Meet The Stern-Grach Family Cyber-Seniors!

| Shelley Stern Grach

This is the first in a series about internet safety for one of our most vulnerable populations—Seniors. In this ongoing series, we will explore why it’s important now to inform and educate Seniors about online safety, and provide suggestions, solutions and access to curriculum and resources for you and your family. Future blogs will focus on online safety policy, suggested tips for Seniors, and how to access curriculum.

Online safety

Critically important, but not sexy. Admit it, how often do you change your password? And I’ll bet you $100 you use the same password for more than one site. Most of us in the corporate world have confidence that our “IT shop” is taking care of online security for us, so we dutifully change our password every 90 days, deal with the annoying double (sometimes triple) sign-in procedures and fold these extra steps into our daily work routine. But what about at home?

This is the first in a series about online safety tips for those you love most and who are the least protected…our Seniors. Your mom, your dad, your Aunt Mary and Uncle Morris. Grandpa and Grammy. I thought I would share my family with you….to really “bring this home” and drive the point that online safety is really, really personal. Education and awareness needs to happen at every stage of the lifecycle—and the content, curriculum, delivery method (in person training, video’s, educational games, etc.) need to be adapted to the life cycle stage. I hope you enjoy this peek into the Stern-Grach family photo album, and take the time to reflect on how you are helping your own family stay safe online. In future blogs, we will provide you suggestions and curriculum. Today, we just want to create the awareness of the need for more vigilance with your family and friends.


Meet my mom Blanche (on the right) and Aunt Mildred. This is one of my most favorite pictures, taken about 3 years ago in the hospital after Mildred had a fall and hurt her wrist. My mom was 100 at the time, Mildred was 99. Best friends for life, sisters-in-law.

Never thought about online safety a day in their lives.

And frankly, these two didn’t really need to. The closest my mom got to technology was the TV clicker (she LOVED her Miami Dolphins) and this gigantic device with a TV screen size magnifying glass to read her newspaper line by line. Aunt Mildred (who is 102 now!) does use a computer a little but typically with my cousin next to her to send an email or two. If you have relatives who are a bit younger and still part of the Greatest Generation, they are a prime target for online scams, and I urge you to begin the discussion by talking to them about online predators (tough word, but accurate) and ask them to contact you if they suspect a problem.

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Let’s make this really personal! Here’s my husband Mark and me at one of our favorite places on Earth. Baby Boomers. Can you see our AARP cards in our pockets? I’m 65 and Mark is 64. Here is a definition of Seniors in the US:

Senior Citizens

Elderly persons, usually more than sixty or sixty-five years of age.

People in the United States who are more than sixty years of age are commonly referred to as senior citizens or seniors. These terms refer to people whose stage in life is generally called old age, though there is no precise way to identify the final stage of a normal life span. People are said to be senior citizens when they reach the age of sixty or sixty-five because those are the ages at which most people retire from the workforce.

YIKES!!! Old age-NO Way! However, if you are like Mark and me, or have parents/family in our age range, you are probably right in the sweet spot of Seniors who wish technology was a bit easier and more simplified. Remembering to change log-in’s for both personal and work online sites is a pain and hard to remember. Amazon? Burpee’s Seeds? Best Buy? Nordstrom’s? Macy’s? Starbucks? Try asking them (yourself) the following:

  • Do you really use your birthday as a password?
  • So do you really store all your passwords in your contacts so anyone can find them if you lose your phone?
  • How many times do you change your password during the year?
  • WHO called you saying they were from Microsoft and wanted your credit card information? (NOTE: Microsoft NEVER calls and asks for personal information).
  • How much personal information are you putting on Facebook (like “we’ll be in Europe for 3 weeks so anyone can come and rob our house)?

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Now let’s focus on the upcoming generations. Here’s our daughter Stephanie and her friend Eugene. Smart kids, the best education, in Medical School (ask me about that—got an hour? 🙂 🙂 🙂 ). I’ve never seen anyone type so fast—fingers flying on phones, tablets, keyboards. They’ll be using these skills in the health care field for telemedicine, 3D surgery, etc. Generation Y growing up pretty much online but still with a sense of awareness of online predators. Engage your Generation X and Y kids and encourage them to remember not everyone started with the technology baseline they have….encourage them to help their family members navigate through online safety resources. They have the mentality of adults combined with the familiarity of technology. Great combination!

WP_20130526_002Finally, in our family album, my nephew Jonathan and the amazing Lily and on the beach in New Buffalo, Michigan. Lily is Generation Z, the latest generation to be born. Born into a society where information, education, entertainment, and everything else, is just a click away, they are certainly living in the information age with technology that just a few years ago was unthinkable. Generation Z is knowledgeable, competitive, and embraces technology. Lily is growing up with the benefits of time-saving technology like Windows “Hello”. Windows Hello is a more personal way to sign in to your Windows 10 devices with just a look or a touch. You’ll get enterprise-grade security without having to type in a password. Lily won’t have to struggle to remember passwords—the technology will recognize her as a unique person (which she is indeed). We cannot wait to see what this generation will bring. We just hope that as Lily grows up, she’ll remember her time on the beach with Uncle Mark and Aunt Shelley and help us navigate our way through online safety as Cyber-Seniors.

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Shelley Stern Grach

They say that great work stems from a combination of passion and commitment, something that Shelley certainly possesses when it comes to her life and career. She currently serves on the boards of the Women’s Business Development Center, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Thrive Chicago, Year Up and LISC Chicago. At Microsoft Chicago, she’s the Director of Civic Engagement, working at the intersection of computing and community, promoting STEM programs and using Microsoft technology to spur growth in the community. So no matter if it's work, play, or giving back, Shelley always makes sure her drive and professionalism help her complete her life's goals.