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Feeling Naked

Richard Quinn

I BEGAN WRITING this article after reading a Facebook group’s page filled with derogatory comments about seniors and technology. The comments related to seniors’ inability to use a smartphone. Talk about stereotyping. The fact is, some of us seniors are addicted to technology—at least the nontechnical part.

For example, I recently went shopping and forgot something vital. No, I had my face mask. What I was missing was my smartphone. Smart is an appropriate word because, without it, I quickly learned how smart it was and how dependent I’ve become.

My first stop was the ATM. My debit card is in my iPhone’s wallet. Usually, it’s two clicks and face recognition. Not this time.

After leaving the ATM in frustration, I needed a cup of coffee. That didn’t happen, either. My Starbucks payment app is on my iPhone, so I stayed java-less. I also missed out on my Starbucks reward stars.

On to the supermarket. I froze when I entered, remembering that my shopping list was an app. And not just the list. My frequent shopper card with digital coupons was on the iPhone, too. What discounts did I miss? I usually pay by holding my iPhone near the scanner. Now, I was reduced to inserting a credit card at checkout. Oh my—I lost points toward my free holiday ham, too.

The absence of my iPhone was a financial disaster. It’s no longer your wallet that you should fear losing, but your smartphone, for which you may have paid $1,000, which is no doubt more than your wallet cost—and probably far more than the cash it contains.

Without my iPhone, the problems go well beyond the basics of shopping. I can’t check my lottery tickets. My health care reimbursement account has an app where I can file a claim, check my balance and more.

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I manage my 401(k) and my other investments through apps on my phone. Without my phone, I can’t check my watchlist on Bloomberg—which, of course, I shouldn’t be doing three times a day. And I text money to people using my bank app.

Is it worth making a trip to the mailbox? The USPS Informed Delivery app lets me see photos of what’s in my mail. Today, I’ll have to walk to the box and look. My iPhone also tells me how far I’ve walked. With no iPhone, I’m getting no credit for those steps.

Was my wife ready to be picked up from her meeting? I’ll just send her a text… or maybe not. Worst of all, while waiting for my wife, I usually watch shows on Britbox. No iPhone, no Mrs. Brown’s Boys. Crisis.

Following this bout of iPhone frustration, I decided on a backup. I got an Apple Watch. A flip of the wrist and I can learn how the phone-less stress has affected my heart rate. It records my steps, too. I’m never out of touch. News alerts, message alerts, e-mail, phone calls—even my Starbucks app is on my wrist. It’s not all good, though. I quickly learn that many of the watch functions only work if my iPhone is nearby.

I’ve thought long and hard about this technology stuff. I see no excuse for not embracing it and using every techie function to make life easier—and fun—for us seniors.

My conclusion: The problem we have is not knowing how to use the iPhone or Apple Watch. The problem is remembering to charge them—and where you last left them.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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DrLefty
DrLefty
5 days ago

I treated myself this summer to a new iPhone 12 Pro (I’d been back on iPhone 7) and then for my birthday in August, to my first Apple Watch. Of course, Apple promptly rolled out new versions of both in September. But oh, well. I don’t need to always have the latest.

I’m loving my Apple Watch so far. I’ve gotten much more into fitness and steps and have gotten addicted to closing all my rings everyday. Plus I can decline phone calls from my wrist when my watch announces that “Spam Risk” is calling!

Chazooo
Chazooo
5 days ago

Just remember the words of the paranoid philosopher Whome, the more you digitize your life, the easier you are to control, and don’t ever think there is nobody that wants to do such a thing.

Ronald Wayne
Ronald Wayne
9 days ago

You are high-tech indeed! I’m 65 and I must admit to being a Luddite. I still have an iPhone 6s, which Apple replaced for $150 early last year after the battery in the first one began to constantly drain. I’m happy being low-tech, which is another reason I was OK with recently purchasing a 2020 vehicle that didn’t have all the bells and whistles. Fortunately, I have grown children to rely upon for tech advice if I’m desperate!

Bob Wilmes
Bob Wilmes
10 days ago

It’s ironic that the father of the iPhone – Steve Jobs – was born in February of 1955, making him eligible for full Social Security retirement at age 66 years and 2 months. I hope his widow and children filed for his benefits.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
10 days ago

I also wanted to add a comment about older people picking up technology. I really don’t think we’re that much slower. It’s just that we mostly demand the technology actively improve our productivity before we give it the attention needed to use it effectively. I’ve seen this at work, and neither I nor my experienced co-workers dive into every new piece of software, social or not, when it first is made available. A new form of email was in my view counterproductive and I’ve stayed with the original software (both work.) However, our IM and Conferencing Apps/Software are great and I was quick to adopt and utilize them effectively.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
10 days ago

I am also in the Apple universe, mostly to make my family happy with tech that integrates well. Plus I got a free apple watch from my employer (years of service), which has actually been very helpful when my aged parents called, as I use it when I run or when I’m at a social occasion (the taptic is great when it’s so loud you can barely hear anything. I can always not answer if it doesn’t appear to be an urgent call, but again, I’ve had incoming from my parents in that situation.) Being able to take a short call in the middle of nowhere when caught without your phone or unable to hear it is a really nice thing. I do also have lists of many sorts on the phone, including grocery.

