With Australia and the rest of the world grappling with flattening the COVID-19 curve by physical distancing, the internet has become even more important than it already was before the crisis. Being shut in means people are even more dependent on connectivity to work, buy food and supplies, and yes, to connect with loved ones and the community they’re now forced to quarantine themselves from. This is especially true for the elderly who should not go out, being particularly high-risk for infection.

As such, we thought it would be a good idea to share some tips on staying connected and being safe online for seniors as they’re now going to find it essential during the quarantine.

How to stay connected during the quarantine

It can be lonely at home during the quarantine, and it’ll be hard for seniors who live alone. Visits from children, grandchildren, and friends may be postponed for a long while until the government and WHO determine that it’s safe for us to meet up and give each other hugs. It’s sad, but it’s also for our safety.

However, there are things we can do to make it somewhat easier to connect while we’re physically distancing ourselves from each other.

Reach out with the latest apps

This is the best way to keep in touch with your family and friends. Whether it’s through FaceTime, Zoom, Facebook, and yes, TikTok, you can use these online avenues to talk and share with loved ones. Some people have hosted parties, made funny videos, and read bedtime stories all just using these apps. Sure, it’s not the same as actually tucking your granddaughter in, but it’ll do for now.

Volunteer from home

You don’t have to go to your neighbourhood soup kitchen to help out. There are some opportunities you can take up while staying at home like helping sew face masks and PPEs (Personal Protective Equipment) helping prepare meals for pick-up, donating to hospitals, helping organisations encode information, or even becoming a digital visitor to others, like you, who are feeling lonely at home. You can still play a part in building and protecting you community even if you’re just at home!

You can check Volunteer.com.au and Volunteering Australia to see what’s available for you.

Join some book clubs, crafting circles and the like

Want to start a new hobby but feel more motivated with like-minded individuals helping you? There are lots of book clubs that have moved online because of physical distancing requirements, as well as artisan groups where you can share your latest arts and crafts projects, or get tips on how to get started. There are also places where you can share your latest cooking experiment such as the #cooksillustrated hashtag on Instagram. It’s nice to share creativity during these times.

Tour the world through the internet

Now you can’t exactly leave the house because we’re trying to keep safe and flatten the curve, but your next best option is to take virtual tours like these. You can see museums like the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the MoMA, or zoos like the San Diego Zoo, or the Shedd Aquarium. If you’re looking for something to get the adrenaline pumping, you may also enjoy some virtual theme park tours. The best part about these tours? You won’t spend for flights and admission and you won’t get tired walking around!

Watch plays and concerts

You might miss going out to see a good show because you’re stuck at home but it may please you to know that there are some live-streamed performances you can watch online. So many musicians and celebrities have signed up for at-home shows that you can watch (sometimes they’re in their pajamas too) for free but many ask for donations for charities. You can check this constantly-updating list to see what’s coming up.

Keep active with an online workout instructor

One way seniors can stay healthy during the quarantine is to get some exercise. However, since it’s not recommended for the elderly to go out during this time, a home workout is best. Luckily, there a number of free and paid resources available online like celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT team workouts, Annie Blecher’s audio yoga classes, and these videos from the United States’ National Institute on Aging.

As you can see, there are many ways to keep in touch with the entire world during the quarantine, as long as you have a good internet connection. But of course, while there’s a lot of good on the internet, you still have to stay safe, and that brings us to our next section:

Some tips for staying safe online during the COVID-19 quarantine

Protect your devices from viruses

It’s not just people who are prone to viruses – computers are too. Fortunately for us, there are ways to ensure that our gadgets are also safe from attacks.

One thing you must do is install a firewall. If you’re using a Windows computer, you can turn the Windows Firewall on from your computer’s control panel. You can find detailed instructions here.

 If you’re using a Mac, this page can guide you through the process.

You’ll also need an antivirus program. There are lots of free versions like AVG Antivirus or Microsoft Windows Defender that do a good job. Just make sure that you’re always using the updated version. (Here’s a list of the best antivirus programs from TechRadar. 

Make your passwords difficult to guess

Passwords are the key to your accounts so they should always be secure. Don’t use “password” or “abcd1234” or your birthday as your password, for sure.

As much as possible, use a combination of numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and special characters to make up your password so it’s harder for people to guess. Just make sure it’s something you can remember. You may also want to use a password manager.

