I bought my iPhone 10XS from Costco in October 2018, over fifteen months ago. My old iPhone 5S was slow and often did not do what I wanted it to do. The time had come to get a new device. The new iPhone cost a lot of money, was beautiful to look at, and felt good in my hand. It held out the promise of efficiency, and access to the best that computer technology had to offer. I figured that this iPhone would do me for the next decade or so and, whatever the cost, the upgrade was worth it.
Alas, until now, I never knew how to use it. I have been struggling with basic functions that I didn’t know how to work. How to use the camera. How to select, cut/copy, and paste. How to use the device for other functions while still talking on the telephone. Of course, I could use the telephone, the text messages, the notes and the calendar, but I had no idea how to access the wonderful new features, supposedly on this telephone, which made it worthwhile. I was so frustrated. Ultimately, I concluded that it must be me. I must be losing it. Clearly I no longer had the mental capacity to deal with modern technology.
All that has changed. Two weeks ago, I signed up for a series of three-hour workshops on iPhones and iPads offered at the West Vancouver Seniors Activity Centre. The first three sessions were on the iOS13, the current operating system that runs the device. Then there are individual sessions on “Organizing your email,” “Messages,” “Everything Siri,” and “Photo Artistry.” Wow. I was thrilled. This appeared to be exactly what I needed to learn, to use my iPhone.
And indeed it has been so. The instructor is Andrea MacDonald who specializes in technology for seniors. Her card says that she offers “Patient, Gentle Instruction.” Maybe so. But she knows her stuff, moves the material along quickly, identifies the basic skills and has us practice them there and then. She also requires homework. After the first session, I dutifully went to the local coffee shop and asked for their wifi address and password. Andrea says that “this is a basic skill, necessary in modern life.” Who would have thunk it? But she is right. All the young people use Starbucks, Delaney’s, and all those other coffee emporia as pop-up workspaces. Accessing wifi today is like accessing the washroom.
This week, Andrea has required me to clean up my Contacts using the criteria required by the App. I have 657 contacts and “the homework” will take hours. But, of course, I only have to do it once. The changes will instantly show up on all my devices and once it is done…
Another example: I had tinkered with the dictation function on my previous smartphone. In theory, the dictation function is wonderful. You talk and the device instantly produces a transcript of what you have said. In the past, my transcripts were often garbled and full of mistakes. I needed to check them right away to ensure that I actually knew what I was talking about.
Andrea demonstrated dictation in class. She spoke in her usual voice, at her usual speed, with the iPhone on the table in front of her, and produced a perfect replica of what she had said, instantly. I was amazed. I went home and started dictating. I realized that I needed to slow down a little, enunciate more clearly, and think more precisely about what I was saying as I went along. Voilà: even I produced a perfect transcript. Now I dictate everything. My email. My messages. My notes. My blog posts. What I dictate is shared to all my devices, an instant first draft. That was after the first lesson.
In lesson number two, Andrea taught us about Swipe Typing. I had never heard of it. Then she demonstrated how pecking letter by letter on the keyboard was so passé. (Note, by the way, my newfound agility with adding accents.) Now the technology allows us to “write on the keyboard,” using a skating motion of the finger, lifting only between each word. As we glide over the letters, the automatic intelligence built into the smartphone fills in the entire words. It actually works. Amazing. But I still think dictating is easier.
A very fundamental truth which Andrea taught right up front was that modern iPhones are built to respond to a specific kind of touch. A light touch. A touch that is quick and even “lazy.” A touch that is too heavy-handed, too earnest, won’t work. For particular functions, the device is engineered to respond to a heavier steady touch. Press on the telephone icon, for example, and a window will pop up, like the “right-click” of a mouse, with convenient options for further actions. And, of course, with no home button any more, “the swipe” is essential. It’s “the swipe from the upper right corner” which opens the Control Centre. I’ve seen other people using that window before, but never knew how to access it. How to get out of Apps and other windows? Just touch or swipe. No wonder I have had such a hard time with my iPhone this past year.
I could go on. And on. But I won’t. The moral of the story is that it is never too late to take an appropriate computer training course. After only two weeks, I feel many years younger. I guess I haven’t lost my marbles after all.
One morning recently I was at the West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre (for those fifty-five and older) to renew my membership. As I did, a horde of men of a certain age, all dressed in black t-shirts, streamed in the front door. Dozens and dozens and dozens of them. I was utterly amazed. Who were they?
“These are the Fit Fellas,” I was told, “and they are here for their coffee and cinnamon buns.” When I followed them into the large cafeteria, it was full of these men. Apparently Fit Fellas was started 41 years ago as a twice-a-week fitness class for eight older men. It has grown to 195 members who meet up to eight times a week for a fitness class “just for guys.” Led by four qualified volunteer trainers, they do aerobics, strength training, coordination, balance, stretching, all mixed with “plenty of laughter” and optional social events. The youngest is 62 years of age, the oldest 97 years, with an average age of around 76. Their membership is full, and there is a waiting list to join. Over 45% of the members have participated regularly for over ten years and 70% for over five years.
Their routine is to meet each morning from 7:50 to 8:50 at the West Vancouver Community Centre gym (two or three days a week, as they wish) and then adjourn to the cafeteria for coffee and refreshments. Anyone celebrating a birthday buys cinnamon buns for the group. They keep in touch by email and a quarterly newsletter, volunteer in various community groups and events, and take part together in other sports, competitions, pub nights, and fund-raising activities. As much as the exercise, their goal is to have fun and build friendships.
Their success has attracted the attention of the Department of Gerontology at Simon Fraser and the School of Kinesiology at the University of British Columbia. They have been the subject of Masters theses, academic conferences across North America, and community workshops on the Lower Mainland. UBC Professor Mark Beauchamp claims, “There is no other program similar to or as successful as theirs,” anywhere else.
In “an effort to develop a framework for use by others,” The Canadian Institute for Health Research funded a two-year study conducted by UBC, in partnership with the Vancouver YMCA, for targeted studies on the Fit Fellas model. The Group-based physical activity for Older Adults (GOAL) Trial involved close to 600 females and males over 65, participating three times a week, free of charge, in single-gender and both-gender classes conducted at three YMCA locations. Data collection ended in August 2015. The aims of the study were to assess how older adults stick with their physical activity over three months and six months, and whether group cohesion and enjoyment affected their adhesion.
That very morning, Dr. Beauchamp presented a plaque to Fit Fellas and a $500 honorarium to the West Vancouver Seniors’ Centre for their support of the research.
The statistics on physical activity by older adults are sobering. According to Statistics Canada, by 2036, 25% of Canadians will be over 65 years of age. At present, 50% of provincial and territorial healthy spending is on older adult care. Although a clear link has been found between physical activity, improved functional capacity, and reduced risk of chronic disease, only 13% of Canadians over 65 engage in the recommended 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.