A dizzying array of memory requirements

For elderly, faceless realm of digital identification is a frightening place.

  • May. 19, 2012 1:00 p.m.
A dizzying array of memory requirements

The conversion of various systems to a digital world has been swift.

Those born into it have grasped the concepts easily and promoted it as intuitive.

But for the elderly, a world full of user names, passwords, PIN numbers and automated phone services is a dizzying array of memory requirements.

Accustomed to identifying themselves with their presence, to people who should know them, the faceless realm of digital identification is a frightening place.

Let’s start with a simple example of potential digital dystopia – clocks. They are found on every appliance and are often given as gifts from well-meaning relatives singing the praises of new features. Once set up, they often make good on their promises of simple operation and a multitude of functions.

But twice a year, when the clocks change, and perhaps worse, if the power goes out, there’s not a clock in the house that works properly and not a single method of adjusting them all. Each has its own complicated reset operation. It is not uncommon to come into the home of the elderly and find various clocks blinking at you and a frustrated resident shaking his or her head every time one comes into view.

But in the bigger scheme of things, clocks are a minor annoyance. More stressful is the issue of financial matters.  At a time when memories tend to become more fragile, and the fear of having money stolen is greater, the financial world is evolving into a place where identity requires sophisticated systems of numerical protection.

I can’t speak for all elderly folks, but I know many who carry their PIN numbers in their purses or wallets because they can’t remember them. It should be no surprise that thieves often target the purses of elderly shoppers left in carts.

Even more insidious are the telephone scams that utilize the fear of elders regarding security issues to, in fact, reveal the very numerical information they so desperately wish to protect.

It’s important for those who love and care for the elderly to take some time to educate them about security in the digital world and, if necessary, to use techniques to limit their ability to make errors: having a trusted relative’s name on an account; helping pay bills through on-line services; arranging to take them to a bank on a regular basis and assist in transactions and ensuring that they refer any and all calls regarding their finances to that person are options to reduce stress and increase security.

After all, no string of letters and numbers can replace the security of a person acting in your best interests.


Graham Hookey is an educational and parenting writer (ghookey@yahoo.com).