My father and his wife recently moved into a retirement community in Iowa and are enjoying their active lifestyle in the independent living wing of this very nice facility, called Grand Living at Indian Creek. For years they have walked at least two miles almost daily, and in the early days of the Fitbit craze, Dad (currently 83) was the first in our family to buy this gadget. I got my first Fitbit about a year after he did, and he was quick to send me his weekly Fitbit progress report that showed how far behind him I was in daily steps. (In my defense, I work full time and he is retired. And because he spends October through April in Arizona, he can pretty much walk outside year-round, while I am stuck in a six-month long Minnesota winter.)
When I went to visit him a few months ago at Grand Living, the latest thing trending in his life was a stainless steel magnetic wristband that attaches to any Fitbit, is adjustable to any wrist size, and keeps the band securely in place without the awkward buckle function. He enthusiastically demonstrated the magnetic prowess of this band and pointed out that the steel mesh loop construction provided good ventilation, something that serves him well on the Pickleball court and golf course.
I agreed that this band was far superior to the plastic version that comes “factory-standard.” He then had Judy, my stepmother, hold up her wrist to model the pinky bronze version he had purchased for her, and then promptly pulled out his laptop, navigated to eBay (he loves eBay) and ordered one for me.
It was thus I learned Dad had become The Fitbit Guy among his new neighbors, many of whom aren’t as technologically inclined as my father. As of this writing, he has ordered Fitbits on eBay for six residents, downloaded the app onto their devices and shown them how to navigate the dashboard, sync their data, and send and accept friend requests.
While this is a sweet, endearing story, it doesn’t surprise me at all. Dad has always understood the impact of technology, and the value it brings to one’s life. It started in the early 1980s when he bought an Apple IIe computer for our family. Personal computing really took off for the first time around 1977, so Dad wasn’t far behind.
Fast forward to when I was a young career woman, and hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs) become all the rage. Not only could you keep your calendar and contacts on it, you could take notes, surf the Internet, and a lot of other cool things that in the late 1990s seemed pretty revolutionary. The Palm Pilot was the first of the hand-held computers that paved the way for the smartphone era.
I remember Dad telling me that when he attended business meetings, whether in his company or for various boards he served on, he would take his Palm Pilot from his pocket and put it, and the accompanying stylus, on the table in front of him. He wanted his colleagues and peers (especially those who were younger) to know that, despite his greying and thinning hair and advancing age, he was a Renaissance man who was quite capable, thank you very much, of keeping up with the technologies evolving around him.
So enamored was he of the Palm Pilot, he insisted that I get one. And when I didn’t, he promptly ordered one for me on eBay (I told you he loved eBay).
Dad had a Facebook account before I did, and I’m pretty he sure he was on LinkedIn before me. In a way, this makes me sound behind the times. But I have bested him when it comes to Instagram and Twitter, and I did get an iPad first and showed him how to play backgammon on it. Point for me. Point for Dad: He started using the iPhone’s voice-to-text function before I did.
His final two frontiers on the technology landscape are (1) placing and retrieving his electronic boarding pass via his mobile wallet, and (2) using Apple Pay. However, I’m travelling with him in September and can show him how it’s done. I have no doubt he will easily master both of these processes, just as he has everything else. And who knows, before too long, the residents of Grand Living might be paying their rent with Apple Pay!