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The freedom to stay independent, safe & engaged at home.

Candoo Tech News

The latest news and information about technology for older adults

Candoo Tech News

The latest news and information about technology for older adults.

 
What We are Testing: Amazon Alexa Echo Show

I’ve had an Alexa Echo Dot in my kitchen for a while now and have been using it to listen to music and audio books, turn on CNN, add to my shopping list and check the weather. I’ve managed to sync it to my Spotify and Audible accounts. One day I was out of sponges and asked Alexa to re-order them. Next day, I had sponges!

At Candoo Tech, we have been setting up Alexa Dots for clients and programming reminders to take medicine, adding appointment reminders and even reminders to call their children! Here are some additional things that Alexa can do and some feedback on the newest version of Alexa Echo Show.

I’d been hearing about the Echo Show, (Alexa with a screen) from some of my friends and colleague working with assisted living facilities, so wanted to check it out for myself. I ordered an Echo Show 2nd generation on Amazon. It was priced at $229.99, but I got a family promo discount. It came with a free Philips Hue lightbulb that works with Alexa. My grand total was $175.

The Echo Show set up was fairly easy. I figured out how to add it to my existing Alexa App, so now I have the Echo Dot in the kitchen and the Echo Show in the living room.

First, I tried to set up the smart light bulb. It wasn’t easy. Philips kept telling me I needed a Philips Bridge. Turns out I didn’t since I had the Echo Show. Once I figured it out, it worked great! I was able to program several lights, create a setting for dimming them and turning them off either all at once or each individually. Now, I can walk in and ask Alexa to turn on the living room lights. Magic! This is a great feature for someone with mobility issues. Also nice to program lights in the bedroom so if someone gets up in the middle of the night, they can ask Alexa to turn on a light (you can even set it to turn on dimly if you don’t want to wake someone else up). The advantage of using the Show over the Echo here is you can control the dimness on the screen.

Changing Channels: One of my pet peeves is never remembering what channel certain stations are on. I found that Alexa pairs with my TV provider, Verizon Fios and now I can ask Alexa to turn to CNN or play a specific movie title.

Song Lyrics: I’ve been using my Alexa to play music for a while, but with the video screen, now I can sing along to the lyrics. This is a wonderful feature for anyone who loves to sing but can’t remember the words. The font is large enough for easy visibility.

Videos: If you have Amazon Prime, you can watch videos on the screen. You can also display photos and make video calls.

Shopping: I’ve already been using my Echo Dot to order products on Amazon, but with the video screen, you can scan bar codes and Alexa will show items and where to purchase them. Again, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can purchase directly from Amazon and have it delivered.

Nest: Alexa pairs with Nest and other smart home devices. Although it was easy to pair, I must say that the voice commands to control Nest—change the temperature or turn the air conditioner off and on, were not that easy to remember. If I said it wrong, Alexa didn’t respond.

Translation: This was one of the coolest features. For a language buff like me, it was fun to test out Alexa’s 50 languages that she translates into. For those who are trying to communicate with non-English speakers, this could be a life-saver. Just say, “Alexa, how do you say [Insert any phrase here] in [insert any language here] and she will speak it and display it in the language on the screen.

Overall, I found the Echo Show to be much more versatile than the Echo Dot. My biggest complaint with all of the Alexa devices is that you still need to learn how to say things very precisely. If you don’t say things in a specific way, Alexa may not understand what you are asking. This could be frustrating for many people.

Finally, I know a lot of people are concerned that Alexa is listening in on every conversation. According to Amazon, Alexa only listens after hearing the word “Alexa”. And, there is a way to change the settings so this information is not stored. I think the benefits outweigh the privacy risks for me.

For older adults, Alexa has some wonderful features that can really improve quality of life.

If you are interested in learning more about Alexa or scheduling a visit to set one up, give us a call at 646-758-6606 or email support@candootech.com.

Liz HamburgComment
Password is Incorrect. You Have Been Locked Out

“Password is incorrect. Please re-enter with the correct password.

Incorrect Password. For your safety this account has been locked.

Too many attempts made, proceed to account recovery.”

Do these messages look familiar? Have you ever forgotten one of your own passwords—even one you use every day? How many times this year have you had to reset a password? If you are like me, you may have also gotten a call from your parent asking if you remember their password. There are only so many places to write them down safely!

