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Making Technology Work for You At Any Age: From a Flip Phone to an iPhone at 76

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

The Short Story

Technology is demanding. It demands our attention, time, energy and money. It’s hard to keep up with it all - the latest, greatest gizmos and aps that are meant to make our lives efficient and easier. 

For seniors, it’s even harder. I’m sure, in the case of my client that I’m profiling here, she got a few eye rolls from her grandchildren looking at her flip phone a few years ago. (Little do they know, being a Trekkie geek that I am, the flip phone concept originated on Star Trek in the 1960‘s - they were called “communicators”. This inspired Motorola to name their first flip phone in 1996 “StarTAC”). Elizabeth’s flip phone was really used for security while running around, a “just-in-case” solution. No one really had the phone number. But fast-forward to present day, she is texting and face-timing her grandchildren with the iPhone 6. Not only did technology allow her new ways to communicate with her family, it provided her with a whole system to centralize and locate all the contacts she needs at her fingertips.

The Challenge

When I started working with Elizabeth a few years ago, she had a long list of projects to tackle on many different fronts: purging and sorting, home office organizing, household maintenance and repairs and more. As I continued to work with her it became apparent to me that her social life, keeping in touch with people locally, across the country and overseas were a big part of her life. Her landline was often ringing, she had an impressive social calendar and a regular feed of emails that I would have a hard time keeping up with!

Finding phone numbers and addresses were a challenge though. A lot of it was paper based, not easily accessible, and when she travelled it was difficult to keep track of the necessary information that needed to be mobile. Because of the ways her information collecting had changed over the years, from address books, to emails, some digital contacts on her laptop and other methods, there was no centralized way to keep track of it all.

The Solution

Enter, stage right, the iPhone. This was the solution to all her problems. We could centralize all her contacts in one location and also sync it to her laptop and to her new iPad. There were many benefits to moving Elizabeth to a smart phone, some of which continue to be revealed. She is now texting, calling, face-timing and emailing from her phone all the time, in fact, I would say it’s her primary tool for all of this. It is with her all the time. 

There was effort involved to database all of her contacts. It took some time and we thoroughly went through numerous sources including address books, loose pieces of paper, old emails and new emails to verify information, looking people up online and more. It wasn’t just about centralizing all of her contact info. It was about using a piece of technology to make Elizabeth’s life easier. 

A few examples of things we did:

*We created groups based on location - i.e., all her friends in Florida while she is visiting so if she searches by “Florida” on her phone they all appear

*A group was created for emergency and medical contacts

*As she planned her daughter’s wedding reception it was easy to create lists for invitations based on all the family members and friends we had entered

*A Home Repair and Maintenance group was created to make it easy to find trades as needed

*Elizabeth now uses her cell phone more than her land line as it’s easy to find phone numbers simply searching by name or other identifiers that were created

*Travelling often, the iPhone is now a lightweight mobile source for her to maintain communication by email, text and calling - a tool that never existed for her in the past

*Keeping in touch with all of her friends and family is now just naturally easier - an important facet for any senior - this shouldn’t be difficult for people and technology has made it easier!

*All this info is synced to a laptop, iPad and iPhone giving her versatility

*When needed, she can also refer to a fully printed list of all contacts in address book form

*Keeping track of Christmas cards is now a snap - as groups are created to respond to

Now Onto Netflix! (Appendix Jan. 2017)

Her grandchildren were so excited about her getting Apple TV and Netflix at Christmas that they whizzed through the setup in a blur and waved around the remote like it was a sparkler on Canada Day trying to tell Elizabeth how it all worked. Sounds exhausting. She is now successfully binge watching though, like the rest of us. 

WHAT THE CLIENT SAID “There was a point when I knew that updating my phone was necessary. I never really looked at it as something I would use regularly. When Kathleen took me to the Apple store, there was no going back! With Kathleen’s encouragement, and efforts in helping me organize what seemed like countless piles of addresses, numbers, email addresses I now have access to everything I need at my fingertips. Hurray!”

- Elizabeth

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