I have a good friend who exclaims, “Give me strength!” when she’s faced with a challenging situation. I think that’s a very appropriate response, and lately I’ve been saying it myself. A lot.
When my mom’s old flip phone stopped being dependable, my sisters and I decided to get her a new smart phone. We really did think it it would be easier for her to use than her outdated flip phone, but it turns out that we were wrong. Swiping a screen was a new concept for her, and she either pressed her finger too long and hard or too lightly to be detected. She wasn’t used to typing in a code to unlock her screen, and was completely confused by the myriad of choices that kept popping up on her screen. She couldn’t read the fine print that said “swipe up to answer” but she was drawn to the large “edit contact” button, often pushing it before she tried to make a call. That resulted in my contact information going from “Ann Coleman” to something like”243y Cx9L.”
It wasn’t long before we admitted defeat and got her a newer version of her old flip phone. It’s a bit awkward, but she’s more comfortable with it because most of the buttons are similar to her old phone. She has figured out how to make calls. But the problem with the new phone is the ultra-sensitive volume buttons are on the side of the phone, exactly where she holds it when she uses it. That means she keeps turning the volume off so the phone doesn’t ring when we’re trying to call her.
But as challenging as this whole business has been, the worst part is I believe all this hassle is completely unnecessary. Yes, my mom is 92 and her days of learning complicated new things are over. But she’s been using a phone her whole life and figuring out how to use a new phone shouldn’t be causing her (or me) this much stress. All she wants and needs is a simple device on which to make and receive telephone calls. She has no desire to use her phone to send emails, check the weather, or text. She certainly doesn’t need a phone that can open a garage door (she doesn’t have a garage), pay her bills, or do any of the dozens of other things the various apps on her phone kept offering to do. All those extras do are confuse her, and worse, make her feel old and stupid and a burden on her daughters.
I seriously doubt that my mother is the only person who would prefer to have a simple cell phone that requires no more knowledge to use than the phone number of the person you want to call. So my question is, why is it so hard to find and purchase a phone like that? I’m not advocating doing away with smart phones; I’m just saying they’re not for everybody. Old age is hard enough without struggling to master a complicated new phone. My hope is that someday, those who design new phones will come up with a model aimed at people like my mom. But until that day arrives, all I can say is: “give me strength….”