Today, almost everything requires a login—from accessing bank accounts, emails and social media sites, to ordering from Amazon, reading news articles and even watching Netflix or other videos online.  To complicate matters even more, not all sites have the same password requirements, some require special characters while others insist on a specific number and combination of words, numbers and special characters. Managing the myriad of passwords can become overwhelming, and sooner or later, if you are like me, you are scrambling to find where you wrote the password down, attempting multiple times to guess the password you used or, even more embarrassing, calling your spouse or your kids to remind you. And, eventually, resetting your password. The odds just seem to be against you! 

 There are things you can do. But first, let’s start off with what you should not do; 

1.    You should NOT be writing your password on a piece of paper with all your other passwords. 

2.    You should NOT use the same password for all of your accounts.

3.    You should NOT email your passwords to a friend or family member.

4.    You should NOT use your date or birth, or name of your favorite grandchild or pet.

 But, don’t worry. There’s a good, safe solution.  What CAN you do?

Always try to make difficult to guess and unique passwords so in case of one of your passwords is breached, you don’t need to worry about all of your other accounts.  Now, you may be telling yourself “I can barely manage to remember ONE of my passwords, how do you expect me to remember so many other unique ones,” There’s an easy solution: Password Managers

 A password manager is an application/service that you can download onto your computer or portable devices (phones, tablets, etc.) that is secured by a single password that then unlocks your vault to all your other passwords. It’s like having that page of handwritten passwords you already have in your file cabinet or in your Notes app on your phone (don’t worry we won’t tell), but only invisible and protected from the password thieves. 

 But, you may say, you just told me that even one password may get stolen. Most password managers use multi-factor authentication and encryption (fancy talk for extra level of safety and protection). So, while nothing is risk-free, password managers are generally safer than keeping your passwords stored on your own.

With a password manager, even if someone were to somehow gain access to the password manager application, they will not be able to see any of your passwords as the program itself is also password protected. 

Some nice benefits of good password managers are:

  1. You don’t have to remember all of your passwords

  2. It’s much more secure (and handier) than keeping passwords written on scraps of paper or on your computer.

  3. On some, you can give the master password to a trusted loved one (family member, lawyer), so that if they ever need to access your critical accounts, they have a way in.

  4. They can detect when you create or change one of your passwords—no more stress of having to remember to update your list of passwords. 

  5. You can have your password manager on all your devices, so even if you are on the go, you will have access to all your passwords. Consider it like your personal password assistant.

There are lots of options. Some are free, some are paid. Generally, the paid services are between $20-$40/year per person.

 If you would like to know more about password managers and which one is right for you, feel free to contact us at support@candootech.comor check out candootech.com

 Candoo Tech gives older adults the freedom to use technology to stay safe, secure and engaged. We provide tech support and training specifically designed for older adults. We cover devices and software applications--from phones, iPads and tablets, Alexa and computers to innovative home sensors and fall detection devices. 

 

Four Effective Ways to Hear Better with Tech

 By Guest Blogger Carolyn Stern, Manager at Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC)

Are you or someone you know saying “what?” too often or finding it difficult to keep up with a group conversation? It’s possible you may be experiencing a gradual decline in hearing, just like a third of all older adults.  It happens slowly but eventually declines to a point where the hearing loss interferes with everyday interactions and favorite pastimes such as socializing with family, phoning old friends, playing with grandchildren or watching live theater or a great TV show.   

But don’t worry. We have good news!  With today’s many advancements in technology for assisting people with hearing loss, it really is possible to live more fully, connect better with loved ones and return to activities once enjoyed.  

Read below for a comprehensive look at the latest tech solutions for people with hearing loss. But for a quick demonstration of three excellent captioning apps, click here to watch my video.

Here are four effective ways to use technology to hear better again:

                   #1 - Current Hearing Aid Technology

Utilizing a current digital hearing aid fitted by a trained audiologist is the most common and recommended way to manage hearing loss.  Newer advanced models are now equipped with sophisticated software designed to reduce background noise and enhance speech sounds in less than ideal listening settings. Hearing aids with Bluetooth technology can now pair or connect wirelessly to a smartphone, tablet or TV, greatly improving the sound quality of a phone call, video or movie.  Plus, some hearing aids are now rechargeable.  This eliminates the need to remember to change the battery, and for people with limited dexterity that’s a big benefit.  All of these advancements have significantly increased satisfaction with hearing aid users in recent years.  

