It’s getting harder and harder.
Keeping up to date with technology can be intimidating, even for the youngest – the latest cell phones and tablets, ‘smart’ TVs, QR codes for restaurant menus, new streaming services and social media platforms. .
For some older people, it can be downright dizzying.
Gwen Cote of Manchester remembers a much simpler time. “When I was a kid you only had to dial four numbers,” said Cote, who grew up in Massachusetts.
Starting October 24 – two weeks from now – Cote and everyone else in New Hampshire will need to dial area code 603 to make any call in the state – even local numbers.
Côté was one of a group of savvy seniors who gathered at the William B. Cashin Seniors Activity Center on Manchester’s West Side for bingo last Wednesday afternoon. They all seemed to be aware of the upcoming need to dial 603 for each number, and most had already updated their contacts in their cell phones to include the 10-digit numbers. (Some admitted that their adult children helped with this).
“I knew what was coming, so I changed them,” said Claire Roy of Manchester. “I read it in the newspaper.”
Here’s why this change is happening:
The ten-digit dialing for all local calls is part of the nationwide implementation of a new “988” number to reach the national lifeline for suicide prevention and mental health.
Starting July 16, dialing “988” will route the call to the crisis line, which is currently reached by dialing 1-800-273-TALK.
In New Hampshire, 988 is an exchange in Portsmouth.
Hence the switch to 10-digit numbering here and in the 34 other states (plus Guam) which have 988 exchanges.
Phones for phone calls
Many players at the Manchester bingo game last week had smartphones, but a good number of older style flip phones were also in prominence.
Jeannette Leclerc of Manchester was one of the first to adopt cell phones. She retired from the accounting department of NYNEX, the former telephone company, which offered employees great deals on phones, she said.
“You cannot be afraid” of new technologies, she said.
Leclerc uses a Verizon Kyocera flip phone.
She recently tried to switch to a new smartphone. “It gave me too many questions,” she said. “I brought it back.”
Julie Belair, who volunteers at the Cashin Center every Wednesday, thinks her flip phone is at least 15 years old, but that’s exactly what she wants.
“I have a phone so that if I need help I can call someone,” she said. “I don’t want any of that other stuff. I have had enough on my computer.
Belair, 91, said she doesn’t text. “I’m past this stage of my life,” she says.
But there’s another change coming next year that will affect Belair and many more in New Hampshire.
“Gee, what’s a G?” “
Wireless communications companies are shutting down their old 3G networks to make way for 4G and 5G services. As a result, many older phones that use 3G networks will stop working.
Belair knew about the switch to 10-digit local dialing, but the termination of 3G networks was both news to her – and a mystery.
“What is 3G? She asked, laughing.
The “G” stands for generation. “3G” refers to the third generation of cellular networks, which was at the forefront just a few years ago. Now 4G is the norm and 5G is coming.
Carriers promise faster speeds that will dramatically improve video streaming and web browsing, enhance public safety, and support the development of automated vehicles.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, major mobile operators are expected to shut down their 3G networks to make way for more advanced services by the following dates in 2022:
• T-Mobile (which merged with Sprint in 2020): January 1 for Sprint 3G, June 30 for Sprint’s LTE network and July 1 for the T-Mobile network.
The FCC urges consumers to contact their carriers to find out if their phones and other connected devices such as tablets, smart watches, home security systems and some medical devices are currently using 3G network services. Each company also has information on its website about the affected devices.
Some devices may only need software updates, but other consumers may need to upgrade their phones and other devices, the FCC said.
On its website, T-Mobile says customers who relied on Sprint’s LTE network likely won’t have to purchase new devices, but will have to replace their SIM cards with a T-Mobile SIM card.
“Rest assured that if you are concerned, T-Mobile will contact you,” the website says.
Côté said she hopes her flip phone will still work after next year. She doesn’t want a smartphone.
“It’s perfectly fine for me,” she said. “I have a computer at home. That’s all I need. “
Lifelines for seniors
Todd Fahey, state director of AARP New Hampshire, said reliable and affordable telecommunications services are key to helping people age in their homes, which 90% of Granite Staters say they want.
“Let’s be clear: they really are lifesavers in a lot of cases,” Fahey said.
Businesses have a responsibility to communicate with customers when changes happen, he said. “It is really important that people have all the information and the time to react to the proposed changes,” he said.
Regulators such as the FCC need to make sure this happens, he said, “to ensure that the notice and time needed for consumers to switch to new technology and the continuity of essential services. can be achieved “.
Jonathan Isacco, regional sales manager for New Hampshire at USCellular, said his company has invested $ 9.4 million in its New Hampshire wireless network for 4G and 5G.
But USCellular has no date to shut down its old 3G network, he said.
“It will be an eventual shutdown over the next two years,” Isacco said. “Our New Hampshire customers need not worry about this pressing issue.”
“This transition is not going to happen without our communicating too much with our customers about it,” he said.
The company will offer “promotional considerations” – good deals – to customers who need to upgrade their phones, “understanding that this is a change they can make as a result of a change we make. “Isacco said.
Regarding the 10-digit numbering change, in addition to updating contacts, Isacco advised consumers to ensure that any automatic dialing device, such as medical alerts or alarm systems, also has updated 10-digit phone numbers.
Don’t sell the elderly short, says Lori Fortini, program manager for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Aging Resource Center.
Following the pandemic lockdown, his program has helped many seniors learn how to use Zoom for dating, Fortini said.
“It was amazing how resilient and adaptable they were with a little bit of coaching,” she said. “They just need a little self-confidence and they need someone to assure them that they’re not going to push a button and blow up their computer.”
It’s a generation that remembers party lines, uses letters for phone numbers, and relies on carriers to connect calls, Fortini said. 10-digit dialing won’t be a challenge for most seniors, she said.
“They’ve made a lot of adjustments to their phones already, and I don’t think this one will put them in a loop,” she said.
Shutting down 3G networks could be more difficult, she said.
“The biggest problem is if their cell phones are too old and need to be upgraded,” she said. “I hope there will be help getting new cell phones, or that they will have someone in their household who can help them.”
Avoid “a big fight”
Some older people are really tech savvy; they are often the ones who organize Zoom family gatherings. But others just want a phone, says Fortini
“They don’t need to know how to stream Netflix on their phone,” she said. “We would encourage people to give them only what they need. “
DH’s Aging Resource Center enlists students from secondary schools in Hanover and Lebanon to help seniors with their technical questions.
Sometimes it’s better to have the help of a third party than to rely on family members, Fortini said.
“That’s part of why our high school students are so popular, because people will come and say, ‘My son tried to help me and we just got into a fight.
“Going to a neutral person seems to help with that.”
Fortini’s advice for adapting to changing technology: “Patience and humor. “
“Everyone will have to get used to it,” she said. “We tell people that anyone can learn. It just takes a little while.
New technology can be intimidating for anyone, USCellular’s Isacco said.
Consumers shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for help, whether it’s their local wireless store or tech-savvy friends or relatives, he said.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the question,” he said.
Isacco likens it to a favorite saying of his grandmother: “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time.
“The same goes for technology,” he said. “You don’t have to learn QR codes and streaming and 4G and 5G at the same time.
“Taking it in small pieces makes it less intimidating.”