North American retirees and seniors are embracing computers and technology in increasing numbers. It may be only to keep in regular contact with family and friends over long distances and share photos of their winter cruise. However, unlike their younger counterparts, they are less likely to take precautions against threats to their digital data.
In Canada, research by the federal government reveals that older adults are the fastest growing group of computer buyers and Internet users. In 1999, one quarter of households headed by a person 55-64 years old used the Internet from home. In the 65 and over age group, 10 per cent did. In fact, Internet use in the 65 and over age group is growing faster than in all other age groups.
Meanwhile, according to research by the PEW Internet & American Life project, 22 per cent of Americans 65 and older use the Internet, and the percentage of seniors who go online jumped by 47 per cent between 2000 and 2004. In January 2006, PEW found 34 per recent of Americans age 65 and older go online, up from 29 per cent in January 2005. That being, said, just 28 per cent of Americans age 70 and older go online - almost same percentage as the year before.
The most interesting and dynamic segment is the recent retirees or those approaching retirement in their 50s or 60s. They are unlikely to give up their wired ways and therefore will transform the wired senior stereotype. As this "silver tsunami" of Internet-loving Baby Boomers swamps the off-line senior population in the next 10 years, PEW predicts the demographic shift, paired with a rising tide of viruses, spyware, and other online threats, is cause for concern.
Retirees and seniors place themselves at greater risk of losing precious information stored on their computer. Just as many retirees who can't immediately recall something may blame it on a so-called "senior's moment", it's not just humans--young or old--who sometimes cannot recall the information stored in their "brains." When computers cannot recall or access the files electronically stored on them, computer users often panic.
That digital information could be e-mail messages sent and received, income tax returns prepared but not yet filed, the household budget maintained in a spreadsheet, a letter written to a municipal counselor protesting illegal parking on the street, research conducted on the family tree, or the expanding collection of photographs of grandchildren.
There are numerous causes of data loss:
o You experience power interruptions, power surges or a blackout causing your computer to shut down unexpectedly
o Your computer experiences a mechanical failure
o Your computer is contaminated with a virus or bug after a file is downloaded from the Internet
o Your software no longer works as it should
o Your saved information is deleted accidentally
o Your computer won't start up and only the infamous blue screen of death is visible on your screen.
Any and all of the aforementioned problems can cause digital information loss. These problems can be all but eliminated by taking a number of precautions to prevent the loss of important files:
o Regularly backup your data and check to make sure the backup information can be retrieved
o If possible, store your backups somewhere away from your home like a safety deposit box
o Buy USB drives for your kids or grandkids and save a copy of the photos to this small storage device and provide one to each of them
o Use anti-virus software and update it frequently to scan and screen all incoming e-mails especially those jokes that your brother-in-law keeps sending you with attachments
o Use power surge protectors since a power fluctuation can disrupt software, erase valuable data and damage the hard drive
o Maintain your computer in a dry, controlled environment free from dust
o Turn off your computer immediately if it makes any unusual noise.
If you're not comfortable with technology and prefer not to attempt recovery of your data with a Do-It-Yourself solution, you could ask your computer-savvy relative or friend to assist you. Or, you can seek the assistance of a data recovery specialist who can come to the rescue of your irreplaceable digital information.
Don't let digital aches and pains get you down. Enjoy the Cyber Years.