College Park Retirement Blog

We never grow too old to laugh, or to savor life’s little moments. The way we respond to stimuli may change through the years, but it’s always possible to find joy in the present moment. That’s why a good senior living community focuses, not only on physical health and wellness, but quality of life, too. Like author Phillip Pullman said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

That’s why many retirement communities are starting to incorporate storytelling as a way to engage seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Instead of focusing on the stress of recalling facts and details that might be just out of reach, storytelling is a more expansive process that embraces the imagination. That creates an easy way for seniors to share their thoughts, feelings, sense of humor, and even distant associations, without as much pressure to fulfill expectations, social roles, and keep track of shifting memories.

One of the major benefits of assisted living is the opportunity to socialize, communicate, and avoiding the isolation and loneliness that can limit seniors quality of life. Storytelling is a great way to include memory care patients in the community and help them avoid becoming withdrawn from the stress of word acquisition and recalling names, dates, or other details.

Indianapolis dementia care activitiesThe process works like this: a trained professional, or even just an enthusiastic caregiver, can show individuals or groups pictures of people, animals, or different situations. Participants can then be invited to imagine a world around each image. What are the people in the pictures are doing? What their lives are like? A man in a business suit, for example, might be imagined to be on his way to work. Or residents might picture him on a top secret spy mission. Or headed home to his family. The possibilities are endless—as diverse as the seniors participating in the exercise.

Participants might not be able to tell you the name of their former coworkers, but they may remember how they felt about their business partner and ascribe that to the man in the photo, for example, or give him some of the same characteristics. Talking through those possibilities provides a great topic of discussion that is not only a cognitive workout, but keeps residents grounded in the present moment.

Similar storytelling exercises can incorporate music or even dance—anything that uses seniors’ natural creativity to share what they’re thinking and feeling with their friends and loved one. You could try painting or drawing what a song makes you see or feel. Or take a trip to a local museum and talk about what the people in the portraits on display are thinking about, while they were being painted. There are so many different possibilities, and such simple activities can have a surprisingly big impact on retirement home residents’ sense of agency and joy.

Written by: Meghan O’Dea

Published in Memory Care

Religion creates a sense of meaning in one’s life that becomes especially significant in our golden years. Through studies, this significance suggests that participants who identify with various religious affiliations, beliefs and practices likewise improves overall health.

Indianapolis retirement homeHere’s the breakdown of studies:

48% seniors go to religious services on a regular basis.

As opposed to the millennial generation, seniors are more likely found in a church pew on any given Sunday, as they were raised at a time when church was absolutely central to American life.

71% of Southerners portray themselves as "sure beyond a shadow of a doubt" that God exists. Almost all seniors reported that they relied on religion when confronted with troublesome circumstances. This may include a decline in health, lack of mobility, or loss of a spouse. It is also reported that religious participants bounce back more quickly as opposed to non-believers.

65% say that religion is very important to them.

Whether this takes place in fun group activities, congregational services, singing hymns together, scripture study, or just prayer in one’s own apartment, expressions of faith are vital to the lives of most seniors.

67% of seniors said that having a spiritual existence in their lives offers more joy.

For many people, religion is not just a matter of spirituality but also a means of social connection. In our experience, religion is indispensable to the joy and wellbeing within a senior community.

The Key Takeaway from these statistics? Religious and spiritual practice in seniors promotes the wellbeing and happiness of individuals, families, and the community.

Within our senior community, it is evident that religion has positively affected resident satisfaction and general prosperity. Religion offers a higher physical and mental wellness, and extending health longevity and lifespan.

At Morningside, spiritual prosperity can be found in mutual respect between caretaker, staff, and senior residents. To offer peace and prosperity, we welcome all religious beliefs within our community. Regardless of belief, we encourage communal activities, motivational gatherings, field trips, and many more.

Being a Christian company, we do understand the incredible importance for each individual to be able to experience and express their religious values and rituals, and we do everything we can to provide them opportunities to worship and carry out their customs and practices.

