is still achievable, we can move forward at the same advanced pace. It’s all about asking the right questions, and knowing what’s right for you. Don’t be intimidated by the mobile industry. It can be mastered and before you know it, you may be the next text-savvy wizard on the block!

– Posted by Megan

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Living Well with Dementia Photo Contest

Photo by Rebecca Tisdelle

Thanks to our friends at ComfortLife.ca 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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PointerWare . . . in Serbo-Croatian?

We recently had an interesting email from Jovana Milutinovich. Jovana is with Web Hosting Geeks, a web-hosting review site for web hosting enthusiasts, small business owners, and technology bloggers.

She contacted us because she had come across one of our PointerWare articles and asked if she could translate it into Serbo-Croatian, then re-post it on her site. “My purpose,” she said, “is to help people from Ex Yugoslavia better understand some very useful information about computer science.”

While PointerWare isn’t available in Serbo-Croatian – yet – one of our ongoing initiatives is to translate our software into several world languages. We’ve already finished translating it into over a dozen different languages.

Translating PointerWare is easy! If you’d like to translate PointerWare into your language and receive a free copy, send us an email here.

– Posted by Karen


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Continued Use of Computers Improves Memory

According to PsychCentral, approximately 40 per cent of older adults experience age-related memory loss and performance, but the results of a new study released by UCLA researchers indicates that regular computerized memory and language training can help older adults stay sharp. The researchers found that dedicated use of brain fitness tools significantly improved memory and language skills in aging adults.

The study followed 59 participants who were recruited from local retirement communities. The average age of those taking part in the study was 84 years-old. Subjects were divided into two groups. The first group was given a 20 minute brain-fitness program that they executed an average of 73 times over a period of six month period. The second group received the same program, but completed only 45 sessions over the same duration.

Results showed that the first group established significantly higher improvement in memory and language skills compared to the second. Overall, the study solidified experts’ belief that computer-aided training “may ultimately help protect individuals from the cognitive decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.”

According to Lumosity.com – also known as Lumos Labs, a website that offers brain training exercises – researchers have discovered that the brain can fundamentally reorganize itself when confronted with new challenges, and that this can occur regardless of age. In fact, the brain, when given the right exercise, can actually reshape itself to become more efficient!

So how does this information benefit you?  PointerWare software can not only help you or your loved one navigate computers and the Internet with ease and efficiency, the games that come with the program means PointerWare  can serve as your own personal brain-gym .

If you haven’t taken PointerWare for a test drive, install the 30-day free trial so you can see what it has to offer. The only risk you’ll be taking is one that will benefit your brain in the long run.

– Posted by Megan

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Fight Dementia: Keep your Brain Active and Healthy

Photo By: Gerry Kahrmann, Vancouver Sun


To lose one’s memory is a scary thought. Yet, one in five eastern Ontario seniors suffers from the very disease that takes those thoughts: dementia.

The Ottawa Citizen reports that over the next decade, an estimated 5,600 new cases could occur, something that is forcing health planners to rethink how they’d handle such an epidemic.  The Alzheimer Society of Ontario says that 18,400 Ontarians over the age of 65 are currently diagnosed with dementia.  By 2020, that number is expected to increase by 30 per cent, to more than 24,000. Huffington Post reports that, “today, there are over 35 million people worldwide living with the disease and by 2030, 65 million people will have it, and by 2050, there will be over 115 million people.”

These ever-increasing numbers are determining factors that are pushing doctors and researchers to develop medication that can either stall brain-degenerative processes associated with dementia or cure dementia all together.

It has always been assumed that age is the leading risk factor for dementia.  However, at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, information was presented to indicate that Alzheimer’s isn’t necessarily automatic with age.  Of course, that factor is not to be crossed off the list entirely, but it has become a minimal concern, as more preventative measures are being assessed as to how individuals can prevent the onset of this intruding disease.

“It seems that dementia may be more like lung cancer and diabetes, which can be controlled by healthy diets and lifestyles,” reports HuffPost50.  “This is a revolutionary insight, because it creates pathways to manage and even prevent Alzheimer’s. If some of the factors that lead to the disease are ‘modifiable,’ then they are avoidable.”

According to Jean Carper, an award-winning medical journalist and author of 100 Simple Things You Can Do to Prevent Alzheimer’s, “No matter how much you used your brain in the past or how much cognitive reserve you have on tap to deter Alzheimer’s, staying mentally active as you age is one of the most powerful things you can do to keep dementia at a distance.”

