Q: I seem to have to create a password for everything I do online these days. Is it all right to use the same password for all of my accounts, or should I try to come up with different passwords? If I do that, then how do I remember what all of them are?

—HP

Answer: The internet has become a fixture in the lives of most of us. We have email and social media accounts; we’ve downloaded numerous phone apps; and we go online to do our banking and shopping. While this makes going about our daily business easier and more time efficient, it also has the potential of putting our most important personal and financial information at risk, which is why creating safe and unique passwords is so important.

Although having the same password for multiple accounts may make it easier for you to remember your password and help you save time, it can also put you at an increased risk. If someone were to hack into one of your online accounts or learn your password through some other means, all of your other accounts that share the same password would be more easily compromised. With so much sensitive information accessible on the internet, it makes sense to use different passwords for each different account in order to protect that information from hackers and other bad actors.

In addition to having a variety of passwords, it is also important to have strong passwords. The strongest passwords are often ones that have a special meaning to you and would not necessarily be easy for others to guess. For example, instead of using common phrases or numbers such as password or 123456, adapt personal information, such as your birthday or address, in a way that is memorable but not necessarily predictable.

Your passwords, ideally, should be at least eight characters long and utilize a combination of numbers, letters and special characters, such as exclamation points or pound signs. Replacing letters in your password with other characters can add another layer of protection. For example, the letter a within your password could be replaced with the @ symbol, or a $ could be substituted in place of an s. Using a unique grouping of words specific to you personally can be helpful. Something like Outerbank$@mary’s! may be easy to recall, but it’s a strong password, nonetheless. If you prefer to have a password created for you, there are websites — roboform.com/password-generator is one example — that will automatically create a password from random strings of characters for you to use. This method makes it even more difficult for your information to be stolen.

Sometimes the hardest part of having strong, safe passwords is remembering them once they’ve been created, especially for sites you may not visit often. One way to organize your passwords is simply by writing all of them down on paper. This is a low-tech option that offers protection for hackers and others who may try to trick you into sharing your password online. If you choose to write your passwords down on paper, for added security you should consider using as little information as possible to identify which account they go to. Instead of writing Bank of America, just write “B” or if your email is a gmail account just use the letter “e” then the password. It is essential to store this information in a safe and secure place — somewhere that others are not likely to see it — perhaps inside a cabinet that only you have access to or a hidden place in your home. You would not want to keep it in a place that is easily visible near your computer, for instance. There are online programs, like lastpass.com/hp, that can also organize and safely store your passwords for you. And there are websites that can both create strong passwords for you and provide secure storage for them. One such website is passwordsgenerator.net.

If you feel you need assistance as you get started using your computer passwords, there are local agencies that can help. Technology training courses are available locally through organizations such as The Adaptables, Inc., in Winston-Salem, which can be reached at 336-767-7060 or by visiting theadaptables.org. The Shepherd’s Center of Greater Winston-Salem is also a great resource for technology assistance. It offers computer coaches for seniors and can be contacted at 336-748-0217 or through its website, shepherdscenter.org.

Q: Is there really such a holiday as Grandparents Day? Can you tell me more about it?

—PM

Answer: There is a National Grandparents Day, and it falls on the first Sunday after Labor Day, which, this year, will be Sept. 8. It even has an official flower, the forget-me-not, and song, Johnny Prill’s “A Song for Grandma and Grandpa,” both of which were chosen by the National Grandparents Day Council.

The history of Grandparents Day goes back to 1970, when West Virginian Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, with the support of her husband, Joseph L. McQuade, began a campaign to establish a special day for recognizing grandparents, which the McQuades indeed were — 43 times over! They were married more than 60 years and had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild!

Recognized as the founder of National Grandparents Day, Mrs. McQuade saw her efforts come to fruition with the proclamation of the first Grandparents Day in 1973. Five years later, in 1978, the United States Congress passed legislation proclaiming the first Sunday after Labor Day as National Grandparents Day. A presidential proclamation was signed by President Carter, and thus began the observation of this holiday. During his years in office, President Obama issued presidential proclamations calling on Americans to “honor those who have helped shape the character of our nation, and thank these role models for their immeasurable acts of love, care, and understanding.”

Grandparents Day was established to serve three purposes, according to the statute establishing the holiday. These are “to honor grandparents, to give grandparents the opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of the strength, information and guidance older people can offer.”

National Grandparents Day is an official marker of the importance of intergenerational relationships. Increasingly, schools and community groups are organizing Grandparents Day (or Intergenerational Day) events at different times throughout the year as a way to bring together families and build community. Such events provide a great opportunity for children to show their appreciation and love toward their grandparents (and other special older adult friends), and for grandparents to feel valued as their role in the family receives validation.

Grandparents Day can be celebrated in many different ways. For example, some schools mark the occasion by having grandparents visit their grandchildren’s classes, and some national parks even recognize the day by scheduling events in honor of grandparents. Handwritten notes, cards and phone calls are great ways for grandparents and grandchildren to celebrate each other on Grandparents Day. The best way, though, may simply be spending time together when proximity makes that possible. To find out what events are available locally for grandparents and grandchildren to enjoy together, see visitwinstonsalem.com/events.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email agewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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