Ever wonder how a sufferer of Parkinson’s disease would cope with a smartphone? How long would it take for the sufferer to hit the right virtual buttons and successfully make a call?
Tremors are not restricted to those with Parkinson’s disease; many elderly people suffer tremors too. Even the perfectly healthy ones with a pair of steady hands often don’t know what to do with a smartphone.
Sitting at a table with friends who have elderly parents or grandparents, I heard so many tales of frustration that were amusing to us, but not at all amusing to the old people who have to put up with them. One recalled his mother gleefully replying to Whatsapp messages – without realising that they were never actually sent. Another realised why he’d been having difficulty contacting his parents after giving his mother a smartphone, when he watched her attempt to answer a call but not quite getting which virtual button to press, despite his having explained it all to her before. I once saw an elderly gentleman, stopping in the middle of his morning exercise to pull out an iPhone to make a call, then fumbling in his breast pocket for slips of paper with the names and numbers of those he wanted to call.
Aware of these pitfalls, I hunted high and low for a mobile suitable for my own aged parent, with no luck. The one and only model ever available in Hong Kong, provided by the social services to the elderly in need, was discontinued a few years ago. There are several good models available on the internet, but as they would have to be shipped from Europe or the US, they’re only available in English/Russian or English/Spanish only. That left just one option, the iNo Mobile Simple 3G from Singapore, which comes with English/Malay/simplified Chinese. Why do I have to go to such lengths to find a mobile for the elderly? Because they’re designed with the elderly’s needs in mind: big, actual buttons, a torch, an SOS button at the back and high volume for the hard of hearing.
Isn’t it funny that a place that’s constantly fretting over its ageing population should offer so little to an ever-growing demographic? The assistants in every phone shop shook their heads with disdain when I approached about a mobile with good old actual buttons; they wanted to make big money selling expensive smartphones, not cheap basic phones for the elderly. Whilst Japan has long spotted the business opportunities offered by ageing customers, in Hong Kong they’re still considered nothing more than an inconvenience, it seems.
Oh, if you have an elderly parent, hold off giving the iNo Mobile Simple 3G a try: it’s already broken down, after barely ten days’ use.