How do you do this?  Carper suggests keeping your brain active for a lifetime.  In turn, this means you should engage yourself in all kinds of leisurely activities that will stimulate the brain.  The more mind-power that’s required for activity, the more your brain will thrive.  As Carper wrote, “Australian neuroscientist Michael Valenzuela and colleagues at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney analyzed 22 studies involving 29,000 people and concluded that high mental activity levels reduced the risk of dementia by 46 per cent compared to low activity levels.”

So there you have it. Grab a Sudoku, call a friend and go out for a stroll. Start surfing the Internet or challenge yourself to do one new thing a day.  If anything, it can only benefit you in the long run.

– Posted by Megan

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Guest Post – Three Things You Can Do To Help a Senior Using a Computer

Thanks to Becca Niederkrom of www.ComputerTutor4Seniors.com for providing us with this guest post.

1. Go Slow

That’s right, slow it down, way down. Let’s say you decided to take a course at Harvard on Neuroscience. As a life- long learner, you crave more information, you know you have the capacity for more. On your first day of Neuroscience class, I bet you would appreciate a schedule of the semester so you knew a breakdown of the next few months, you would also appreciate resources, perhaps books or websites to reference in your spare time. And I bet you are crossing your fingers to get the uber positive, compassionate and slow-speaking professor known on campus. It’s important to you because this is brand NEW material.

Guess what? Computers are a new language for many senior new users. They didn’t learn it in high school or college nor did they teach their kids. They are our greatest generation that is still active and has a hunger for learning. So please, go slow.

2. Write It Down

Notes are important. They help jog your memory or provide you with step-by-step directions on a new subject or task.

Or think of a cookbook, have you ever created something from a recipe. The last thing I created from a recipe book were Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies. They were awesome! Of course, I had a recipe that told me the exact ingredients (think perfect hardware/software) and numbered directions (think numbering how to get to Facebook).

Consider writing these notes and step-by-step directions on an actual piece of paper. Remember that stuff? This will add a visual to the subject at hand.

3. Increase the Font Size on Their Computer Screen

The better we can see, the better we can navigate.

Imagine if your iPhone manual was in a font size 4 . . . yikes! You would either give up or maybe you would try fumbling through on the basic knowledge you have.

But see there is a way to take that font size 4 to a 24. On a PC it’s by pressing CTRL and the + key at the same time. On Mac, it’s by holding the COMMAND key and + at the same time. Seeing is believing.

Enjoy helping your senior and happy surfing!

Becca Niederkrom
Chief Teaching Officer

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How Smart Cars are Assisting Drivers with Limitations

As we age, our senses and reaction times tend to change. According to the article, 4 Signs That Your Driving Skills are Declining, these changes that occur in our eyes, ears, backs and brains can make driving trickier.  And when it comes to hitting the road, the last thing we want or need is for our reflexes to fail us.

Marion Somers, a geriatric care manager and author of Elder Care Made Easier, said there is no set age at which things like decreased hearing and vision or stiffness occur.   “They can come at any age,” said Somers, “So drivers must remain very aware of the changes to their bodies.”

Taking the keys away won’t solve problems either.  Many seniors rely on independent driving as their mode of transportation to get from point A to B. By preventing them from engaging in an activity that helps them stay active, it becomes discouraging and can have negative results.

According to the article, New Auto Technology Helps Drivers with Limitations, estimates from the American Automobile Association suggest that by 2020, there will be 40 million licensed drivers 65 or older on the road.  Last year, people who were at least 50-years-old made 62 per cent of new car purchases. As a result, based on these statistics, auto companies are spending “millions of research and development dollars on safety technology that can save the lives of people of any age.”

Such changes include:

voice activated dashboard systems, that let you voice your request for navigational guidance or hands-free calling;

blind spot monitors, that use radar sensors on both sides of the car to detect whether or not there are other vehicles in the blind-zone area;

lane departure systems, that sound an alarm when sensors detect “drowsy” behavior that is associated with sleeping or inattentive driving;

anti-lock brakes, which have been around the longest and are activated by a driver who press hard on the brake pedal.

Be cautious when driving, but be honest with yourself.  If you feel apprehensive about driving, then maybe you need a refresher course, or an up-to-date vehicle that will supply you with comfort, efficiency and stability when on the road.  And if you are ready to retire those keys, there are plenty of other modes of transportation that can help you around the city.

Tips for Aging Drivers (provided by nextavenue):

In addition to smart technology, there are wise choices you can make when buying a new car.