Written by: Katie Hanley

Published in Retirement Communities
Tuesday, 28 February 2017 22:15

Senior Care Options Available to You

Morningside of College Park offers full-service senior care through multiple programs, all within the same location. If you are considering senior care but don’t know which care option is best, here are the various senior care options available to you.

Indianapolis retirement communities

The Six Senior Care Types:

  • Independent Living Care
  • In-home Care
  • Assisted Living Care
  • Memory Care
  • Respite Care
  • Nursing Home Care

Ideal for any aging seniors, Independent living residents should be fully capable of managing their daily tasks, and have minimal medical needs. Many residents in Independent living are empty nesters who have chosen to minimize, downsize, and move into a senior community among fellow like-aged individuals. Senior living appeals to individuals who live alone and feel vulnerable or unsafe.

The transitional assistance approach, in-home caregiving, is intended for individuals that can no longer live alone, but also don’t require urgent medical assistance from a higher level of care. This approach can range from a caregiver checking in several times a day, every other day, or even weekly to ensure the senior is getting help with day to day activities or errands. This method of care is commonly used during early transitions of healthcare. The benefit of in-home senior care? Senior parents can age in place. The downside? The transition into a senior care facility or nursing home can become a quick reality, as health conditions often worsen and assisted living becomes a necessity.

Assisted living or residential care is ideal for seniors seeking an active and vibrant life, but are unable to perform daily tasks safely, without assistance. Through daily help with activities and routines, such as medication administration, our memory care residents are cared for by trained medical staff. This long-term living option combines housing, support services and, “apartment living with help when you need it.”

If your aging loved ones are hesitant to try senior living, or are in need of short-term care, consider respite care. Respite care is for people who are in transition between care stages or need brief care, normally running from days up to a month, contingent upon their circumstance. In many cases, these types of stays may simply be a test run to get better acquainted with senior living before moving in. At Regency, our program permits seniors to experience all of the amenities available to residents. Following their stay, many find themselves so pleased with their visit, they become full time residents of our Regency family.

For seniors with the onset of dementia or Alzheimer's, memory care can assist in providing residents with attention and activities needed to enjoy a healthy and stimulating life. Here at Morningside, the senior quality of life is our focus, for every resident. Families can rest easy knowing that loved ones are constantly cared for around the clock, without worrying when they had their last meal.

At the other end of the senior care spectrum is nursing home care. Some parents who’ve never visited a senior living community might imagine that it is going to be like a hospital. However, the focus in nursing homes is hospital-like medical care, as opposed to personal enrichment through recreational activities and private apartments. Individuals prone to frequent hospital stays are more likely to need nursing home care, versus a lower tier of service. Because of the high level of care needed, nursing homes generally cost considerably more than Assisted Living, according to the website payingforseniorcare.com.

Consult with your doctor or healthcare specialist for a professional recommendation of which senior care level is right for you. Additionally, for questions or concerns regarding senior care placement, contact us today for your no commitment consultation! Our community consultant specialists are available to assess resident needs, answer senior living inquiries, and happily welcome you and your loved ones to join our Morningside of College Park family today.

Written by: Katie Hanley

Published in Retirement Communities

There are many great reasons for retirees to visit or relocate to the area, but one key to the quality of life here is the rich abundance of things for seniors to see and do in Indianapolis, IN – many of the activities at a reduced price for seniors, or free. 

MorningSide of College Park is located about 30 minutes from Downtown Indianapolis, which offers a wealth of things to see and do. The major attractions are:

Here in Indianapolis, our veteran residents and history buffs will love exploring the Indiana War Memorial Museum, dedicated to those who fought and continue to fight for our freedom. The 30,000 square foot exhibit displays artifacts and information ranging from the Revolutionary War to present day, in an effort to educate the public regarding Indiana’s involvement in America’s military history. During your tour you will find a wonderful collection of weapons, uniforms, medals, artillery, and military equipment, including an AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter. Tours are free to the public and metered parking is available. Call to schedule your guided tour today! 

Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – For those seeking an attraction to entertain grandchildren, you’ll hit pay dirt here. Science comes alive in the multiple exhibits designed for children, including space, dinosaurs, geology, geography, a carousel, theatre, and train! Tickets are $22.50 for seniors over 60 and $19 for children and teens. 

