I’m an empty-nester! Wow—mixed emotions come with that. Newfound freedom, check! More time for myself, check! Really miss being “Mommy” but proud that my children are good, happy citizens, check! I approached this stage of adulthood with a goal to really focus on personal growth and enriching relationships. Today, I’ll share with you how my cell phone has helped me achieve these goals, but also share a few downsides to this modern age of smartphone-mania.
Advantages of Owning a Smartphone
One of my favorite uses of my smartphone for staying organized is the ability to use organization apps; one of my favorites is a list app called List Master. Not only has this allowed me to eliminate the use of post-it notes and assorted scraps of paper for helping me remember the variety of tasks critical to my daily work/home life, I can easily organize my wish lists and to-dos into colored folders and email lists to friends and family. This app isn’t free, but there are tons of free (and sometimes pre-downloaded) apps available.
I am currently in the process of downsizing my home. After reading 8 tips for downsizing, I was able to remain organized through the entire process with the help of my smartphone. All the information, my schedule, and my personal notes were always at my fingertips.
Another great organizational use of the smartphone is a shared calendar app for all personal and family events. I happen to use Google Calendar. On this calendar, I load all events and reminders pertinent to my personal life, so that anybody I share the calendar can always be apprised (i.e., I avoid the frustration of the “you never told me that” situation).
2. Improved Communication
Stay up-to-date on important life events via text messages with photos from family college events, videos from your dog walker, or reminders of appointments for your daughter’s wedding dress fitting. Programs like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp allow you to do this with family and friends oversees for no international communication costs.
Share photos quickly and easily via photo sharing apps and websites that provide online group photo albums (Google Photos is my choice) and give printed versions that commemorate the experiences (Shutterfly is a good one for this).
I know one grandmother who gives her grandchildren printed photo albums as souvenirs of each of their special outings together. She is also always looking for new inter-generational bonding activities for grandparents and grandchildren (so she can take more pictures, of course!) Her smartphone helps her research and send ideas for fun activities to her children and grandchildren. A new adventure is always at her fingertips.
Best yet, smartphones have voice to text capabilities, which allow you to speak voice-to-voice with your loved ones, just like an old-fashioned telephone!
3. Personal Growth
This is by far my most valued area of use of my smartphone as a busy empty-nester. First, I easily keep my mind active with brain game apps that are “good for the brain”:
- Brain activity games (e.g., GreatCall Brain Games)
- Group games (e.g., Words with Friends)
- Electronic versions of old standards like Solitaire
Second, I can stay connected with my adult children’s interests by having them share their favorite music playlists via Spotify or iTunes, their most recent favorite books, or—best yet—their most interesting podcast recommendations. Podcasts are perhaps my very favorite use of my smartphone because it provides avenues for continuing education all the time! I download my favorite episodes and listen while running errands. What a fantastic way to listen and learn.
Third, I have some friends who use their phone as their personal matchmaker. Some have downloaded apps to help them find dates, others use apps to find friends with mutual interests. I didn’t even know that senior dating apps and websites for people over 50 even existed!
WARNING: Avoid These Bad Smartphone Habits
1. Smartphones – The Enemy of Sleep
Research shows that smartphones prevent restful sleep or the ability to go to sleep. Try to avoid using your smartphone in bed. Instead you can read a real printed book, listen to some soul-enriching music or, best yet, just cozy up with your favorite snuggler.
On the other hand, a nice sleep-assistance option is a white noise app with a soothing background noise (oscillating fan sound provides me the best success).
Tip: I recently came across an article that piqued my interest, but this was moments before I planned to go to bed. I was tired, and I knew that if I read it I would never get to sleep. Instead, I opened the article and bookmarked it for reading the next day. Now I had the convenience to read it at home, during lunch, or anywhere on my phone. There’s this neat app called Pocket that lets you save an article for later with one button.
2. Never Use Your Smartphone on the Go!
Accidents can happen in a flash, whether you are driving or walking down a crowded sidewalk. Use Google Maps or Waze to set your navigation before you start and set up blue-tooth connection, and drive with both hands on the wheel. Enough said.
3. Less Screen Time, More Face Time
Don’t let your smartphone consume you! Video chat apps are no replacement for real face time. Set a limit on your device time and set goals for actually conversing with your partner/spouse/children/friends, taking your dog for a walk with your smartphone turned off or just spending time with some good old-fashioned day-dreaming!
Personally, there is nothing sadder to me than seeing two people out to dinner and both of them engrossed in their smartphones. Really—what’s the point? Increased screen time could also be bad for you! Dr. Balu Athreya, a resident at Acts Retirement, recently published the book Thinking Skills for the Digital Age. In this book he discusses the danger of too much information and the inability to process it all and discern what is true and false. It’s time to put down the phone and pick up a conversation.
And, finally, don’t let your smartphone make you dumb! While there are many great uses for these ever-present devices, don’t let them replace what makes we humans really smart—healthy face-to-face conversation and debate, learning from doing, getting outside and marveling at the wonders of our world, and just sitting and thinking.
About the Author
This article was written on behalf of GreatCall by Lori Woodward, Senior Vice President, Sales and Marketing at Acts Retirement. Ms. Woodward has held a series of leadership positions in the senior living industry, including serving as chief executive officer of Hamlyn Senior Marketing in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. In addition, she served as corporate vice president of marketing and sales for Springpoint Senior Living in Princeton, New Jersey. Ms. Woodward serves on the board of directors for the Twilight Wish Foundation, and as an advisory board member of the Masonic Home of New Jersey. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Business from Millersville University, and an MBA in Marketing from LaSalle University.