Much as I like this convenience, I’ve avoided connecting my credit card to the iphone wallet app. I do have one app with 2-step authentication in place which grants access to an otherwise private part of my life. I generally avoid using but it’s there in case I need it. I’m hesitant to do any more than that on my phone, for security reasons.

Glenn Johnson
Glenn Johnson
10 days ago

I fully retired last December after working 50+ years in IT. I am quite happy using my iMac to handle all of my computer needs. Outside the house, however, I simply use written notes when I go to the store. Most of the time, however, I am with my wife, who does have an Android smartphone. If we need to do something online while on the road, she does it. I do have an old G3 prepaid phone which I carry with me for emergencies, and I probably only use it 10 times a year, usually to call from the grocery store with a question for the wife. Unfortunately, the G3 phone will no longer be supported by ATT in a few months.

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
10 days ago

Seems Apple has sucked you into their ecosystem. Though I do like my (inherited) iPad.

parkslope
parkslope
10 days ago

I used to find myself more likely to leave home without my wallet than without my wallet. This problem was solved when Apple brought out the MagSafe wallet which is compatible with the iPhone 12 and 13. This year’s version has Find My which could be of help in locating a misplaced wallet.

OUTinMinnesota
OUTinMinnesota
10 days ago

In a busy parking lot, as we locked the car doors, my spouse called over to me asking if I’d locked the laptop in the trunk. I answered: “Yes, right next to the bag of diamonds”. He got the point and we both had a good laugh.

The premise for an article about seniors & tech is good. But as a retired CISSP, it makes me cringe that the author’s phone number has now been identified as a potential target – either for theft or for SIM-swap.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 days ago
Reply to  OUTinMinnesota

Could you explain?

OUTinMinnesota
OUTinMinnesota
10 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Glad to.

The article self-discloses that your phone has been set up to function as a set of keys capable of granting access to:

  • your ATM account
  • your Starbucks payment app
  • the digital wallet you use at the grocery store
  • your 401(k)

However, You are not the only person who knows:

  • your telephone number
  • your name
  • your address.

Do you need additional explanation about why this article has potentially placed a bullseye on your phone and/or phone number?

David Powell
David Powell
10 days ago

With iOS 15 you can get an alert on your new watch if you’ve left home without your phone.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
10 days ago

I spent thirty years employed as a techie – a very techie techie – and I use my smart phone very little because I value my privacy. I find it no hardship to write a shopping list on paper and pay with a credit card (I haven’t used an ATM in ages because I don’t need cash). I do not succumb to incentives to hand data about me over to apps.

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 days ago
Reply to  mytimetotravel

A valid point, of course, but I don’t care who knows if a buy chopped koby beef or chopped liver. I just like the convenience and at times being able to find a person is helpful.

Ormode
Ormode
10 days ago

Nowadays, retirees include experienced C++ and Java programmers, and old Unix sysadmins. These guys built the technology that the young people are now using.

parkslope
parkslope
10 days ago
Reply to  Ormode

The college students I used to teach were definitely more facile with social media than I ever could ever care to be. However, most of them were seriously deficient when it came to using software for academic reasons. The only exception to this was that many were willing to learn how to design flashy PowerPoint presentations. Their Excel and SPSS skills were very rudimentary and trying to teach them how to do intelligent database searches to research topics was very frustrating as most of them thought they could find everything they needed on Wikipedia.

OUTinMinnesota
OUTinMinnesota
10 days ago
Reply to  parkslope

Statistimacal analysis is hard.

: )

R Quinn
R Quinn
10 days ago

Yikes, I forgot to mention my even greater addiction to my iPad. I gave up a laptop years ago. Instead my iPad is my near constant companion – as I write this at seven AM and was working on a new article since 6:00 AM

Tested positive for COVID last Friday and now I’m quarantined – again. That makes three times. But I’m still in touch with the world thanks to SJ.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
10 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I’m in the group that uses a laptop constantly and my smartphone only occasionally. So far so good…

Dick, you’ve tested positive for Covid 3 times? Egads! In any event, hope you have zero symptoms and emerge unscathed from quarantine.

Jeff Long
Jeff Long
10 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Congrats on your technical acuity! One of my most used apps is the “Reminders;” mundane tasks such as clean the central vac system, fertilize the lawn. I also have credit card and banking apps set to notify me of most transactions. I also like the Bluetooth keyboard/case for my iPad.

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