If you’re curious about hearing aids or have held out because you’ve heard they don’t work, it really is worth giving them a try.  But, the key is to give your brain several weeks to adjust to the new auditory input and stimulation.  

It is equally important to find an audiologist that you click with and who is highly recommended from your network of family and friends or a trusted health care provider.   To learn more about what to expect from audiology care, click (http://chchearing.org/blog/chc-audiologists-are-committed-to-excellence-in-hearing-healthcare/)

If you have hearing aids already, kudos for taking action by addressing your hearing.  But, if your technology is more than four years old, now is a good time to consider trying a newer model with significantly improved features. Even  those with a mild hearing loss are getting a benefit from the new hearing aid technology, CHC’s Director of Audiology, Dr. Ellen Lafargue, tells us.  “We’re fitting more and more people with mild losses because the newer, more advanced  devices are showing a discernible difference in sound quality and functioning and are keeping people more engaged and with less fatigue.”  

#2 - Technology for Enjoying Entertainment Media
Hearing the television or tablet well at a regular volume is difficult for individuals with hearing loss (whether a hearing aid user or not), but utilizing closed captions, which by the way is free, is an invaluable way to assist comprehending entertainment media visually while listening.  Captioning, which transcribes spoken language into written text displayed on a digital screen simultaneously, is available on all televisions and flat screens made for the U.S. market since 1993.  

Consider giving closed captions a try by activating this feature in the menu settings of the television.  Captions are also available for most shows or movies on tablets and smartphones.  To activate the captions on most devices and streaming services such as Netflix, start the video or show, tap on the screen and a status bar will pop up.  Then, select “cc” for closed captions to turn it on.   

If you find you do not like captions, have difficulty reading them or would like to hear better while using captions, you can always consider using an assistive listening device or a wireless headset with volume adjustments that can amplify the sounds from the television or tablet.  Many solutions work with or without hearing aids.  To learn more, consider attending one of CHC’s free assistive devices sessions offered weekly in New York City. (http://chchearing.org/technology/assistive-devices/demonstrations/)

#3 - Apps for Smartphone Calls

Another common challenge for people who are hard of hearing is the inability to fully understand smartphone calls with clarity and confidence.  An innovative app, InnoCaption, captions for free smartphone calls made anywhere at any time in the U.S.  This means the person utilizing this service can both listen to the spoken language on the call and read it displayed on the digital screen of the smartphone in real-time, wherever you are, at home or on-the-go.  

So, the next time you’re in a difficult spot while conducting a call, for example on a noisy street corner while trying to get directions, give this app a try.  To register for the service intended for individuals with hearing loss and give it a try, click  https://www.innocaption.com/how-to-use/.  

#4 - Apps for Keeping up with Conversations 

Following all kinds of conversations with ease is a hardship for people with hearing loss, but new apps that caption communication by leveraging automated speech recognition capability is transformative.  Google’s solution, Live Transcribe, transcribes speech in real-time into text on an Android smartphone or tablet’s screen for free!  Two other apps that can be used with iPhones and Android phones, Ava and Microsoft Translator, are helpful, too. People with hearing loss can now instantly read along while listening to the conversation at the same time.  It can be used at any time of day and at any location, provided there is cell service or Wi-Fi access.   

So, when facing difficult communication situation such as participating in a meeting or talking with a grandchild with a soft voice, we recommend giving one of these speech-to-text apps a try.  For information about Google Live Transcribe (for Android devices only) click https://www.android.com/accessibility/live-transcribe/.  Learn more aboutAva(https://www.ava.me/and Microsoft Translator (https://translator.microsoft.com/).

Getting your hearing checked annually and addressing any issues is important. Now, with so many advancements in hearing aids and smartphone apps, a person with hearing loss no longer has to feel isolated and frustrated. Learning about and adapting to new technology can dramatically improve the quality of life, assist getting back to doing what you’ve always enjoyed and connect better with family and friends.

Carolyn Stern, Manager at Center for Hearing and Communication (CHC) is passionate about helping adults address hearing loss and learn about various ways to live more fully with the condition.   Since 1910, CHC is NYC’s most trusted nonprofit hearing rehabilitative clinic located at 50 Broadway, 6th Floor, Manhattan.  For any questions about technology and hearing loss concerns, please contact Carolyn at cgstern@chchearing.org.  If you would like to learn more, consider attending one of CHC’s assistive technology demonstration sessions offered weekly provided at no cost made possible by generous foundation grants and individual donors. Click http://chchearing.org/technology/assistive-devices/demonstrations/






Gift Card Scams—A Cautionary Tale
 

My friend Johanna was worried about her sister Christine, who is 73 and lives alone in a different state from Johanna. Christine, smart, active, independent and leader in her community, had just fallen for an Internet scam. 