Victory Field – Take me out the ballgame! The Ballpark at Victory Field is a minor league baseball park and home to the Indianapolis Indians. Located off of 65 South, enjoy a home game with the family, and maybe a bag of peanuts and cracker jacks, too.

Indianapolis retirement living

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Get front row seats to the heart of Indy, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. No other motorsports facility in the world can claim the rich history and automotive tradition as this racetrack. Dubbed "The Greatest Race Course in the World", the 2.5-mile oval laid the foundation for modern racing as we know it today.

Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site  – The reconstructed carriage house, Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, is dedicated to the only U.S. President elected from the state of Indiana. Serving the public with educational and historical value, the Presidential museum promotes patriotism in all of us. For seniors, an elevator allows full museum access to all visitors, including those with disabilities.

Central Canal – Escape to Venice, Italy! Enjoy a gondola ride through the Indiana Central Canal as your Old World Gondolier serenades you… in Italian! This whimsical thoroughfare offers romance and spectacular sights of the city. Rides board at Fresco Cafe at Indiana Avenue. Public rides last 30 minutes at $30 per person. Private tours are also available upon request, April through October.

Indy Fun Trolley Tours – Take in all the popular sights, sounds, and local favorites that Indianapolis has to offer during a guided 75 minute tour in an authentic trolley. Open season is April through October. Ask about senior and military discounts!

Taste Indy Food Tours – Take a guided tour through the city for all the local dives and dig in! Along the way, your tour guides will inform you about the rich history of the city. Better come hungry! 

Senior discounts are available at select hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and grocery stores near these attractions. At MorningSide of College Park Senior Living, we arrange for our residents to participate in group outings to local attractions. Being part of a group of peers living together in Indianapolis Assisted Living makes for a great way to experience these sights and sounds. 

To learn more about things for seniors to do in Indianapolis, IN, visit http://www.visitindy.com/ 

Written by: Katie Hanley

Published in Retirement Communities

As we pack away the Christmas decorations and think of our New Year’s Resolutions, we reflect on this wonderful year and the new year upon us. We look forward to seeing the many familiar smiling faces and meeting the new ones that will join our Regency family in 2017. If you are considering assisted living for your aging parents whom have expressed concern with the idea, let’s take a minute to evaluate a new perspective on senior living along with the four ways of overcoming objections to senior care changes. 

Do Research First – Before approaching the conversation of senior care with your loved ones, first observe their health condition and carefully evaluate their specific needs. For example, do they require help with mobility? Or do they require memory care from the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s? If they object to senior care, our experts suggest consulting with their primary health care professional for further recommendations. Once you have gathered your information regarding senior care, respectfully present your findings in a way that shows your concerns come from a place of love instead of frustration.

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Use Your Resources – It’s not uncommon for older adults to object to change, especially when those changes involve senior living. If you and your family are not in agreement about future plans, use your resources and ask for outside help. Seek advice from someone that knows your loved ones well, whether it be their physician, nurse practitioner, minister, or friends. Getting a new perspective from a trustworthy source can weigh heavily on the matter when it comes to swaying opinions.

Begin Now and Take it Slow – When is the best time to begin planning for the future? We get this question all the time. The answer is now! Don’t wait until it’s too late to make important decisions like family estate planning and medical wishes. While the conversation is never a fun topic, it is important to plan ahead for hypothetical and inevitable situations. While it is a good idea to start sooner than later, don’t do it all at once. Suggest the idea of senior care gradually and without forced acceptance. This is a very sensitive time for everyone involved. To avoid arguments and hurt feelings, remember to take things slowly when discussing important life decisions and give them ample time to decide. Doing so will allow them to weigh the options and help them to have a more positive perspective towards senior living.

