Why Grandma Needs a Smartphone

By Tracey Dowdy:

According to recent research from Pew, a whopping 77 percent of seniors have a mobile phone but only 18 percent of those devices are smartphones. Older generations have traditionally been slower to embrace new technology, whether it’s color TV or microwaves, so it’s no surprise they’ve been content with the most basic phones available.

Back in April of 2012, Pew reported that 59 percent of seniors (65 and older) went online on a regular basis and it’s safe to assume that number has only increased since then. Seniors are becoming more comfortable with technology and the transition from desktop to laptop to mobile device has become less intimidating. Clearly the time has come to connect grandma with a smartphone. Here are some reasons why:

Staying connected

Grandma will love her smartphone for the same reason you love your smartphone: keeping up with friends and family. Seniors often have limited mobility, so getting together in person can be more of an issue than it would be for younger family and friends. On the other hand, some seniors lead a more active lifestyle than past generations, so the ability to connect on-the-go is more important than ever. Think how much grandma will love being able to show that video of her granddaughter’s ballet recital to all her friends at brunch.

Managing health concerns

There are more apps to help keep track of blood pressure, insulin levels and dosage schedules than I could begin to list, as well as pedometers to keep track of all those steps taken while walking the mall. Perhaps no demographic could benefit more from these smartphone apps than seniors. Being able to monitor one’s health and then provide all that information to doctors or caregivers increases the quality of patient care and allows for greater independence. Plus, the lifesaving aspects and the peace of mind they can bring are invaluable.

Enjoying music and entertainment

How much do you love the music on your phone? So how much would grandma love playlists of Sinatra, the Carpenters or Prince? Seriously, grandma’s music taste is as varied as yours and she’ll love having it all right there in the palm of her hand. Plus, think of all the free games – and really, who doesn’t love free – that are available. Soduku, Solitaire, Candy Crush…the options are almost endless. Then there are video apps like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, or just the simple fun of cruising through Facebook albums.

Budgeting and Shopping

Like us, many seniors live on a budget, so apps that can help with planning and paying bills, keeping track of sales, or finding the best price on gas are important. There are apps to create a shopping list that can easily be shared with caregivers and apps to track spending while you shop, making life for those trying to stick to that budget much less stressful.

Choosing a smartphone

Smartphone prices vary significantly but choosing a smartphone doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Choose a device with the options that grandma wants and then choose a plan. Mobile carriers offer more flexibility than ever, so users have more options to customize a plan to best suit their needs. Adding grandma to a family plan that allows for shared talk, text or data can result in even greater savings.

And just like plans aren’t one-size-fits-all, phones aren’t limited to a single style or presentation. Displays can be customized to increase font size, notifications changed to visual display or vibration instead of audio, and for those with limited motor skills that may find typing or using a touch screen challenging, there are apps like Voice Search (Android) or Siri for iPhones.

Once you’ve demonstrated the value of that smartphone, don’t leave grandma in the wind. Take the time to download the apps she’ll need and enjoy, customize the settings to suit her best, and go over the basics like placing calls, accessing her contacts, or how to use the camera. It’s second nature to you, and, with a little bit of help, it will soon be second nature for her too!

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Toronto, ON. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances and researches on subjects from family and education to pop culture and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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