Doors: Four-door vehicles are more practical than two-door, since doors on those models are lighter and easier to open.

Seats: Adjustable lumbar support can be varied to support the driver’s back and reduce discomfort by conforming to individual bodies’ shapes and sizes. Additionally, heated seats can ease muscle strain.

Steering wheel: A thick, padded wheel is more comfortable for people with arthritis or gripping issues (or anybody with a long daily commute).

Ignition: Push-button stop-start control is a good option for those who lack the manual dexterity required to turn a key. Some vehicles, like the Chevrolet Volt and Jaguar XJ sedan, also have a push-button parking brake.

Automatic door controls: Whether you are juggling groceries or a squirmy grandchild or don’t have the strength or mobility to pull down a heavy door, automatic cargo door controls can be lifesavers.

Dashboard gauges: Large, clear, easy-to-read numbers on the speedometer and odometer are helpful, as are larger audio and climate controls, especially for drivers with bifocals or progressive lenses or who have glaucoma, cataracts or compromised fine motor skills.

Refresher courses: Obviously these don’t come with new vehicles, but they can help keep your skills sharp and remind you of things you may have forgotten over the decades — and taking one can save you money on your auto insurance

– Posted by Megan

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The Boundless Potential of the Over-50 Crowd

Boundless Potential

If you’re in your 50s or 60s (or 70s, 80s or 90s for that matter), we’ve got some good news. Contrary to common wisdom, you can teach an old dog new tricks. In fact, according to award winning journalist Mark Walton, not only are humans hardwired for reinvention, seniors can take advantage of amazing creative and intellectual powers at this stage in their lives.

Walton outlines the science and process behind this revelation in his book, Boundless Potential: Transform Your Brain, Unleash your Talents, Reinvent Your Work in Midlife and Beyond.  Walton is a former CNN correspondent who underwent a career reinvention in his early 40s, becoming a Fortune 100 leadership consultant. Now 61, Walton wanted to know if it was possible to continue to transform and reinvent oneself, regardless of age. He set out on a quest, interviewing re-inventive people across America as well as digging into the latest research in brain science, psychology, creativity and happiness.

Here’s what he learned:

  • We’re hardwired for reinvention through the emergence of extraordinary new brainpowers in life’s second half.
  • A growing number of people are leveraging this inborn potential. It starts in midlife, when they might reinvent themselves through career, business and avenues for doing social good, and continues into their 70s, 80s, and even 90s.
  • Longevity experts are increasingly convinced that doing work that ‘pays it forward’ to future generations pays us back in personal long-term health and happiness.

Granted, the mature brain may be less adept than a younger brain when it comes to processing speed and accuracy but that doesn’t mean it’s inferior. As Walton says, “The mature brain is just organized differently. And especially when it is adequately challenged, it keeps growing and developing new strengths and assets that the average younger brain cannot compete with because of the reservoirs of knowledge that we have – what we sometimes call wisdom.”

We love the implications of this, not only for us and for the seniors in our lives, but for our PointerWare clients. By giving them tools like video chat, email, email, Internet browsing and brain games, we’re thrilled to play a small part in aiding and abetting the boundless potential of seniors today.

–      Posted by Karen

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Take Caution while Surfing… the Web That Is


There has been an increase of Internet users on the World Wide Web. And no, it isn’t the latest tech-savvy kindergartner logging on, it’s the fast-forward senior.

A recent Forrester study found, “three out of every five U.S. residents age 65 and older now go online, which is about 20 million people. Nine in 10 of them use email frequently, while nearly six in 10 have purchased something online in the past three months,” reports TechNews Daily.

But as the number of age-experienced users increase, so do fraudulent scams that target them, making it hard to recognize what is a genuine offer.

How do you separate the legit-offer from the scam? Often it’s by falling back on the cardinal rule: If it’s too good to be true, then it is. It can’t get any simpler than that.

Let me give you an alarming (and embarrassing yet life-learning) example.

A few years ago, while browsing the web, I fell upon an offer (and at the time it appeared to be a “deal of a lifetime”) for a tooth-whitening product. $3 a tube, leave it on for 15 minutes, noticeable difference in one week, and so on and so forth.

Being a student, with very little funds, I was itching to try it, seeing how the in-store box costs ran somewhere in the neighbourhood of $40- to $60-something dollars. And if you wanted it done professionally, well, let’s just say you needed insurance and/or a steady income to afford it, the latter of which I did not have. Credit card in hand, I filled out the form and clicked Submit.

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