iPhones & iPads for Seniors? The Yankee Clock Peddler Story

Last week I spoke to 70 members of local women’s group about how they could potentially use iPhone’s and iPad’s in useful ways in their lives as retirees. As I made a list of apps and use cases for my presentation I thought about how much I’d miss my iPhone if I were forced to give it up, and remembered a story that my father used to tell about a Yankee Clock Peddler.  The story goes like this…

The Yankee Clock Peddler and his travelling companion start out on a sales tip in a rural area, and they stop for the night at a farmer’s house. In the morning before leaving to make sales call in neighbouring communities, the clock peddler asks the farmer if he’d store a clock for him for a couple of weeks, and that he’ll pick the clock up on his way back home. The farmer agreed to this, so the Peddler wound up the clock and placed it on the farmer’s wall before leaving (the farmer does not yet own a clock).  When out of ear shot, the traveling companion asks the clock peddler why he left the clock at the house. Didn’t he want to sell the clock on the trip?  To this the Yankee Clock Peddler replied, “don’t worry, by the time I come back in a couple of weeks, the clock will be sold… the farmer will happily buy it from me.”

The moral of the story is:  “We can do without any article of luxury we have never had, but when once obtained, it is not in human nature to surrender it voluntarily.”

Here are some of the ways my iPhone is an article of luxury that I could not easily do without anymore:

  • I consume almost all my news on my iPhone and to a lesser extend on my iPad. I start my day reading the news in bed on my iPhone. This way I can be up to speed on the news before heading out for the day, and I don’t wake my wife before she needs to get up at the same time.  For reading new I use the built-in Safari web browser, Zite and Flipboard. Sports with ESPN sports.
  • The other thing I do before getting out of bed (and at other times during the day) is skim through my email in the Gmail app, as well as my to-do list in GoTasks (GoTasks hooks into my Google Task list).
  • As I get ready to leave for work in the morning I check out the built-in Weather app so see what I’m facing weather wise before getting on my bike.
  • Before leaving campus around 5pm, I download the 6pm CBC news (from an earlier East coast broadcast) and then listen to it on the way home in the Downcast app at double speed.  Why at double speed to you ask?  Because my bike ride home only takes 15 minutes, so at double speed I can listen to the whole 30 minute news cast on my commute home.  I also listen to a lot of technology podcasts for news and continuing education.

My iPhone also comes in handy for:

  • Settling bets.  If there is disagreement over any obscure facts over dinner or in a conversation, it’s nice to know that it can settle the argument in 30 seconds with my iPhone and Siri or Google.
  • I frequently read books in bed, over lunch, or if I have some idle time. Kindle, iBooks are my favourite readers (Kindle ebooks tend to be less expensive in my experience). The place in the book you’re reading syncs nicely between iPads and iPhones, so you don’t have to keep track of where you are if you read on both devices. I love being able to easily change the font size to match how tired my eyes are at any given time. I think the changeable font size will be a big selling feature for older readers.
  • Lastly, I love to be able to share photos with family and friends when I’m out and about, rather than take time to upload them to Facebook from my computer when I get home.

I’d argue that one modern-day incarnation of the Yankee Clock Pedder’s windup wall clock is the iPhone. Once you’ve had a chance to use used an iPhone for a while, you’ll probably end up wondering how you did without it. I’m confident that would be the case for the intrepid retired women I talked to last week.

Leave a Reply