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(SABRINA SMELKO FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
(SABRINA SMELKO FOR THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

Why I've finally embraced iPhones and texting – at 86 Add to ...

The Essay is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide

Where are you?

Watching the parade downtown. Great images and video.

Location?

Remember this corner?

You bet.

Off for lunch at Timmys next.

Enjoy. TTYL.

As an 86-year old senior, I recently joined the 21st century. I acquired an iPhone 5 and ditched my landline. For days, it was like going out in public wearing nothing but a very short undervest, but I also discovered the joy of texting.

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Don’t misunderstand me: I was no techno-peasant. I kind of grew up on a Mac, having spent most of my life as a graphic artist and writer, although my paste-up and assembly skills are long obsolete. Mention Letraset to anyone under the age of 50 and you’ll get a blank look, as though it’s an app they never heard of.

My biggest surprise was the reaction of my peers. I still move in artistic circles. I teach art, belong to an art club, and a small writer’s group, where we meet and often do 10-minute challenges written in cursive (look it up!) with a pen. People I normally thought of as intelligent and aware treat me as though I’ve somehow broken some unspoken covenant.

Resistance to change is inherent in organizations and personal habits, but many seniors seem to have an irrational fear of the pace of change and go into deep denial. They are not alone.

The baby boom generation that was going to change the world isn’t at all happy about it changing for them, and some display remarkably Luddite attitudes. Their children get it, though, and have embraced the future, often leaving their parents behind as the landline becomes a thing of the past. The joy of texting is hard to explain to non-believers. I imagine the invention of the telephone was received with much the same skepticism: What would I want to talk about? Why on earth would I waste money on such an expensive device when I can walk around and see them?

The telephone, telegraph, radio and television were all inventions of the devil, it seems. Handwritten letters, envelopes, stamps and the post office are relics of a nostalgic time when long-distance phone calls cost a week’s wages and pen pals exchanged texts with a 30-day wait for a reply.

My iPhone is an extension of me these days. It goes everywhere: the bedroom, the bathroom, the kitchen, restaurants – and, with my bluetooth-equipped car, I never miss a call or lose continuity with those I care about. (No, I never talk or text while driving and always pull over for calls or let it go to voicemail.) For a widower, life can often be very lonely, but with my iPhone I can stay in touch without marathon monthly missives by mail or e-mail that require you to scroll down endlessly. No need to send those irritating annual Christmas letters in which you try to condense a year’s events into one page that nobody reads.

I can text my brother in Spain daily, see images of where he is and what he’s doing, and look at a location via satellite. Complete connectivity involves Facebook, Flickr and Twitter as well, which means I’m in touch with my children and grandchildren in Australia, and although their language sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, I know what they’re doing on a week-to-week basis. I can also leave comments on their choice of words. They get it, and they know their granddad gets it.

My grandchildren’s generation rarely phones or even uses e-mail to communicate, so unless we grasp the fact that Skype is not some upmarket organic salad dressing and understand the joy of texting, we will lose our ability to talk to them once puberty kicks in and they start on their own journey through life. Link up with them and they will send texts with photographs and videos through the WhatsApp application, all with an easy “view” mode and GPS locations. You will share in their adventures.

The camera that comes with my iPhone has awesome resolution and is always at hand. I can ask for advice from a female friend on shopping for shirts, photograph the collection, send a text with images and instantly get back an opinion. The young store clerk gets it. It’s the new way to shop, it seems.

To me, a new convert, this all seems like magic, and I simply don’t understand the reluctance to embrace it. This little device is just the forerunner of even more advances that will break down the barriers of time and space. Voice recognition and more intuitive controls will let us master the joy of texting much more easily.

Those who don’t get it will inevitably drift out of the mainstream and be unable to communicate with the next generation. The longer they leave the learning curve, the harder it will be to catch up. By the time they are ready for assisted living in some ghetto for the elderly, the gap may be unbridgeable and have tragic psychological consequences.

Thanks Granddad. World War2 pix were brilliant.

You’re welcome.

How’s the first year of university?

OK I guess. Mom keeps phoning. Weird.

Some adults are slow learners! LOL

 

Jon Fisher lives in Uxbridge, Ont.

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