Christine had just gotten on her computer to fill out an important document that she was on deadline to submit. All of a sudden, her computer froze and a big sign came on her screen that said “Your computer is locked because you have been hacked”

 Of course, like anyone would, she panicked! She got another message saying: “You cannot access your computer until you get in touch with Microsoft” There was a number on her screen which looked like Microsoft number. So, she did what many of us would have done. She called the number. Someone “from Microsoft” (or so she thought) answered. Good news, she thought! They were able to fix it right away. They guy asked for access to her computer. Christine, worried about getting her report in on time, said yes. She knew there was something wrong, but her fear of not getting the report in trumped everything . Plus, she didn’t think she was good at computers, so she needed to trust the guy who said he could save her. 

 “Mr. Microsoft” told her that her computer was hacked and she was going to have to reset it. “Good news,” he said. “Because you are Microsoft customer, I’ll only charge you $500.” “But, because your computer has been hacked, we can’t take your credit card over the phone. 

You need to go to the nearest Microsoft store. Oh, there isn’t one in your neighborhood. So, there is one thing you can do. You can buy a $500 gift card from Google. You can buy them from most grocery stores.”

Red flag? Not yet…..

Christine told the guy to wait. He stayed on her computer for 45 min while she ran over to her local store--Albertsons. Amazingly, the quick-thinking cashier from Albertsons saw a red flag.

She told Christine that in the last few weeks, she had several customers who came in and bought cards and came back and said it was a scam. Ding, ding, ding. Finally Christine realized what was going on. She came home and the guy was still there on her computer. She quickly disconnected and told him she knew it was a scam.

 Christine spent days at her local computer store removing malware and resetting the computer 

She spent more time replacing all of her credit cards. And even more time kicking herself for being so susceptible although thankful that she was able to stop it before she didn’t lose her hat.

 Christine is not alone. She is not extra vulnerable to scams. Unfortunately, she’s one of thousands who have fallen for the gift card scam. The week after Christine shared her story with me, NPR ran a series of fraud among seniors.

 One woman, a registered nurse who exercises regularly and is still very active, got scammed of almost $200,000 in gift cards.

 Renowned gerontologist (and friend of Candoo Tech) Mark Lachs was quoted in the NPR story discussing what he calls “age-associated financial vulnerability”. He and his team at Weill Cornell Medicine in NY are working on ways to help identify and prevent this. 

 We can’t stop all of these scams. But, there are a few things you CAN do:

  • If you get a suspicious email, check to see if the actual email address looks right. In this example, you may think it’s from Amazon Prime, but check out the email address.


email scam.jpg
 
 

Here’s a scary one. Looks like I needed to do something to address a Microsoft issue. Again, check out the email address.

Email scam2.jpg

  • DO NOT click on or reply to any suspicious email.

  • NEVER give access to your computer to anyone who you do not know/trust.

  •  If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be “Microsoft”, “Apple” or even the “IRS”, it’s probably not real. Tell them you will look up the official customer service number and call back.

  • Contact a trusted source to check out the email or phone call for you. At Candoo Tech, we work closely with our customers to make sure they are avoiding scams. If they see a suspicious email they can call us and we will immediately let them know if it’s real or not.

  • As for Christine, she says “I’ve had enough scams”. She’s not going to be buying gift cards for strangers again!

 

 
 
Fall Detection Without Wearing Anything
 

If you are an adult child like me, you are worried about your parents falling at home. And, if you parents are like mine, they hate the idea of wearing one of those ugly pendants. Now there are some innovative new ways to detect falls, including the Apple Watch. But, you still have to wear something (even in the shower), remember to charge it and make sure that it’s powered on.

We have been testing the Walabot Home, a new “personal response system” or fall detection system that was developed in Israel. It goes on the wall and can detect a fall without wearing anything. For now, it works in the bathroom only (80% of falls happen in the bathroom) but they will soon be expanding to the rest of the house. I know, it’s not something that you want to think about. But, I think it’s better to be safe then sorry. If you are interested in learning more and trying the Walabot, contact us at support@candootech.com or call us at 646-758-6606.