Difficulties Seniors Face While Using Smartphones

The task of getting my dad, a senior citizen in his 70s, to use a mobile phone has been a gargantuan one. Every other week he calls me from the land phone and asks me about getting the functions to work, most of which are seemingly simple to a younger mind. But to a person his age and with his fidgety fingers he often tends to misdial the contacts and end up apologizing for the mess up. Twice or so he managed to send me a text message as per his intentions but otherwise I get a lot of gibberish alphanumeric messages from his phone as he forgets to lock the keypad when the phone is in his shirt pockets. He uses a basic handset of a popular brand with hard keypad. As I believe he seldom uses it when he is outside and sticks to making calls from local PCO phones.

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With so many smartphones flagships making rounds at the market and their popularity growing by the hour, I wish there was a specialized gadget which would make a senior citizen’s need for telephonic communication easier.Smartphones are good, in the sense they are convenient when you have to browse the internet or play games or watch videos. But touch screens aren’t the most popular choice when it comes to seniors. There is always this confusion about where to touch, how hard or light the touch must be, and for how long it should be. As the age increases the chances of failing eyesight increases too and getting the eyes to focus on parts of the screen gets tremendously difficult. Seniors are often heard saying “Smartphones? Oh I’m not that smart!”, but why?

Gadgets are developed to make human lives easier, not to intimidate them. Most seniors check and recheck the screen to make sure that they have dialed the right number or selected the right contact. Having a facility which speaks out the numbers or read out the selected contacts, especially over extra loud speakers would be a boon to seniors with eyesight issues. Loss of sense in the tip of the fingers is quite common among seniors which can lead to misdialing issues. A larger keypad with enough room to accommodate a finger tip is more than welcome in such cases. And in times of emergencies a panic button would do well. Most of the models available have an SOS button but their settings vary, where some of them send text messages to preset emergency contacts and some would keep dialing a particular contact till the call is answered.

A small camera is considered the standard these days and it will definitely do good use to seniors in case they wish to take pictures of something they wish to remember, for a reference. A good smartphone, not too large, with a customized user interface for the seniors with large app icons of the address book, dialer, emergency contacts, SOS button, camera app and so on, packing a good battery and loud speaker facility should be appropriate for the seniors. I don’t expect my dad to Whatsapp me every hour or call me on Skype by the night with a smartphone, but it would be really good if he found that operating a smartphone is quite comfortable and not some menace every time he feels the need to communicate long distance.

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