Offer Valid Reasons to Consider – By suggesting multiple options for the future and letting your aging loved ones pick, they will be less likely to feel as if they were forced into the final decision without their consent. Begin by telling them the reasons why you would like them to be at a senior health care facility and not at home. The conversation should be brief, precise, and articulate. To do so, evaluate the pros if they choose to move into Regency senior living community. For example, our senior living facility offers many things that they cannot get living at home. These may include: regular senior interaction, daily campus activities and events, freshly prepared meals, and constant daily care from health care professionals and staff. Once you have gone through the list of pros together, list out the cons, and then compare to living at home. Doing so will help narrow down the options and pick the right one for you and your loved ones. 

It’s important to discuss the idea of transitioning into senior living with your aging loved ones. When and if possible, always involve them in every aspect of the conversation and planning. It is very common for older adults to resist senior care changes to some extent because no one wants to lose their freedom, no matter the age. Our Regency family understands that while things will change, we still encourage our residents to live as independently as they were before. 

If you are interested in learning more about our services or to receive a free, no obligation consultation with one of our Regency specialists, please schedule an appointment today. We would love to welcome you and yours into our Regency family. 

Written by: Katie Hanley

Published in Retirement Communities

It’s extremely common in seniors to not feel the Christmas cheer that follows this time of year, particularly in those who are adapting to a major life change, loss of loved ones or friends, and seasonal depression. In these cases, seniors may feel lacking the seasonal spark, but don’t be discouraged. You can help lift their spirits. Do away with the winter blues by following these simple strategies so everyone in the family can have a cheerful Christmas.Indianapolis senior living

  • Eliminate family stress inducers 
  • Spend time not money
  • Make new memories and traditions 
  • Observe symptoms of depression
  • Act thoughtfully

Let’s break these down a bit further.

The key to getting through the Christmas season is finding peace. During the holidays, remain calm and keep a positive attitude. Simply remind yourself the true meaning of Christmas to you. This will offer solitude to all around you. To stay positive, suggest fun activities to do together - like stringing the popcorn on the tree. This will offer a task for everyone to keep busy and happy.

Families who wish to exchange presents with their loved ones, but cannot afford to do so, often feel grief. Many seniors often find themselves wanting to do more than is possible within their means. At Regency, we suggest spending more time than money towards your loved ones this holiday season. Also, if you have extra time this Christmas, volunteer at the community kitchen to feed the hungry or donate coats to help those in need. 

Making new memories, whether volunteering or stringing popcorn, is what Christmas is all about. It’s a time to get together with family and reminisce. Our senior residents love to share their stories and memories with those who will listen. Take the time this holiday season to share old memories and make new ones with the seniors in your life. 

Seasonal depression is common in adults, and it is rapidly increasing within the senior community. This could be from a lack of sunlight or the harsh reminders of previous holidays, coping with life changes, or the loss of loved ones. Be mindful for the symptoms of depression, displaying low spirits. 

Low spirits can also come from inability to meet expectations. In seniors with dementia or Alzheimer’s, holidays just are not the same as they were before. The family dynamic at some level has changed. For many seniors suffering from memory loss, the holidays can be a confusing time. Be thoughtful and use caution to not make them feel anxious or elevate confusion when they are struggling.

Our holiday mission at MorningSide of College Park is to remind everyone why we celebrate Christmas. In our senior living community, we offer a multitude of on-campus activities to spark the seasonal spirit. These holiday activities may include:

  • Baking Christmas treats
  • Viewing Christmas movies
  • Constructing Christmas cards
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Decorating their space
  • Making ornaments
  • Singing Christmas carols
  • And many more!

The holidays are the time to be surrounded by family – that is the greatest gift, after all. Help us make this Christmas season special for the senior in your life. Whatever the season holds for you,  MorningSide is honored to celebrate these special times with you and your family. Happy Holidays!

Written by: Katie Hanley

Indianapolis retirement facility

It’s normal to collect too many assets, some of which may be junk, through the years. But there often comes a time to cut the clutter and to downsize. For most senior empty nesters, their adult children have long out with families of their own. Sometimes due to health reasons, the senior may not capable living at their current home any longer.

