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Dive into the Digital Age!

Man and a woman outside, smiling while on a tablet

Sometimes it feels as if we are all being pushed into using the internet for things we would prefer to do face to face, or by good old-fashioned Royal Mail. For many park home residents using the internet is a daunting prospect, and fears of online fraud don’t exactly fill us all with confidence. Nevertheless, the benefits almost certainly outweigh the dangers, and with more and more offers and services being provided exclusively by websites and applications known as “apps”, there is no better time to dive in and discover the wonders of the online world.

After all, once upon a time, we all thought we could live without mobile phones, colour TV, dishwashers and satellite navigation. Today, there are life-enhancing, time and money saving options that were unheard of, only a few years ago – all of them accessed through websites and easy-to-use applications, accessed through laptops, tablets and mobile smart phones.

“You don’t have to be smart to use a smart phone – apps are your passport to a whole new world of information, help and quality of life”

In association with Barton Group here are some ideas on how to use some of these fantastic ideas to make life that little bit better. Why not take some first steps towards making more of the internet – you may never look back.

The smart revolution

 You may have noticed the word “smart” being added onto everyday appliances? Suddenly as well as smart phones, there are smart TVs, smart meters, smart security devices and even smart fridges. What this means is that devices that are equipped with sensors and communications, that allow them to be monitored and controlled from a distance.

For example, you can monitor weather outside your home and the indoor temperature, and then set your heating to come on or go off accordingly – even when you are on holiday!

Smart meters tell you how much energy you are using and then help you to keep those bills down. Meanwhile, smart TVs bring all the best features of the internet straight on to the TV – imagine viewing your favourite family photographs in high definition on your flat screen TV!

The age of the app

Apps are like super-simplified mini websites that you open on your smart phone or computer by clicking their icon or logo. They are designed to work quickly and simply – helping with an amazing array of day-to-day tasks and activities.

For example, watching old TV programmes on “catch up”, storing and retouching photographs, downloading music, or storing train and airline tickets.

There are apps that help you sleep, track activities like walking and cycling, and there are apps for weather forecasts, train times and booking travel tickets. All available on your phone, 24 hours a day, wherever you are.

The beauty is that everything is available whatever you are doing and all in one place.

Turn your phone, laptop or tablet into a fantastic entertainment centre

All the major TV and radio stations have free apps that allow you to listen to or watch programmes that you may have missed. The BBC also has a huge archive of TV and radio shows from decades ago. Fancy listening to Jimmy Clitheroe or the Goon Show again? Want to catch up on Emmerdale – it’s all there on the apps. Just download BBC iPlayer or Channel 4’s All 4.

If you love a certain broadcaster then why not look out for their podcasts – special short programmes made especially to be downloaded and listened to whenever it suits you. Podcasts come in all forms from comedy to history and cooking to documentaries.

A library at your fingertips

Love reading? – well, sometimes an audiobook can bring a book to life, and guess what, there are apps that allow you to download your favourites, often voiced by well-known actors – perfect for long journeys.

Health apps – help with sleep, diet, diabetes and much, much more

According to silversurfers.com, a survey by Aviva Health Insurance found that up to 38% of UK adults or some 20 million people – are not getting enough sleep. So, they suggest “Sleep Cycle (sleepcycle.com) an intelligent alarm clock which analyses your sleep patterns so it can wake you up during the lightest sleep phase, which is the natural waking point. Simply place your phone by your bed and Sleep Cycle will do the rest – monitoring your bedtime movements to track your sleep patterns. In the morning, you’ll get a full report of how well you slept, with handy graphs illustrating how alcohol and other lifestyle factors can affect your slumber”.

Meanwhile, diabetes.co.uk has this to say about two of the most popular apps designed to help diabetes sufferers. “The Dexcom Share and Follow apps use a secure wireless Bluetooth connection to transmit blood glucose information, alleviating the need to finger prick. Blood test results can be shared in real-time with other people, such as doctors”.

Diabetes PA is one of the only diabetes management apps in which blood glucose levels can be tracked in comparison to your mood. HbA1c, BMI and cholesterol can all be monitored as well, with the app’s master graph enabling you to choose which aspects you want to compare.”

Or what about waterlogged.com. This app lets you set your daily goal for water consumption and then log how many glasses you drink per day. It also has an alert feature that can buzz you every time you need a top up.

Going abroad need help with the lingo? HelloTalk is an app designed to help you with learning and practicing a new language. Looking for someone to share your life with? Dare we say, you may find that special someone on a dating app.

If you like dabbling in stocks and shares there are numerous apps that will let you set up a Watchlist of shares that you can monitor without taking any financial risk – try StockTwits or Motley Fool.

There are apps for anglers, apps that track tides, apps that track every flight in the sky – beware some are addictive – take a look at FlightRadar and you can identify the plane overhead – even where it’s going!

So, you see, there truly is an app for everything.

Where to find all these wonderful apps

 You should be able to find something called an “App Store” on your device. If it’s not easy to see then ask a friend or family member to help you find it. Many apps are free – but do beware of signing up for a free trial that turns into a regular commitment. You will also be asked to create an account but this usually only needs an email and password – no money.

Tips for staying safe online

One of the reasons people resist tapping into the world of websites and smart devices is the fear of having their data or financial security put at risk. Although many of the apps we have discussed will not hold sensitive data, remember to follow the golden rules:

  • Make sure your passwords are strong ones and never use obvious things like your name and date of birth.
  • Do not disclose passwords to anyone.
  • Do not open emails and especially attachments unless you recognize who it is from.
  • If you receive a call or email about personal finance or pension matters do not give any personal details or passwords to the caller. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is! Take the number and say you will call back. If you are suspicious report the call.

You can report fraud, cybercrime, online scams or viruses through Action Fraud’s online reporting tool or by ringing up 0300 123 2040.

So go ahead, dive in and don’t be afraid to try out the latest entertainment and apps, all at your fingertips.

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