Online dangers in assisted living communities

The health, safety and safeguarding of residents should always be top of the agenda for those managing an assisted-living community. In fact these days it’s important that the administrator of such a community knows as much about online safety as they do about other aspects of the residents’ health, safety and well-being. We look at some top tips for those running assisted living communities, including educating residents about potential online dangers and how to set up a secure private WiFi network and even a VPN


The benefits of the internet for assisted-living residents

It’s important to remember why the internet can be a huge benefit to those living in assisted communities. For example, online technology can bring residents closer to loved ones and old friends thanks to Skype and email, plus it can also help residents connect with the past via social media, online communities and reminiscence groups. Those living in assisted communities also want to use the internet in the same way we all do; to stream videos, find out information, read books, look up the weather, play games and discover the news. As an administrator, it’s important that you have the technology in place to provide good internet service for residents so they can take advantage of the many benefits it offers. But it’s even more important that you understand the potential risks, and that you are armed with the information you need to protect residents from these risks.


Why it is so important to be aware of the risks?

Those living in assisted living communities are, more often than not, more vulnerable members of society than most. Whether this is because the residents in your care are adults with additional needs, or perhaps because they are elderly, either way, some of the responsibility for their online safety falls at your feet. So what are these risks?


Online scams

Online scams cover a multitude of topics and are the biggest risks to elderly users of the internet who are particularly susceptible to such scams. This is because they are generally not as accustomed to the internet as younger people who have grown up with it and are therefore potentially not as skilled at discriminating between scams and authentic emails/websites/offers. According to Age UK, online scams make around £670 million a year in the UK, much of which is lost by vulnerable people including adults with additional needs and the elderly. 


Top Scams:

    Online shopping (stealing bank card details)

    Fake websites (malware and stealing money)

    Scams via email (including money scams and malware viruses)

    Relationship scams (usually for financial gain)

    Health scams (preying on health worries, usually for financial gain)

    Computer viruses (users inadvertently downloading malware via content or App suggestions)


How can I prevent residents from falling prey to scams?


Luckily, as the administrator of an assisted-living building, there is plenty you can do to protect your residents from scams. Many administrators choose to attend courses on online safety, from here you will be able to draw up a risk assessment, so you know which areas you need to concentrate on. Managers can then deliver regular workshops, or get external advisers in to do so. During workshops, facilitators can highlight scams and demonstrate to residents how to be savvy to these, as well as provide some basic advice on password security, online shopping and social media usage. These workshops can also be used to highlight the benefits of the internet too!


Ensure you put up posters regarding online safety in all communal areas of the building, with clear instructions on who residents can speak to if they have any concerns. You can also set up a secure private WiFi network for the entire building, with individual passwords for each user, as well as a VPN for extra encryption. Residents who are using their own PC, laptop or tablet will also need to be advised on downloading their own anti-virus software. 


What you can do:

    Carry out your own risk assessment, outlining the potential online dangers to your residents

    Set up a workshop or talk to highlight online scams and internet safety tips

    Display posters with online safety information in communal areas

    Set up a Secure Private WiFi Network for the building 

    Make sure residents understand how important it is not to share the name of the network, or their own username and password with anybody, even friends. 

    Set up a VPN for residents to use when they are not in the building

    Install network-wide anti-virus and firewalls, but also encourage users to install their own anti-virus software for their devices. 

    Block certain websites e.g. torrenting sites or sites with explicit content 


As the administrator of an assisted living community, it's really important that you stay up to date with all the latest online risks, including scams that specifically target older people. Make internet safety a priority in your community and use the latest technology such as VPNs to help protect your residents.