When downsizing, paring down items comes with the territory. While some of us are excellent "dejunkers", others have a harder time. Lifehack.org says the best way to downsize is to start small. For example, begin by starting with a simple space to make significant progress. If not, it can start to feel overpowering if approached wholly– so work in moderation. Remind yourself that it has likely taken years to get everything, so you likely won’t finish in the first day, especially if you are suffering from issues with mobility. 

The Top Dos and Don'ts for Downsizing

•      Do Prioritize

•      Don't Wait/Avoid Procrastination

•      Do Be Aware of Hoarding Behavior

•      Don't Be Too Sensitive

•      Do Transform

•      Don't Just Throw It Away

Do Prioritize

Before you assess your belongings, plan out your next move. Set manageable goals weekly for yourself. Start by sorting belongings into one of three boxes – give, keep, and discard. Begin sorting things to discard, as these items should be obvious, such as: old garments, dusty books, etc.

Try not to Wait

Whatever you do, avoid procrastination. Regardless if you think you have enough time. It will be a long, enduring process that requires several weeks and even months to complete – even with the assistance of family and friends. Tip: To avoid delaying, mark your calendar with each weekly goal to accomplish. This can help tremendously when in planning for the big move. 

Do Be Aware of Hoarding Behavior

This often times unsanitary and unsafe lifestyle can be risky in seniors who are experiencing issues in mobility, as the possibility for falling is increased. While hoarding items is sometimes harmless, it can be an indication for underlying health issues, most commonly dementia or Alzheimer's in seniors.

Try not to Be Too Sensitive

Naturally, we become be attached to things that we find meaningful. So, discarding these items that are special to us can be incredibly challenging. With most difficult choices, do your best to take it moderation and carefully assess everything and it's level of significance. For questionable items, ask yourself, “Do I really need this?” Slanting questions with a closed-ended, yes-no answer will help make difficult decisions a bit easier.

To family and companions of seniors, understand the hard decisions ahead during this transition. Have patience, support, and encourage positive change amid this difficult time.

Do Transform

Transitioning into a downsized space means every inch counts! To adapt to your new, smaller home, transform each space with personal items. For example, photographs of family, work of art from the grandkids, and remembrances from your sweetie pie. At Regency Senior Living people group with Memory Care administrations, occupants are urged to keep their unique things in a memory box for safekeeping. Speaking of putting away, rather than tossing out your cherished things, save them in a new way, so you can keep them free from mess or harm. This technique works incredible for free photographs, music, and movies.

Don't Throw It Away

If you have things you wish to throw away, be aware of waste disposal options. Ask yourself, can this thing be reused, repurposed, or recycled? Don’t simply junk it! Recollect that one man's junk is another man's fortune.

It's critical to begin decluttering sooner than later to allow the move to Assisted Living to be a consistent and pleasant process. For more tips on scaling down seniors, visit: http://www.aplaceformom.com/blog/15-9-5-senior-cutting back tips/

Written by: Katie Hanley

While Alzheimer’s is not the only form of dementia, it is the most common, accounting for 60 – 80% of all dementia cases. Seniors 65 and older are typically the group of people affected by this type of dementia, but that does not make it a normal part of aging. It only means that increased age is the greatest risk factor known at this time.

Typically, age-related memory loss is normal to a certain extent. While many of these lapses in memory are normal, it is important to be aware of signs and symptoms of early Alzheimer’s, as it may be difficult to otherwise distinguish between the two. Alzheimer’s can cause a loved one to develop memory, thinking, and behavioral problems, which increasingly worsen over time and can eventually affect their ability to function in daily life.

So, how do you differentiate between them? Here are a few examples:

Symptoms of early Alzheimer's                                 Typical age-related memory loss

Changes in decision-making abilities/ Poor judgment       Occasionally making a poor decision  

Difficulty managing a monthly budget                           Forgetting to pay a bill once

Difficulty keeping track of what season it is                   Forgetting what day it is then remembering

Difficulty following or maintaining a conversation            Difficulty with trying to find the right word

Placing things in unusual places and then not                Misplacing things occasionally 
being able to retrace steps to locate them

More warning signs include: difficulty completing familiar daily tasks, spending more time than usual to do familiar things, forgetting how to play a favorite game, not knowing where they are or how they got there, difficulty retaining newly learned information, problems with vision and judging distance, personality and mood changes, and withdrawing from social activities and hobbies.

