This year has been a strange one for all. For me, 2020 has showed how important technology has become to keep connected with loved ones.
The tricky part is, I didn’t grow up with technology and still lack the skills to use it. Aside from the television and household appliances, the only technology I used was at work as an accountant. I grew up in the 1950s and I didn’t have a mobile phone, so the thought never crossed my mind to buy one. Rather than carrying a mobile phone with me when I leave the house, I would just put the answering machine on so my friends and family could leave me a message.
However, with the current situation in Victoria and New South Wales, being able to stay in touch with friends, family and critical services remotely is becoming increasingly important again. I live on my own in Narraweena on Sydney’s Northern Beaches with my cat, Brookie, but I have a girlfriend in Singleton who I speak to a few times a week on my landline. We’ve known each other since primary school but it’s difficult to catch up in person as she became a quadriplegic after an accident, so being connected by phone is vital to staying in touch.
I’ve suffered from health issues over the years and I use a wheelchair when leaving the house, so a carer from the Northern Sydney organisation CCNB, a non-profit that helps people access health and community services, keeps in touch to ensure I’m well. I look forward to our outing together to my favourite café in Dee Why each week!
When lockdown restrictions came into effect, I thought I might be isolated for an extended period. I felt lonely without my carer being able to visit and I missed my weekly trip to Dee Why. However, I was lucky to have Brookie to keep me company. Brookie is named after Brookvale, where his previous owner used to live. He’s a tabby cat and I think he’s about 19 years old. Brookie is excellent company; he sleeps with me and he misses me when I leave the house.
Then CCNB contacted me with the news that they were partnering with HMD Global, which makes Nokia phones, to offer a free Nokia 5.1 Plus smartphone to me and other community members who may be feeling lonely during isolation. They asked me if I wanted to have a phone and learn how to use it, and I was excited beyond words! I know how to use a landline telephone, but I thought it was time to learn my way around a mobile phone and keep up with the technology, especially during this time.
It only took a week before I received my Nokia 5.1 Plus to keep in touch with friends and family more easily. The team at HMD Global helped me set-up my phone and it took less than 30 minutes; it was easier than I expected. They taught me how to make video calls, how to set my screensaver to a photo of Brookie (my first priority!) and how to use other features to keep connected. Now that I have this phone with a big screen, I can see my girlfriend when we catch up and I can also keep in touch with my younger brother more regularly.
Although I never felt unsafe leaving my house without a mobile phone, I now feel safer knowing I can contact others quickly. When you’re in a wheelchair, making calls from phone boxes is challenging. Not only are there not too many around these days but also, you tend to be two feet too short to see what you’re doing.
Having a mobile phone has been pretty handy. The other day I called my friend whilst I was in the supermarket so I could ask him to remind me what the new breakfast spread he recommended to me was. I’m so glad I was able to ask him right there and then because it was delicious!
Learning how to use a smartphone at 63 can feel daunting when you’ve never used one before but 2020 seems a good year to get on top of the latest technology so it’s easier, and safer, to keep in touch with family and friends. The past few weeks have certainly showed me the benefits of being able to keep connected with loved ones when we might be physically apart.
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