Retirement Happiness — A New Smartphone

Does having a new smartphone increase retirement happiness? Do we need a cell phone that does more than just make voice calls? Is learning how to use a smartphone essential for survival in the digital age? And how does this relate to retirement happiness?

Last week my husband bought me a new iphone — not the new iphone 6, but an iphone 5 which is smaller and more easily fits into the pocket of my jeans which, since retirement, are my go-to wardrobe staple.

Until then, I was happy with the hand-me-down iphone  that I received from our son a couple of years ago. When he gave it to me, I resisted using the iphone as I hardly use a cell phone. I get a few texts every week and occasionally check email or google maps when away from home.

Mostly the phone is in my pocket, or in my purse or, forgotten on the bathroom vanity where it gets charged. Basic functionality serves my needs.

Secretly though, I am happy with this lovely new, sleek, lime green phone. I have great aspirations for what I will do with it. No doubt my new phone is a complex device with more capacity than I will ever use.

It has power that is greater than the heavy PCs or early laptops I used through most of my career.  Unlike the luggable brick that was my first cell phone, this one is comfortable to hold.  The screen is big enough for easy reading.

I already own a Macbook Pro and an ipad.  All are easy to use — although, I confess to limited mastery  of these wonderful machines.

I struggle with technology but I push myself to use it.  Encumbered with insufficient understanding of the basics, I bravely explore new technology as I consider it essential to stay abreast of changes.  This is about survival in the digital age.

Many Seniors Resist Smart Phones

Although older people state that they are interested in exploring the digital world and many are active on Facebook, smart phones are often resisted.

Cost is perhaps the most common reason for hesitation. Most smart phones come with data plans that range from $80 to $150 Canadian dollars per month. This is too expensive for seniors living on fixed pension incomes.  By using free wifi, it’s possible to get by without a data plan for the smartphone but use of the internet is limited without reliable access.

Seniors also reject smart phones because they find them complicated to use.  The small screens are annoying.  They prefer the larger text on older phone models.

It’s true that decreased manual dexterity makes a touch screen difficult for many older people. I sometimes struggle to get just the right tap on the screen. That’s when a reminder, that small children have similar manual dexterity but  learn quickly to manage a touch screen, is encouragement enough to keep me trying.

Finally, some older people regard smart phones and new technology as time wasters.  They prefer to use precious days in face to face contact with friends and family. I can’t argue with such reasoning except to say that television or idle gossip are also time wasters.

Don’t Be Left Behind

These drawbacks produce a worry that many seniors will be ‘left behind’.  As I write this, I think of a woman at a recent book club meeting, who proudly showed off her old flip phone and told everyone that talking or texting is all she needs. That may be so, but the world changes quickly. How will she cope when her doctor begins seeing patients with e-visits? Doesn’t she want the ease of voice dialling or voice commands or emergency dial buttons?

In January 2014, CBC reported on a poll of over 700 people conducted in 2013. That poll found that a majority of seniors in Canada owned a cell phone but only 13 percent owned a smart phone.  Of smart phone owners,  only 7 percent used their device to connect to the internet.

In the United States, Pew research estimated that in 2014, 25 percent of seniors would own a smart phone.  Their research showed that smart phone usage was on the rise and estimated that, by 2017,  50 percent of seniors will have a smart phone.

Why a Smart Phone?

The digital age will soon bring wearable devices, phablets and e-visits.  The CBC poll information tells us that most seniors still use cell phones to contact someone or to be contacted as in the case for my book club friend.

A big market for smart phones looms within the senior population.  I think of another recently retired friend who gave up her land line but will never give up her smart phone with data, camera availability, messaging, pictures, contacts and apps that she became accustomed to using while still in her career.  She’s a hero and an early adapter among the seniors who will benefit as new advances hit the market.

If we reject participation in the digital age, we risk losing easy contact with children and grand children. Yes, they will still visit and talk with us on the phone but we will be left out of many essential communications from and with them.
How often will a quick text with an attached photo of a grand child be missed? This week I opened a text with an attached photo of my grand daughter climbing the steps for her first day at Montessori school. I know that I would never get a shiny print showing such a milestone or accomplishment but it took only a minute for the photo to be sent to my phone. It brought a smile and a sense of connection to an event that I would have missed.

The social life of the next generation is online — and not just on Facebook but on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Vine.  By rejecting new technology, grand parents will  miss the UTube video of a piano recital, or a goal scored during a soccer game, or the status update from a grand child.  These are the ways that our children and grand children keep their relationships alive.  We need to communicate on their terms, not ours.

To my chagrin, some of this is too much for me.  I’m not planning to use my new phone to play games or to watch movies.  But, it could be used for a quick e-visit with someone who has similar technology.

I don’t want the new world to pass me by as I wait for a smoke signal. That era is gone.  The future world is galloping toward me.


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