Do Senior Citizens Need Online Security?

Show Granny the Smiley Face

The appeal of the Internet as a
means of communication and of rapidly solving daily tasks tends to cover all
age categories. That is why security vendors are trying to devise a way for the
newcomers to this community to safely access online resources as well. One
category of people who seem to have recently joined the e-world is that of
senior citizens.

The basic assumption vendors seem
to start from when designing products for these users is that things must be
made easier. Though it does not appear to be bad in itself, this principle is
likely to give rise to some sort of prejudice if it is understood as “senior
citizens no longer have the mental flexibility of learning new things”. Well,
isn’t this reluctance to adapt to the new valid for all age categories? If we
agree that the answer is yes, then the root of the matter might lie elsewhere,
not in the age of the Internet users.

Let’s then start anew: senior
citizen-oriented security should not be simpler and plainer for age reasons.
Then how should it be? The answer to this question is quite complicated as it
presupposes actually taking the time to talk to those concerned, understanding
why they have not used the Internet and data security so far and listening to
what they expect to be able to use on-line resources for.

Then, there are education, living
standards and the political evolution of the region these people live in to be
taken into account. Plus the simple principle of personal choice: we should all
be able to decide how much new information we need at one point in time.

As far as education is concerned,
it would be false to assume that all senior citizens around the world are
equally computer literate. However, as computer literacy becomes a requirement
in education systems, the very concept of senior citizen security is likely to
disappear at one point. Practically, if all people who have access to the
education system acquire basic computer knowledge, their skills in this domain
will not be connected to their age anymore.

Moreover, if people are exposed,
earlier in their lives, to exhaustive information about what the Internet is
and how dangerous it can become, they are likely to build trust in it and to
choose their security rationally, rather than just emotionally, out of fear of
the unknown. Information dissemination is crucial here.

The living standard and the socio-political
evolution issues are closely connected. They are relevant in as much as people
will be willing to buy more complicated devices and even think about securing
them once they can afford to get their minds off their basic survival needs:
food, clothing, medication.

Furthermore, state level
decisions in point of Internet use must be compatible with senior citizens’
degree of awareness in this domain. Let’s take a simple example. Requiring that
senior citizens should use ATM machines and even on-line banking applications
to access their retirement benefits in countries where these are still “recent
technological developments” is quite counterproductive unless you make sure the
beneficiaries are well aware of how the systems work. For lack of information,
they walk to the ATM machine and take out all the money received as retirement
benefits because they do not trust the machine. Which is even more dangerous
than if the postman continued to bring them their money to their door.

Having considered all of these
issues in principle, if and when the use of Internet is a rational and informed
choice for senior citizens, here are a few practical things that might be taken
into account when helping them choose a data security solution:

1. Find a reliable source of
information about the Internet and about how it can help/harm you. It should be
adapted to the senior person’s level of computer knowledge and to his/her

2. Consider the language barrier.
Make sure the solution is available in your local language so that the user
will not be at a loss in front of cryptic pop-up messages. The BitDefender data
security solutions, for instance, are available in 18 languages.

3. Try to find out the user’s
expectations with respect to the security solution as well as the main
activities he/she is likely to use the computer for. The solution itself should
indicate what kind of online activities it protects and why. All of this
background information will tell you if the person in question actually falls
within the official “senior” profile or not.

You might find that security
solutions not specifically dedicated to senior users are just as easy to use.
For instance, in its intuitive installation wizard, BitDefender Total Security
2010 provides its users with the possibility of choosing a specific profile,
based on what they plan to do on the Internet. By choosing the Typical profile,
senior users can secure their browsing and multimedia activities.

BitDefender Total Security 2010

if they select the Novice profile they will not receive any notification about
the activity of the product, which will do its work silently, in the

BitDefender Total Security 2010 Configuration Wizard

4. Make sure
the user can understand the solution’s user manual and that support is
available in case he/she needs it. To meet this request, all BitDefender
solutions provide a support link directly from the interface, which makes it
easier for users to get assistance right away.

BitDefender Total Security 2010 Screen

About the author

Ioana Jelea

Ioana Jelea has a disturbing (according to friendly reports) penchant for the dirty tricks of online socialization and for the pathologically mesmerizing news trivia. From gory, though sometimes fake, death reports to nip slips and other such blush-inducing accidents, her repertoire is an ever-expanding manifesto against any Victorian-like frame of thought that puts a strain on online creativity. She would like to keep things simple, but she never does.