• Mary K. Armstrong

Seniors and Cell Phones

Two senior ladies laugh at something on one of their phones.

Oh no! Where’s my cell phone? What if I’ve lost it? It’s not just a phone. It’s also my address book, my telephone book and my list of notes to myself. It’s my camera and my photo album. My phone is an easy-to-read clock, a calculator and a compass. The list goes on to include dozens of other useful functions, like telling me what sort of weather to expect.

In today’s world when COVID-19 lurks in the shadows, it’s more important than ever to be connected to other humans, especially when we’re in isolation. Cell phones are a great way of maintaining contact with friends without risking contamination. With a cell phone you can actually see your friends or family on applications like Facetime.

Do you know that there are phones designed especially for seniors? You’ll find them under the heading of 'Senior Specific Carriers'. Some of these phones are simple, like phones in 'the old days'. These are voice-only phones. Then there are phones with high quality sound for seniors who have trouble hearing. Big screen phones make it easier for people whose vision is compromised. There’s even a phone for those who need health monitoring. Users can benefit from an urgent response button with 24/7 access to nurses and medical alert devices.

Computers give us the next best thing to actually being with friends and family during the pandemic. Programmes like Zoom allow us to see and hear loved ones on a distant computer. Imagine joining family for dinner or reading a bedtime story to your grandchild thanks to your computer’s Zoom program.

Are computers good for seniors’ quality of life? That was the subject of a study I came across. Here are some of the results:

Changes in their scores were tracked over time. Internet use decreased loneliness and depression significantly, while perceived social support and self-esteem increased significantly. The research makes a strong case for learning internet skills as a way of defending against loneliness during the pandemic. It’s well worth learning as much as we can to increase our sense of connectedness.

If I’m upset when my phone is lost, It’s even worse when my computer malfunctions. With the pandemic demanding social distancing, internet programs like Zoom and Facetime allow us to connect with other humans, providing some of the closeness that’s so important for our wellbeing and almost impossible to achieve during the pandemic.

At this point, I need to give a word of caution. Although Facebook and similar programs can be an excellent way of reaching out to other humans, there are risks. We seniors came of age in a world where there was less opportunity to steal our identity or use the confidential information on our computers to steal from us. Once we go online and download Facebook and other applications, our confidential information could be available to those who use their technical smarts to access our passwords, for instance. Let’s face it: we can be gullible. Scammers count on that and assume seniors will be careless with personal information. That means we need to guard our passwords well and be suspicious about phone calls from people we don’t know personally.

Some days I get as many as six phone calls from these technical thieves who want to trick me into paying them to “fix” my computer or send me the refund I’d forgotten was coming to me. Of course, in order to help me, they need my confidential information.

Let’s learn as much as we can about the wonders of cell phones, email, Face Book and Zoom while remaining vigilant about protecting our passwords and questioning strangers who want to “help” us.


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