A grandfather adapting to smartphones

Adjusting to technology. Art by Rebecca Duce.
Adjusting to technology. Art by Rebecca Duce.

Receiving messages like, “What is up dude?” from our dads and “How r u” from our moms was just plain weird back in the day. Eventually they would catch on and we slowly got used to the idea of them having a cell phone. We find ourselves laughing at comments our dad will make on Facebook and liking pictures our aunt posted. But what about when our Grandparents get into the action? How do we feel when our Nonno is texting from his smartphone or our Nanny is adding us on Facebook? For recently retired 68-year-old Robert Paddock and his 17 grandchildren, this is exactly the case.

“I had one back in the 90s, one of the first cell phones. What was the name now, Motorolla, I think it was,” Paddock says. He used it a bit just to talk and keep in touch with his family when he was away for work as a minister. He eventually upgraded to a Samsung phone in the early 2000s. “That one was a bit more advanced, especially for me, but I got used to the features quickly. I didn’t use them much though other than for talking, the keyboard is too small to text on,” Paddock says.

Eventually, Paddock and his wife Geraldine thought that the time was right to join up for the smartphone party. “Three weeks ago we upgraded and got the Samsung Galaxy S4. That’s ultra-modern. The big thing about that was keeping in touch with the grandchildren, because they have all the technology now. They said, ‘Pop, you have to get one you could text us with!’” Paddock explains.

The new phones are certainly a bit of a challenge for the Paddocks but one that they are very eager to accept. It is taking them a while to learn the extra features. “I got the basics now, and it’s not as much ‘seek and you shall find’ as the others, this does all the work for you.”

He is eager to make use of the advances this phone provides, and to go all in. “We decided if we were going to get these new phones and keep up with technology that we were going to learn all we can, and not shy away from them or complain about the changes. I’ll use the camera and texting obviously, but the internet [and] GPS will help me so much. GPS is a wonderful thing,” Paddock says.

All this new technology can be hard to keep up with for all of us. But for people who have grown up in the Internet era, it is never too much of a shock. We just adapt and eagerly await the new big thing. But for those that grew up before there were any big changes, how tough must it be to constantly be adapting? The old fashioned phones, I still remember those days. You know, the crank phones, two long, one short, and then the rotary phone. I remember all that, but this technology is crazy, [and I] never saw it coming,” marvels Paddock.

Paddock’s mother-in-law Lulu, 85, is a most unlikely participant, yet even she has joined in on the fun. She uses it to play Scrabble when she has nobody to play with, and for listening to her favorite podcasts every Sunday.

Like any member of an older generation, the Paddocks are aware of the changes in society and in the younger generations’ daily lives that the new phones and other technology bring. But unlike most, they do not jump right to the negatives when talking about it. “The phones now are very advanced and fast, which is good. It helps me keep in touch with old friends that I would normally not call as often if it weren’t for texting,” Paddock says. He thinks it can only help younger people in his former line of work. He finds that for messages and presentations, having the visual aspect that technology brings and the quick commands make the process better for everybody.

That does not mean that he does not see the potential problems. “With teenagers now, and adults, it takes away a lot of personal touch. I think they are going to have difficulty in the future communicating one on one. Mom is upstairs, youth are downstairs, now they just text.

They even text side by side on [the] couch. Sure that’s the order of the day, but still,” observes Paddock.

Paddock has certain rules to keep from getting caught up in the hustle and bustle like everyone else, and to prevent himself from getting out of touch with the life he has always had.

“For me it’s good to turn it off every once and a while, go for a walk in a park or beach. It’s too stressful if you always have your phone on you, waiting to constantly hear from people. If I’m in the middle of a good meal with good friends, I will not be bothered by my phone,” Paddock states.

Paddock has seen lots of new things in life come and go. He has been there for the trends that last for a little while and then disappear, and for those that become a staple of life.

“What I have learned is that it is best to get on the wagon, and learn what you can. It’s a tough transition, but I’m open and want to know all these things. I want to be a part of that world, the world that the younger generations and my grandchildren are in,” Paddock says.

This is a lesson for all of us as we get older: technology is not slowing down. There will always be new, bigger and faster things. Eventually we will have a hard time keeping up, and wish for days gone by. But, as Paddock says, “You have to adapt, you can’t be like the ostrich

and stick your nose in the sand. You have to adapt.”

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