Smartphones Aren’t for Seniors

By S. Scorpion

I have never been tech-savvy. But neither am I a Luddite. And least of all do I want to think of myself as “old,” dammit. But my recent experience with a new mobile phone has caused me to reaffirm the first, entertain the second and confess the third. I’m an old Luddite.

The new phone is the latest in a line going back to my first in November 2000. Always a late adopter—call me Tepid Techie—I’d bought my first under duress. I was covering the Florida 2000 Recount for a foreign wire service, with regular, instant communication a necessity. Pay phones would no longer do.

That base model—phone and text only—served me well enough, and I stood by its meager technology. The smartphone was born, evolved and marketed to high heaven but I just wasn’t interested. I had information overload as it was, and the thought of Google and Gmail and Facebook in my pocket… Get thee behind me, Siri.

It was money that finally made me “trade up.” Tired of excessive monthly charges, a I recently switched to a discount-rate carrier. With the switch came a new phone – a smart one, app’d up the wazoo and Internet-ready.

I hate it with a fierce, soul-souring loathing. If I could, I’d organize a lynch mob and string the damn thing up.

Okay, I can ignore the bells and whistles. I just don’t use them. And while the service can be erratic, I can live with it.

I look at the stylus and think ‘walker.’ It’s a virtual walker for old folks, and I see myself reduced to hunting and pecking, like the three ages of keyboard man: innocently pre-digital, robustly Web-enabled, hobbling off into the sunset with a stylus and a cane.

It’s that damned qwerty keyboard. I know it’s supposed to be a timesaver, easier to use and intuitive. I’ve watched my offspring, in their 20s now, happily qwertified, two thumbs texting in a blur. For me, though, it’s impossible. Frustrating. The keys are just too damned small, the options—upper case, lower case, alternate symbol, number – too many. And who’s going to help me convert to qwerty when I want to dial a number that’s number-number-number-W-O-R-D? Huh?

So I go to the store to see about trading back down to the older, simpler model. The clerk – 20-something, goateed, horn-rimmed glasses,  asymmetrical haircut – gives me the fisheye, then a look full of pity. Such relics, he explains (I’m sure he meant the retro-style phone, not me) are hard to find. The only such phone in stock is a cheesy off-brand that looks like it was manufactured in some Baluchistan warlord’s sweatshop. I pass.

There’s a hot new 4G thing on sale, the clerk explains, just come in and so up to date it’s living in the future. A qwerty keyboard still, but on a touchscreen, with keys larger than my current phone’s. He fires it up and I take a test run on the board. No luck. Every third letter I’m off the mark and keying wrong letters.

The clerk touts the new phone. Look how much music I can download and store! The quality of the vid screen, the super high resolution! I have Gmail?! High quality photos ready to go and forward as attachments to all my contacts! To all my FB friends! Check my bank account and pay bills automatically on time every month!

I’m getting dizzy.

Uh, kid? I don’t care about all that. Don’t want all that. Music? I think it died and went to heaven when The Clash broke up. Gmail? I’m a damned addict at home as it is. Pictures? Pictures!?  I just want to make phone calls, dammit, and maybe text with some ease—even if that means the repeated tap-tap-tap required on the standard keyboard. A hassle, yes, but I’m used to it.

I’m ready to go, resigned to endure with my current, much-loathed phone. But as a last resort, with a final, patronizing twist of the sales pitch, hipster clerk reaches down to a shelf behind him and comes back up blazoning a stylus. You really having all that trouble picking out the keys on qwerty, he says? Here’s a handy-dandy little device designed especially for folks with your difficulty. (The “old” folks with your “impairment” is the unspoken subtext.)

I look at the stylus and think “walker.” It’s a virtual walker for old folks, and I see myself reduced to hunting and pecking, like the three ages of keyboard man: innocently pre-digital, robustly Web-enabled, hobbling off into the sunset with a stylus and a cane.

The upshot? I’m still with the phone-from-hell. And I’m thinking seriously about the phone my mother uses—my  mother in her late ’80s living in the senior community, and her Swedish-made phone with the oversize keypad and a grand total of about ten functions. She loves it.

Are you a luddite? Let’s hear it in the comments box below.

photo: © Waymoreawesomer | Dreamstime.com

1 comment
  • keystone050
    REPLY

    I lasted about 3 months on a hand-me-down i-phone; then it self-destructed. I was so happy to go back to my 5 year old Razr phone. No apps, no special carrying case, fits in my shirt pocket, no glass to break. I can wait until I get home to check my email, I don’t twit, and Facebook is an invasion of privacy. Good riddance! I have a few older ones that ought to still work when the Razr gives out.

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