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Watch Out World, Mom’s on a Smartphone!

Ok, so what's below is from an old blog post, circa 2014ish. But I think the take-aways (scroll alllll the way down to the bottom) are still spot on; and you can extrapolate and apply to any new-to-you thing. Plus, it's cheeky and makes me think about my mom (and that makes me smile 🙂).

For many months my mom had been talking about getting a smartphone. This leap into the modern age was highly encouraged by my boyfriend, a mobile tech enthusiast. After much research and back-and-forth discussion, my mom recently kicked her dumb feature phone to the curb.

Now, you have to understand that my mom — though a lovely, educated, world-aware, smart lady — is NOT computer savvy. I love and respect the woman beyond expression; but geez she’s called me up at work before to ask how to copy-paste and has a pinboard (read = not Pinterest) by her computer on which she’s written down shortcuts (like Ctrl+C = Copy).

Sassy, 70-something mom-type needing a phone upgrade.

Given my mom’s facility <sarc> with tech, getting her onto the new phone was…is…continues to be…challenging…for all involved. However, I think we did a few things to mitigate the pain as much as possible and help pave the way for success.

  1. Prepare — We started discussing options far in advance of my mom upgrading. This was crucial because she would be switching hardware, phone plans, and provider. So many variables — all offering more and new options since the last time mom was in the market for a phone — can be overwhelming, or at least, a lot to adjust to. Allowing time gave her a chance to look into her options, ask questions, internalize the information, and get comfortable with the idea of having new gear.

  2. Educate — The pace of tech innovation is nuts! So, we had to do research to find the best phone, plan, provider, and peripherals available for my mom’s specific set of needs and wants. My boyfriend and I basically interviewed my mom to determine her phone habits (how and how much she used the phone), why she wanted a smartphone, etc. We also verified what networks have strong coverage in her area. Doing this legwork narrowed down the viable selection of phones and plans to a manageable amount, and we could be confident that whatever we picked would be a good fit for my mom.

  3. Select Wisely — Ultimately we opted for a phone and carrier combo that offered the best value and feature set for mom’s needs and budget. We chose a Windows phone because the user interface and operating system are a bit more straightforward. This ease of use will go a long way! We released her from the grip of those terrible cell phone contracts, and got her more for the same amount of money, on a pre-paid calling plan that provides unlimited talk, text, and data usage and has good coverage in her area.

  4. Personalize — Before unleashing my mom phone-in-hand, we transferred her number from her old phone to the new one and configured the basic settings (like setting up her email client to link to her email) such that they would be easiest (as we saw it) for my mom. No need for her to really stress out having to learn to do that stuff — stuff she’d do maybe once. Next we adjusted the home screen to only include what she’d need and put the most frequently used apps higher up on the screen. Lastly, my mom and I went through and tweaked little things like the call volume and ringtone.

  5. Accessorize — It was necessary to trick out the phone with all the proper accouterments. This was partly for practicality and partly because my mom has dragon lady nails, an impediment to being able to use a touch screen apparently. Mom and I had some fun picking out a case that was both protective and pretty. We got her screen protector films to keep scratches and greasy fingerprints to a minimum. And, some little dust-plug styli will help to counteract her fingernail-screen challenge.

  6. Train — This is so key. While the bf and I LOVE a constant barrage of “How do I ___ on my phone…?” emails/calls, we figured all would be happier if my mom could be self-sufficient. Based on what she’d told us earlier about how/why she uses her phone, we showed her how to do the basics: make and answer calls, check voicemail, use the camera and share pics, etc. As the new phone has more capabilities, it makes sense that she should be able to leverage the apps. So, we taught her how to text, email, use the GPS, etc. and when/why you might use one communication method over another (e.g., texting vs calling someone). Lastly, we made sure she knew how to adjust various settings, like in-call volume and home screen apps. It was great to see the cloud of confusion on her face transform to a look of accomplishment and empowerment! She still reaches out for assistance, but less frequently. (And, when she does, she’s now using the right vernacular, is asking via text messages, and is grasping the knowledge much more quickly. Way to go mom! 🙂)

It was great to see the cloud of confusion on her face transform to a look of accomplishment and empowerment!

I think there are some important take-aways from this experience:

  • When embarking on making a change, do a needs assessment and learn what alternatives are out there before jumping on a “solution.” The planning and pacing will pay off.

  • Always be open to learning and give new things a wholehearted try. Similarly, don’t abdicate your position as a teacher/mentor/leader. Everyone plays both roles at one time or another, and rightly so.

  • Acknowledge there will be frustrations along the way, but perseverance and determination will get the goal-oriented to success. This is an age-old adage for a reason….

  • When working with others, strive for everyone understanding the objectives, the milestones, their roles and responsibilities, etc. Encourage and allow people be part of the process. The outcomes will be better and folks will be more satisfied.

  • Do NOT teach your mom how to take a #selfie.


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