Why Don’t Seniors Bank Online?

The banks are all closed…and my parents want to pay for the errands

A picture of a jam jar filled with dollar bills and the label on it says "retirement fund." This is a stock image for an AARP program called mysavingsjar
bank online or in a jar? ..image source: mysavingsjar.org (AARP)

Dear Ms Smartphone: I am helping my parents during the pandemic and do their grocery shopping and other chores. My Mom says she wants to reimburse me but she does not have Venmo or an account to bank online. The banks in our area are all closed and she does not want to go out anyway. Is it too late to get her to change her habits? Taylor, Newton

Dear Taylor,

Although they say that cash is king, it is certainly taking a backseat in this time of Covid. For fear of handling paper, more of us are using credit and debit cards.  And, for the smartphone savvy, this is the shining moment for Apple Pay and Google Pay (if not Bitcoin!).

Older people have preferred brick and mortar banks but this is probably the wakeup call to try online. Most older people have a foundation for trust since they receive digital funds through Social Security or Medicare.

It’s A big Loss….

One financial services firm, TrueLink, put the cost of elder financial abuse at nearly $37 billion per year. That includes a loss of around $17 billion from “exploitation” like quack investment schemes, nearly $13 billion from identity theft and other frauds, and just under $7 billion from abuse by caregivers. I think this is the worst case scenario, but the numbers do give pause.

How to Think Online…

Capital One (the bank) observed that only 18% of people over 60 used online banking. They developed an online curriculum with the National Council on Aging. If your parents are motivated to watch it, the multi-part videos should make them feel more secure and comfortable using their computer, if not their phone, for full scale banking. AARP also has a number of educationl programs, including mysavingsjar.org

The AARP has some good advice for doing banking when the banks are closed, and elsewhere, they have noted that depending on your parent’s situation, they might prefer an online account that allows a second pair or eyes to monitor it.

More Tips…

Accessing their phone instead of the computer for banking might seem like a viable option, but  I have some concerns.  Sometimes older people have difficulty using their phones for skilled task because of  health-related issues, like  eyesight deterioration or the coordination of motor skill. Sometimes they do not practice or know good digital hygiene:  for example, knowing how to log out of apps, use unique passwords, or practice two-step authentication.

So, if you do want to make them phone savvy perhaps a cash intermediary app like  Venmo or Paypal  might be a baby step for you and your parents to take together. Then you can exchange small amounts of money and get the groceries paid for without cash without full scale online banking.  But, if they are resistant, have Mom write you a plain old fashioined paper check that you can deposit in a digital second.

Uber for Flip-phone?

Are you able to get Uber or Lyft if you only have a flip phone?

This is an picture of a flip-phone with a rotary dial. It is not common, but here is the link:
From Hackaday, 2014. This phone does exist!

My older sister lives alone out of state and does not drive. She uses taxis about once a week but they are very expensive and somewhat unreliable. I have suggested she try using Uber which is available where she lives. I have offered to pay for her Uber account which Uber tells me is possible, My sister unfortunately can’t figure out how to put Uber on her flip phone Do you have any tutorial on how to do this? Fran, Burlington

Dear Fran:   It will be nice once the lockdown ends to get back to teaching our rideshare classes and we will be working on a video. This column began two years ago as a way to augment our classes and  expand upon the role of phones in transportation.

As you mention, many communities are now experiencing shortfalls in taxi service. That is leaving those who depend on them for trips, like your sister, high and dry. Not only are they expensive, they are also unreliable. Many taxi companies have ceased the call-in dispatch service, even though there are drivers with cars who wish to pick up passengers.

GPS to the Rescue

That’s where Uber and Lyft, the rideshare companies, become a fine option. But, summoning them does require a phone that can receive and send GPS (global positioning system) data. The “dispatch” takes place electronically instead of through a call-in center.

Since your sister is using a flip phone, it does not have GPS capability built in. She will not be able to call Uber or Lyft on her own, since the Uber or Lyft driver needs  geo-coordinates to know a physical address for pick-up. However, you could be a ride hero and place the call for her.

Location, Location

To do so, you need to know exactly (and I mean exactly) where she is locationally when she wants to be picked up…..say 123 Main Street, Janesville. The rideshare app will send your phone a text message indicating that a pickup is occurring, distant from your own location. You will receive a text messages once the trip is confirmed, and when the rideshare vehicle picks up your sister you can use its “breadcrumb” trail to track her trip in real time. That’s a service taxis can’t provide.

Lots of people book rideshare trips on behalf of family members. And, there are more formal entities like Lyft Concierge, Uber Assist, and GoGoGrandparent that do this too.  That said, it’s often a win-win when seniors get their own smartphones and learn how to use them- not just for rideshare but to stay more active and connected. Once they see the benefits and potential of the smartphone, many of them become eager learners. 

Selfies for Good?

The Posted Video Kept Getting Shorter….but Funnier!!

This is a screenshot of words, translated from Italian to English by Google. The writer is saying a YouTube video of a tourist falling int he canal is a fake.
Is this fake news? A public comment posted on YouTube

Dear Ms. Smartphone: This week you posted on your Instagram a YouTube video on selfies that went viral in November (2019). It’s about a man with a selfie stick that falls in the water.  It was funny, but honestly, what is the difference between your own repost and say an edited short on Quibi TV? Russ, San Francisco.

Dear Russ:  Correct, I seldom post videos or watch Quibi because they require that I hand over my most precious resources: my time, my attention, and possibly, my privacy. But, the post you mention is more content on selfie-sticks and our isolated future. In 2014, the sales of self-sticks peaked and my prediction is that they will resurge, as we reach out to strangers less and less.

The video you mentioned shows an unidentified man in a Santa Hat obliviously stepping into a Venice, (Italy) canal during the “Alta Aqua,” or high water. He is looking at his phone screen, steps off the sidewalk, and plunges under. In this four second video, only the selfie stick and his phone remain above the water line.

EEK! Which Version Is THE Real?

I am happy to tell you that the plunge was not fatal and selfie-man emerged a micro-second later. But, and here’s the point, I know this because I found an earlier version of the video that was 17 seconds long. In a 26 second version of the video, the Santa hatted man pops right back up, and says a few words to a friend, seemingly the one filming him. This version is the first I can find online, it was posted about a week earlier, and it is from the UK Daily Mail.

The shorter version you saw, just four seconds long, also got posted on Facebook and it gets all the laughs. There was a lot of back discussion on Reddit of whether the whole video was staged (after all, someone is assiduously shooting selfie man) and in the public comments there is a small remark, in Italian, that the video is Chioggiotti stunt (see image). I also tried to contact the person who posted the shortened version of the video on Reddit, but no surprise, he did not message back. I want to know who edited the video…and why!

Fake News or Amateurs?

Maybe we only have attention spans of four second now, particularly on Instagram or TikTok. The problem is that the fuller story has been truncated and it’s easy for the naive viewer to reach the wrong conclusions. Why is this relevant? Fake news doesn’t have to originate in made-up events, it just has to be real events that lead us, often because of what is left unsaid, to misinterpretation or wrong conclusions. 

Seeing “Aqua Alta” from someone’s homemade video is, in many ways, as powerful as the news clip from a professional network TV crew (I personally like the news shots of suitcases floating like gondolas down the Grand Canal). But, when we are in the field as amateur journalists, we need to be there with a sense of responsibility. When we post: who is taking the picture, why are they telling the story, and is this the full story or one with edits?

We are all amateur journalists as the selfie-stick makes a rebound. I’m not putting down funny, I’m just saying that we also need to bake in reliability and trust as we edit and post our experiences in our brave new post Covid world.