Shopping with Gran
I went shopping with my grandmother today. We were looking to buy her a mobile phone; mainly for emergencies or inconveniences. Her home phone has been on the blink fairly regularly over the last fortnight. Even though it should be fixed now it seemed better that she have a mobile and not need it, than not have one and feel isolated and helpless.
The process of looking and explaining the costs was a bit difficult. I knew it would be. There’s no reason for someone who’s probably never even held a mobile phone to know how networks work. In the end it looked like a choice between a pre-paid Nokia or Samsung: the simplest phones we could find. We got the Samsung because the contrast of the numbers on the keys was much better (better visibility).
I’ve got to say, there should be better plans for infrequent phone users. The best I could find was Optus and Virgin, whose pre-paid credit can last up to 6 months or a year.
Plugging it in
Once we got it home and I tried to teach Gran the basics of using the phone it turned out to be more difficult than I’d anticipated. Not through any fault of myself or Gran, but through the design of this “simple” phone (and all phones I suppose). It relies on a lot of memory and intuition; things that someone unfamiliar with cell phones just wouldn’t have. I wrote down some of the key things: turning it on and off, finding a contact and calling them.
I hope she’s brave and practices using the phone while I’m away. I was disappointed that finding contacts on the Samsung wasn’t as simple as I remember it being on the Nokia. If only we could have played with the menus of the phones in the shop, not just the keys!
An unmarketed area
I also hope that she doesn’t get too frustrated with it. When I was explaining things (and repeating things) she would say, “You must think I’m thick…” or “Sorry, I must be dumb.” I insisted that she wasn’t and I’m a bit angry that technology is leaving people behind and making them feel stupid. It’s basic biology that the ability to learn decreases with age, why can’t such an “advanced” society accommodate that?!
What elderly people need is a phone with numbers and keys that they can see, that makes calls… that’s it really. Heck, as this article points out it’s not only elderly people that want those things.
Phones for the elderly
There are some phones that make an attempt to accommodate ageing eyes and fingers.
Jitterbug isn’t just a phone, it’s a simple handset with a helpful service. From what I can see this handset is getting pretty close to perfect for my gran. All she needs is to make and receive calls.
I think she also needs to be able to store numbers in her phone. It’s no good if her car breaks down and she can’t remember any numbers!
In a way I wish this phone wasn’t a full service, then we might be able to use it in Australia!
I think the Emporia Life is excellent. It looks like it’s a sliding phone, which I thought Gran wouldn’t be able to operate with arthritis, but she quite liked them at the shops today.
Avec mobile has a good review/summary of this phone. Personally, I think this phone is pretty sweet for what it is, it could easily be marketed to more than the elderly. My dad is always saying that he wants a phone, not a toy.
The LG phone for the elderly isn’t perfect, but they’re trying. They get lots of points in my book!
They would have done well to make the call/hang up buttons more distinctive. The letters and symbols on the keys are still a bit complicated, but overall it’s better than all the current market phones.
The Japanese one
Well, it’s distributed by TU-KA, made by Kyocera and not much good to anyone outside Japan, but it’s a start.
It doesn’t seem to store numbers, but I saw one picture where it had a sliding thing with numbers written down on it!
Doromobile have a couple of easy to handle phones.
I’m not sure if the A,B,C,D buttons are too simple and condescending, or too difficult because you have to remember what’s programmed into them…
I still love my phone, computer and all my electronic toys, but I think there should be more of this simplicity for those who don’t. Do you?