You may be thinking to yourself that your loved one has exhibited one or more of those signs. Before assuming the worst, it is also important to note that there are many reasons that a senior could be experiencing abnormal memory loss. For example, some seniors may be experiencing symptoms that are caused by a treatable condition like thyroid problems, drug interactions, substance or alcohol abuse, depression, and even a vitamin deficiency.memory care indianapolis

Individuals can experience one or more of these signs to varying degrees, and they develop slowly over time, making early detection very important. That is why it is essential to call your doctor if you notice a loved one exhibiting any of these symptoms, as well as be completely open with the doctor during the examination.

Although there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s, there is continued research and treatment that is available to slow the progression and worsening of symptoms. If diagnosed early enough, this will help improve the quality of life for your loved one and caregiver, as well as prolong levels of independence.

Broaching the topic takes delicacy, and may be uncomfortable for your loved one. But early diagnosis is key in order to plan ahead and allow the senior to make their wishes known regarding their future medical care and living arrangements.

Morningside of College Park Retirement Community offers our experience and resources to care for those with Alzheimer's and other memory-related challenges. The Reflections Centre offers the finest care for your loved one, and our staff is trained by our local Alzheimer's Association.

Alzheimer’s is only one form of dementia, and it has many myths and stereotypes associated with it, so it is always best to seek a professional opinion in order to determine the cause of the memory loss. The Alzheimer’s Association also offers helpful information regarding symptoms, research, treatment, and support.

Visit their website for more information: http://www.alz.org/ 

To learn more about Morningside of College Park, call (844) 511-3456.

Written by Kristen Camden

Published in Memory Care
Wednesday, 30 March 2016 17:05

Spring Weather Benefits Seniors

“The air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather?”

-Robert Louis Stevenson

Spring is a wonderful time at Morningside of College Park…the trees become green again, flowers start to bloom, and the warmer weather is a welcome change after a chilly winter. With the changing seasons also comes opportunity to explore nature and take advantage of outdoor activities.

There are many benefits to Seniors who spend some time soaking up the sun’s rays, as long as you are mindful of physical limitations and the risks associated with overexposure to the sun. Here are a few benefits:

Vitamin D-
The body needs sunlight in order to produce Vitamin D, which is particularly beneficial to seniors. This is because it is a building block for healthy and strong bones. Not only that, but studies are now showing a direct correlation to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and osteoporosis among those who don’t get enough Vitamin D.

Decreased Stress-
A lot of people are familiar with Winter Depression, and the anxiety that can come along with it. While scientists haven’t firmly concluded what causes this seasonal mood change, they have confirmed that most people who suffer from it feel better after exposure to bright light. Spending time in the sun each day can help lower anxiety and increase happiness. According to Alfred Lewy, MD, a seasonal affective disorder researcher at the Oregon Health & Science University, the best time to take advantage of the sun is first thing in the morning because it helps to reset your circadian clock.

The best way to take advantage of the spring weather and sunshine is by getting out in it! There are so many things to do outside, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take a morning walk dailyIndianapolis retirement community
  • Spend some time planting in the garden
  • Take up bird watching
  • Take the grandkids to explore Monument Circle or the Cultural Districts
  • Browse through a Farmers Market, like Indianapolis City Market
  • Do some spring cleaning to spruce up your space

However you plan on spending your time in the sun, be cautious and aware of how the sun affects you. To avoid skin damage, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke, prepare in advance: wear light clothing and a hat, always apply sunscreen, stay hydrated, and avoid being in direct sunlight during peak hours (10 am-4 pm).

Exerting yourself too much in the sun can lead to cramped muscles, heat rash, swelling of extremities, exhaustion, and heat stroke. While you can protect yourself from the sun’s rays, it is more difficult to stay protected from the heat itself. Morningside of College Park offers a cool respite from the heat. “The lobby is now a great place to mingle with friends and neighbors and get acquainted,” says Jo Cowan, Executive Director.

