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.

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 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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