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Upwardly mobile. Don’t mock the young for being glued to their phones. Caroline Flint, 81, depends on hers to stay in touch with the best things in life

Blog | By Phillip Mansel | Apr 11, 2023

I have friends the same age as me (81) and many much younger – here I include grandchildren. The greatest difference between them is my ability to contact them and communicate with them.

With friends of my own age, I am very restricted in my ability to contact them. I can write a letter – pen to paper, envelope, stamp, shuffle to the post box – and hope that it is picked up by the increasingly depleted Post Office.

On the other hand, I can ring them. Invariably this has to be on a landline because although they own a mobile, it is never switched on. ‘I put it on only when I want to call out.’

This means that the great convenience of the mobile phone – you can answer it by pulling it out of your pocket; you don’t even have to get out of your chair – is not used.

People are fearful that if they have their phone switched on all the time, they will be called all the time. They should be so lucky! How many of your friends or relatives will be ringing you on a normal day? They are all busy living their lives – they aren’t interested in ringing you every five minutes.

So I ring the landline. It is never answered. I leave a message on the answerphone. Will this be picked up? I am not very confident, but if I am lucky it is answered – sometimes within a week.

I text my younger friends. They text back immediately.

We can have a conversation on text. ‘Did you get that job?’ ‘Where are you on holiday?’ ‘Are you in a hotel or Airbnb?’

Tell me about it.

They send me photos of the beach they are sunning themselves or surfing on. I gain great pleasure from the photos of gorgeous grandchildren living their best life. When they describe what they have seen, I can picture it because they have sent me a photo. I share in their joy.

They send me videos I might like. I see them at the Commonwealth Games, taking a selfie with Clare Balding. I see the meal they are having at that new Algerian restaurant. I feel up to date and part of the world.

My daughter FaceTimes me. I sit and eat my lunch and she sits and eats her lunch and although we are 400 miles apart, we are virtually having lunch together. We can see each other; we chat and laugh. We compare our lunches. We catch up with family news and gossip. New babies, new jobs, new homes – all grist to the mill.

My older friends do not use FaceTime. Either because whenever they touch their phone they turn it off by mistake, or because they have bought the very cheapest phone and it doesn’t contain FaceTime.

During lockdown, a younger friend sent me a video of a weekly walk around her garden. What a gift that was for a flat-dweller. On television, there was a whole raft of people going for walks with their phones on a photo stick. It was peaceful, interesting, joyous and soothing – slow television. I am often sent a beautiful photo of a rose or a honeysuckle by a friend – I am waiting for smellavision!

An Indian friend sends me, every morning, a photo of the sunrise or sometimes of a cup of coffee with a cheery ‘Have a lovely day’.

These little phones have much more power than my first computer, an Apricot. They are much simpler to use. The older generation miss out on so much fun when they don’t embrace them.

And what about waiting?

Waiting for a hospital appointment, a train or a friend who is always late. Then I play computer solitaire, or I read web pages. I watch TV programmes I have missed, or films.

The whole world is there. I can read the newspaper. I can read a book. I can listen to lovely music. I can see what my family are up to. Modern phones are like magic carpets.

Now I have discovered TikTok. An old midwife wanting to educate women into simpler ways of giving birth, I make 30-second videos which are watched by thousands of people.

Never in my whole career have I been able to influence so many people. I hope they find what I do useful.