Opinion: The digital switch is not good for the elderly and vulnerable

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So it’s goodbye to the fixed, which looks like a hello to the stranger. Am I the only one who feels a little uncomfortable about not having a landline that I never even use?

I have no idea my personal phone number. I think I have used the landline once, maybe twice, in recent years. But I clung to it because not having a phone connection feels kind of rudderless to me.

With one in five households getting rid of landlines, they are a thing of the past. And in a digital upheaval set to be completed by 2025, all households and businesses will need the internet or cell phones to make a phone call. This means that many older and vulnerable households that are not currently connected will be forced to pay to have an internet connection installed, or to use a cell phone. And in rural areas where the internet connection and mobile signals are poor, the phone will not be reliable, which does not appear to be a particularly effective solution.

My mobile reception is so poor at home that I can only make and take calls in one room, between the window and the cupboard, and even then, maddeningly, the phone often cuts off in the middle of a conversation. . But in an emergency, I can at least count on my landline.

Having a home phone creates a feeling of being rooted. It wasn’t always a thing – “Are you on the phone?” People said when I was a kid. If you had a phone, it was probably rented. We had a rented standard black dial-up phone that was not placed near the TV in the living room, so there was little chance of using it in any peace of mind or privacy.

Much more glamorous was our neighbor’s brown Trimphone, which had its own telephone table and a small wooden piggy bank. Even more glamorous were households with more than one phone! If you had a phone upstairs, as well as a phone downstairs, you were pretty much Joan Collins in Dynasty as far as I’m concerned.

From an early age, we were trained to answer phone calls by reciting the phone number in a robotic, monotonous voice. Of all the phone numbers I have had over the years, this old home number is the one that is forever etched in my brain.

As a teenager, if I wanted to call a boyfriend or a boy, in private I often had to use the dirty phone booth down the road. Now phone booths like glitches and party lines are long gone. Just like the phone book and the yellow pages – something we all had neatly written copies of on our desks when I first started in journalism. And do you remember the “phone book”, containing carefully handwritten numbers of friends and family? My sister asked her teenage son to pull hers out of a drawer the other day and she might as well have spoken to him in Japanese. ” What is that ? He said, looking confused.

A telephone is no longer just a telephone. People’s lives are in their mobiles – family photos, daily schedules, appointment reminders, contact details – but there is still something to be said about having a “landline”. If households have to rely on the internet for this, where does it leave them in the event of a power outage? About half a million households do not have a cell phone.

For me, the digital switchover smacks of corporate greed. This is already causing distress to many older people. My 90 year old aunt’s phone is her lifeline, I can’t imagine how she would cope with an internet connection at her age. There’s no way she’s using a mobile.

Seniors are also at risk of digital scams. “Give me three rings when you’re home,” people would say. Those days of caring for each other went with the glitches.


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