Monday, February 3, 2014

Passwords for Seniors

As a senior I think I am qualified to discuss a serious problem many seniors struggle with everyday.

We cannot remember all our passwords.

And we cannot remember answers to security questions.

We try.

I try to choose security questions for which I know the answers. For instance, the street I lived on when I was eight years old. I lived on the same street from age two until I went to college. My parents lived on the street over 50 years. Easy to remember.

Or the name of my eldest grandchild. Better not forget that. But that does not help the numerous seniors without grandkids.

Sometimes the choice of security questions presents a dilemma with no easily remembered answer. My favorite color changes. I never had a favorite pet - we had a series of cats. I do not remember my favorite childhood story character, probably because I never had one.

Recently I had a Comcast problem and was shut out of my account. The security question dates back over ten years, when the account was initially set up. What is my favorite beverage?  I tried quite a few coffee, water, beer (even though I do not drink any), wine, hot chocolate, soda, diet sodaNever did get the right one. I contacted tech support and they got me into my account. I also changed my security question.

Favorite car? Not a car fan. As long as a car runs I am happy.

Weight on my drivers license. Are they kidding? New Jersey licenses do not have a weight category. I want to know which states do, because I definitely will not move and get a license in that state.

Unfortunately the same password cannot be used for every site. Some require a combination of numbers and letters, some a character such as ? or $. Others require at least one upper case letter. A few websites require changing a password every few months, and the same one cannot be used for a period of time, usually at least a year.

As we age the amount of data stored in our brains increases. At some point brain files bulge and stuff stored gets shoved aside, lands on the file floor, is misfiled, or forgotten.

A new airport rule does not require those over 75 to remove their shoes and other accessories. I propose a similar age exemption for passwords, but I would lower the age. People over 60 should be allowed to use the same password everywhere if they want.

To verify qualifications for the exemption, seniors could list medical problems and request a dispensation from remembering all those passwords. Acceptable reasons might include:

A food-related exemption:
 I can't remember what I had for breakfast, how do you expect me to remember all those passwords?

An age-related exemption:
I can't remember how old I am, how do you expect me to remember a six or eight digit random number?

Lots of seniors will qualify for a sight exemption:
I have enough trouble seeing the keyboard, how do you expect me to hit the correct keys all the time?

And then there is the: I may not be sick but my computer is exemption:
My computer crashed and I lost all my passwords. I do not remember them...

Please, computer geeks of the world, heed our plea and come up with an easy, senior-friendly means of accessing websites.

We will eagerly and gratefully thank you, young computer geeks. And may your golden years be filled with electronics easy to see, easy to access, easy to use, with large numbers and controls, and gadgets rarely changed, upgraded, or obsoleted.

And while you are working on the password problem, how about also doing seniors a favor and place a loud buzzer on remote control devices. The buzzer would ring when accessing a "find remote" button or key or icon on our cell phone.

That will work - as long as we do not misplace both the remote and cell phone at the same time. 


  1. My husband keeps his passwords somewhere on his computer (sketchily hidden, I'll bet) and I have a three-page stapled list that I have folded in a drawer near my computer. I wonder which is more secure?

  2. And, ironically, I hit Sign out by mistake and had to re-enter a password to make my previous comment. ACK!

    1. I've done the same thing, Olga! This happens especially when I'm being too click happy. :-)

  3. If only google would put you in charge!

  4. I can't remember what hapened yesterday, let alone the various passwords, so I have a little booklet and I write them all down (unless I forget to do it, lol). So far, it has worked out pretty well.

  5. I have some kind of password keeper that my son-in-law installed a long time ago. Passwords drive me crazy.

    1. Looks like your embedded comment format is working. :-)

  6. As a student studying computer science, I agree 100%. The current situations with passwords is NOT the correct solution and does not increase security.

    The technology exists to fix this problem. Products have been designed that should reduce the situation in the future.