This week, we encountered issues with elderly patrons trying to use our computers. The past year of lockdowns, social distancing, paperless bureaucracy, and such has left the elderly in the lurch. Many a boomer is computer-illiterate, or at least not very web-savvy, and I have two such tales to tell.
The first gentleman is a regular patron liked by all the staff. He is quiet and friendly. However, he needed to sign up for Social Security, and the nearest office is still closed to in-person assistance as far as I know. Mr. A. does not own a computer or even have an e-mail address, so the learning curve for him is incredibly steep, and the disregard shown to people in his situation by "public servants" is astonishing to anyone not already disenchanted to the point of anarchism.
The second gentleman is a less-regular patron, and while friendly, is also hard-of-hearing and completely oblivious to basic computer security protocol. He will talk to himself while typing in passwords. He bellows when he thinks he is discreetly whispering to us for help. Mr. B is decidedly not quiet.
In this case, he is also not versed in search engine awareness. Our first clue that something was amiss came when he complained of virus warnings and security alerts to nother of our staff. This is odd. Our systems are pretty secure, since they are set to boot from a clean save state every time they restart, and had all their proper updates. We moved him to another system, and I checked everything on his first station with no issues to be found. However, he invited me to keep an eye on his second machine. He fired up the Microsoft Edge browser and typed in the name of his bank. When he clicked the first link, sure enough, more warnings they all looked somewhat like proper security alerts from Windows and antivirus packages, but not like what I expect from a real alert.
I closed the tab and asked him to wait before clicking on the search result again. This time, I saw the issue. Bing, Microsoft's default search engine, had a paid ad from a scammer as the first result when searching for this particular bank. Any serious examination would reveal that the keywords didn't all look right, and the URL was wrong, but the geezer is half-blind as well as half-deaf, and not on psychological alert when dealing with banking stuff. The second link was the proper one, and all was well with no real malware issues.
Once he was set up with the right home page for his actual bank, I verified the same issue from a staff computer, and dredged through the Bing page to find where to report malicious links. Problem solved.
On the one hand, old farts need to be willing to learn new things, but on the other hand, no one should be forced to adapt like this unnecessarily, either. This is such a bad situation rife with opportunities for bad actors to take advantage of vulnerable people. Their generation is, on average, not as well-prepared for cyberspace. Not saying mine is better. People my age are less likely to have other useful skills like tuning carburetors. It's not better or worse, but it is different, and this push toward a cyberspace mandate is not beneficial.
Be careful out there. The internet is full of scams, and we'll all need to adapt or be left behind one way or another. Stay on your toes, and remember, aging is mandatory, but you really get old when you refuse to learn new things.