Use Two-factor Authentication

This is a security code you can set up that will allow you to receive a code through your mobile phone before you are able to log in. This will prevent other people from easily accessing your accounts.

Be aware of scammers.

Now you would think that given a global pandemic, people would be more concerned about helping each other through the crisis. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous folks have decided the time is ripe to take advantage of others. There are people pretending to be charitable organisations, companies selling COVID-19 therapies and cures, and the like.

Image from Pixabay

In these cases there are a few things to consider:

  • How did they reach you? If it’s an e-mail, always check that the address looks legitimate. For instance, the World Health Organisation, your bank, or a government office would never use a Gmail or Yahoo account to contact you. When in doubt, check the office’s official website or Facebook page (many have these) for announcements.
  • Nobody, we repeat, nobody should be asking you for your Social Security Number, PIN numbers, credit card information, passwords, or other sensitive information via e-mail.
  • If a message is telling you to visit another website, make sure to check that it’s the official website before you even click on it. You can do this by moving your mouse pointer over the link, and you will see the URL or address of the website on the lower left of your browser window. If you’re not sure, consult someone you trust before clicking the link.
  • As of this time, there are no approved vaccines or cures for COVID-19. This is a sad truth, but it’s safe to be aware of this instead of buying “medicine” from shady characters.

For updates on COVID-19 treatments and other related info, check out this easy-to-understand page run by the World Health Organisation.

  • Items like PPEs, gloves, hand sanitiser, and face masks are really popular these days and selling out quick. You may decide to order from an online seller who miraculously has some in stock but to be sure it’s not someone trying to grift you. Only buy from trustworthy sellers.
  • In the same vein, you may want to donate to different groups and charities who are helping out during the crisis. Always make sure you’re giving your hard-earned money or supplies to a group you’re familiar with so that you know that truly deserving groups or individuals are getting your help.

Be careful of fake contests and lotteries

Sometimes you might get an e-mail or pop-up saying you won a contest or lottery despite never actually joining anything. This should already sound an alarm for you. But it should be even more suspicious if it asks for bank or credit card details. Chances are very, very likely that it’s someone who’s trying to access your account and withdraw funds.

Remember: if you never joined a contest, you’re unlikely to have won it no matter what the stranger on the other end says.

Never click pop-ups

You might encounter a pop-up window that says your computer is infected by a virus so it suggests that you install certain software to clean your device. DO NOT CLICK ON IT. It will actually do the opposite and infect your computer.

Instead, use your own antivirus suite (again, click here for the best antivirus programs for 2020) and run it. As long as you’re updated, you’ll be fine. And it’s always a good idea to run a scan each time you’re worried about that unusual pop-up.

Image from Pixabay 

Make sure you know who you’re talking to

It’s a sad reality that there are people who will stoop to taking advantage of others in order to make a quick buck. Sometimes they’ll pretend to be an online friend or romantic partner, or a relative.

We can’t always know if it’s real or not but there are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • They start asking for money and when they do, they prefer gift cheques, Western Union or wire transfers.
  • They don’t want to talk on the phone, take pictures, or go on video chat and are always giving excuses.

If it’s someone pretending to be a relative, at least you can ask a question only a real relative would know. As a rule of thumb, be careful with whom you talk to and never give money to people you meet through social media.

Be careful when you click links

Sometimes your family or friends may share links to funny or touching posts and although they mean well, there’s a possibility that the page it’s on isn’t reliable. Always make sure you know what and where you’re clicking. When in doubt, don’t click!

Only accept friend requests from people you know

We don’t want to frighten you, but it’s a good idea to be more cautious about who you accept as “friends” in your social network. If you don’t know them in real life, it’s in your best interest not to add them to your network.

We hope our tips help you connect with loved ones, your community, and even the entire world, while still keeping safe during the COVID-19 quarantine period.

Please stay healthy and safe at home. Wash your hands often, exercise, keep occupied, and eat as healthy as you can.  

One benefit of being a tech-savvy senior is being able to connect with Kalinga Health Carers so you have the help you need, when you need it.

Got more questions? Contact us at info@kalingahealth.com.au or call us at +61 435 358 222.

Check out the Australia Government’s video about how Australians play an important part to stop the spread of Coronavirus.