Jerry MacInnis is 75 years old and online. He uses the Internet mainly for emailing, checking his Facebook and playing games. He’s part of the fastest growing group of Internet users — seniors.
MacInnis uses his Facebook to contact friends on holiday and emails his brother who lives on the other side of Canada, but he still prefers the telephone more than writing to each other online.
“I’m a face-to-face type person,” he said.
Though MacInnis enjoys using his computer to play games, unlike many users, he avoids interacting with strangers.
Numbers from Statistics Canada show that approximately 70 per cent of seniors online are accessing the Internet every day. A 2007 study says although seniors are the fastest growing group of users, younger users make up the majority of people active on the Internet.
While there are want ads popping up on Kijiji from seniors who are seeking Scrabble partners, companions and help with day-to-day activities, MacInnis isn’t looking for friends online. He urges seniors to be careful and wary of what they do with their time on the Internet.
“You never know what you’re getting yourself into. That’s my biggest fear. [They] try to be friends with you and take you for everything that you’ve got,” MacInnis said.
Junk mail, scams and spyware come in many forms, and for those not familiar with the Internet some of these hazards can be hard to recognize.
In the hopes of avoiding potential risks and online challenges there are resources available that provide advice for senior Internet users.
The government of Canada’s Get Cyber Safe website offers advice to seniors for online safety, explaining security software and the potential for scams in seemingly private emails.
The RCMP also has guides for users about online activity, safely shopping online and avoiding possible phishing scams — scams where criminals or bots try to collect personal and confidential information.
Although users like MacInnis choose to protect themselves by staying away from strangers online, there are precautions and education available to allow senior users to safely enjoy the Internet.