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The Technological Divide: How to Convince Older Generations to Buy a Smartphone

Updated on January 26, 2012

I like to call it the Technological Divide. That space between your parents and grandparents where smartphones, laptops, tablets, GPS and iPods sit like the Great Wall of China. Before working in the cellular industry for a couple years, explaining the pros of owning a smartphone to my elders just let to lots of guffaws, ignorant grunts and arms tossed in the air in frustration. Their favorite lines were: “The bag phone is the best phone ever made. You could make a crystal clear phone call from under the ocean if you wanted to!” or “I don’t need to have my nose glued to my phone like you kids. There are more important things than typing on those damn phones.”

But, once I really delved into smartphones and what they have to offer every generation, my technological arsenal was full and I could sell the pants off any octogenarian (but, don’t worry, I won’t). Here are a couple deal-closers to present your family (make sure you show, don’t tell):

1. Gas Prices: This is the mother of all applications for older generations. I never saw the real draw of these types of applications, but whip out Google Maps on an Android and click “gas prices” and you have those pessimists eating out of your hands. There’s something about saving a couple cents per gallon on gas in their vicinity that gets their motors running (pun intended).

2. Google Maps: Once you have their attention, show them the rest that Google Maps has to offer. My big jaw-dropper was showing, when using the GPS, when you arrive at your destination it shows a Google Earth snapshot of the business or home you are driving up to. This blew my dad’s mind and he immediately thought he would see himself on the phone. Not yet, Dad, not yet.

3. Weather: Now this seems rudimentary to seasoned smartphone users. But remember, we are rebuilding the wheel with our parents and grandparents; and, these folks LOVE checking the weather. My grandpa not only had a thermometer on the inside and outside of his house, he also had a barometer and sat and watched the five o’clock weather every night like it was the Apocalypse. One look at the Weather Channel application, where they can see minute by minute storm radar, and they are like toddlers seeing Spongebob for the first time. It’s a sickness.

4. Social Networking: Now, this might not be for all of our parents or grandparents but, let’s just say, it’s worth a try. My grandma made it a habit to get updates on all of her grandchildren’s Facebook statuses when she is over at my aunt’s house. Now, take the five minutes and set her up an account and show here how to click the big blue “F” on her homepage and she is a regular tween addict. Getting closer to grandchildren always seals the deal.

5. Health Applications: My grandpa had a blood pressure monitor and stethoscope safely tucked into the magazine rack next to his Lazy Boy. He used this almost every hour to make sure all of his organs were still operating and jotted down his figures in a tiny, decrepit notebook. There are a bazillion health apps out there than not only track his numbers, but also give him tips to control his health. Also, there are pedometer apps for those mall-walking parents and grandparents to track just how far they have strolled that day. The thought of showing off their fancy walking counter to their friends is always ammunition.

6. Pet Tracking Apps: Now, these are new to the market. But, given my family’s love for their four-legged friends, this is an easy sell. This is an application that can track my grandma’s poodle if she every wanders away. There is a GPS tracker that is attached to Rosie and she will never go missing again. Let’s just say, this is priceless.

7. Old people games: Are there tattered Soduku and Crossword books stuffed in every crevice of your home? This is such an added bonus for older generations because these apps are FREE. This is the “f” word that is music to their ears.

8. Newspaper applications: I have come to believe that my parents and grandparents are the only people keeping the newspaper industry alive and kicking. They live for the days the newspapers come and rifle through it like the JCPenney Christmas catalog. Whip on New York Times’ application and show them up-to-date headlines and they will slowly let their death-grip over the printed word die.

But, all of these applications are useless if you don’t approach this learning experience with oodles of patience. You’re superior technological knowledge is not lost on your parents and grandparents. They don’t want to feel patronized or like their child knows more than they do. Just show them the basics like they are the latest rage and they will slowly let their techno-grudges go.

Also, price is always an issue with these generations. But, in most cases they either don’t have internet at home or are already paying for a dusty desktop they just play Solitaire on. Explain that this is a much less expensive alternative to their current computer situation. This is a mobile device that they can bring over to your house for help, unlike their computer. I do recommend sticking with the most simple smartphones, like iPhone or Android. Do not get them into Blackberries or Windows based devices because I have made this mistake and the operating systems are much too difficult. These are not cheap, but hey, the money they will save on gas alone would pay the $30 a month for internet and put a good dent in the cost of the phone.


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    • mljdgulley354 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great information. I am an older adult and don't like to be without my cell phone but haven't ventured into the areas you describe in your hub. Thank you for sharing this info and I will share it with my followers.

    • Ashleymckinnon profile imageAUTHOR

      Ashley Rae 

      7 years ago from Coleman, WI

      Actually, I did take these points into consideration. I explained the savings that would incur and advised which phones to purchase (that have HUGE screens with HUGE font options). Also, the pedometer application that I recommended does not require any additional device, nor do any of the top iPhone or Droid Health applications, though I'm sure they are out there. I have personally sold hundreds of smartphones to older generations and have had gleaming reviews.

      Obviously, if your grandparents cannot see, or comprehend the phone, it isn't a wise purchase. However, my article is merely mean to show the ways a smartphone can make their lives EASIER and SAVE them money. I am not advising you steal their phones and swap them with iPhones and send them on their merry way.

    • MichaelJReyes profile image


      7 years ago from New York, New York

      Having worked in the tech sector for 10 years and worked with companies from software to auto makers. You did not take into account a lot of things.

      Sure a smartphone would be beneficial to an elderly person. But it would need a HUGE SCREEN with HUGE ICONS and TEXT. Most of the health Applications require an extension that can cost as much if not more than the phone. Something most of our elderly can't afford as they are on a fixed budget.

      Staying on the fixed budget theme, smartphones require data, and texting it's just an all around burden in my opinion.


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