So whether you are outside soaking up the sun, or inside cooling off for a bit, enjoy the new growth that spring brings to Morningside!

To learn more about Morningside of College Park, call (844) 511-3456.

Written by Kristen Camden

Published in Active Senior Living

Many seniors feel apprehensive about getting online, worrying that they won’t have the tech skills to successfully take advantage of computer resources. According to FastCompany, a neuroscientist at UCLA found that when he observed “12 tech-savvy and 12 tech-ignorant people use search engines while inside an MRI machine”the result was“more neural activity in the noggins of tech-savvy users.”Not only does the Internet open you up to a host of new possibilities, the process of learning something new can have a positive effect on your brain—great news for those who are interested in staying in tip top mental shape.

There are host of other benefits to making use of the Internet. It’s easier than ever to connect with others around the world in just a few clicks or a few keystrokes, from family a few states away to new pen pals as far away as Japan or Norway. Even ten or fifteen years ago, the majority of adults weren’t online. Now 87% of American adults regularly use the Internet, logging on to converse over email and social networking sites, look up information using search engines like Google and Yahoo, keep up with the news and their favorite TV programs, or connect with other people who have common interests, like NASCAR, baseball, sewing, chess, and more.

Of course, the flip side to how much the internet brings us together is that it can also connect you to bad people who might want to take advantage of you. While it’s easier than ever to reach out to friends and family, it’s just as easy for criminals to reach out to you in hopes of getting money, your personal information, or even steal your identity. However, there are some simple steps you can take to keep cyber criminals at bay.

Email With Care

First and foremost, you should treat your email with the same care you would your mail or postoffice box. Just as you get unwanted junk letters in real life, you may get spam messages in your email box from strangers. Some scams that online criminals run online are similar to those run through the mail or on the phone—telling you that you’ve won a lottery prize, for example, or posing as a fake charity. Just as you’d be cautious under other circumstances about sending money to strangers or unverified causes or potentially illegitimate businesses, you should be even more so online.

Pick an email program with a strong spam filter like Microsoft Outlook or Google Mail—this will protect you from many inappropriate messages and reduce the number you need to deal with yourself. When you set up your email account, create a strong password that will be hard for anyone else to guess or crack. For example, “123456”is a common password that would be easy for a hacker to figure out because so many people use it. The same for things like your children or grandchildren’s names, “password”or “PW”or even “letmein.”You should use a mixture of symbols, numbers, and both upper and lower case numbers to ensure you have a strong password.

Trust Your Inner Skeptic

Criminals often create stories that seem so wild you couldn’t possibly make them up. People have fallen for all sorts of tall tales, from Nigerian princes trying to find their way home to messages from the supposed Sheriff’s office telling them a missing person’s report has been filed on the recipient’s behalf. Other common tricks include seemingly innocent, minor requests, like trying to find a good time to call you, or simply asking if you’re ok. If you don’t know who sent the email, simply give them a call or check in personally to find out if they originated the conversation. It takes some of the convenience out of staying in touch, but it’s totally worth it to avoid giving scam artists even the slightest details to go on. Never download a file attached to an email if you don’t know who it’s from. The file could be a computer virus that will make your device run slower or will find personal information like credit card or insurance account numbers and send it to the scammer.

A Little Common Sense Goes a Long Way

You never know who’s looking when you post online, and what you say can stick around a lot longer than you think. Friends of friends might see what you post on social media, private details linger on message boards, and you can’t take back what you write. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. So be especially guarded about sharing anything you wouldn’t write down and hand to stranger, or the kind of information you run through a shredder at the end of the month.

Enjoy a Wider World

Despite digital dangers, the Internet has a wealth of opportunities to stay connected and involved in your community and interests no matter your age. Don’t feel intimidated by the possibility of living an online life, instead embrace a new skill, and take proper precautions so you can surf the web with confidence. As with any new skill, it may take time to feel as comfortable and confident as you do in real life, but soon you’ll have street smarts for the World Wide Web!

Written by Meghan O'Dea

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