My (68 y/o) father does not use, upgrade, or keep his cell phone with him at all. His current phone is a very old Iphone, perhaps a ver. 5, and he generally leaves it at home when he goes out to do anything, including work, the gym, or realistically anything else.

Moreover, he does not seem to understand the modern usage pattern for cell phones - when my family needs to meet up for something, he often attempts to plan complex multi step transportation processes in advance (relying on everyone being in extremely specific places at specific times). This generally leads to him badly over-stressing when someone is 10 minutes late in traffic for example, and has no way to notify him. In cases that he does have his phone, he generally only turns it on to make a call or text, then immediately turns it off before receiving a reply.

I should mention that he has a number of other social/behavioral issues that manifest themselves in similarly frustrating ways, and are clearly the result of the same underlying behavioral disorder - however this one in particular is a massive safety issue for himself and causes the entire family unnecessary grief when we cannot contact him. He is not a technically incompetent person, he has a massively successful, 40+ career as a tenured academic scientist in STEM, at a top university (yes, really).

I have tried showing him how to use his phone, downloading apps he likes, and reminding him to bring it. He will simply say things like "I didn't bring it because it was out of charge" (this one is particularly ridiculous, because it shows he doesn't understand the normal pattern is to keep your phone charged), or "no one ever needs to call me."

What are some ways I can help him understand this is completely absurd?

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    He made it his whole adult life without needing a cell phone. You did not. His old-fashioned way is to make time commitments and keep them. It sounds like his life has worked pretty well. Explain further, how do you arrive at the conclusion that he has a behavioral disorder? May 21 '18 at 1:04
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    @Harper Whether or not there actually is a behavioural disorder at play here, I think the judgement of a close family member is likely to be better than random strangers on the Internet, hm?
    – ArtOfCode
    May 21 '18 at 1:09
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it looks like you're asking for help with phrasing an argument. Phrasing requests are off topic.
    – sphennings
    May 21 '18 at 1:59
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    Although I agree with ArtOfCode, sounds to me like he's the one giving you a lesson on punctuality and on not depending too heavily on technology. Some people simply don't conform to the "always connected" lifestyle and that's their prerogative. Being different is not a behavioral issue. I'm finding it hard to come up with any ipskill to offer in your situation. I'm thinking about it...
    – J A
    May 21 '18 at 4:19
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    How about, "How can I motivate my father to use his phone on logistically sensitive situations?" like the one you described where he's commuting relying on others, that specific scenario does need interpersonal skills. I'll vote to leave this question open for now.
    – J A
    May 21 '18 at 4:27

I"m going to challenge your question as a whole here. Through most of his life, when he left the house, he was unavailable via phone. That's HIS usage pattern of the phone. Why does he need to adapt to a modern usage pattern? I understand why you want him to do so, but what's the benefit to him? How will it help him out?

I'd submit you need to come to accept the first point and be able to make the second point to him - not show him "that's how everyone else does it" but show him the benefit to him. Then, let him decide. In the end, behavior only occurs when it produces a benefit to the person making the behavior. If there's no benefit to him that he can see in carrying around a cell phone, then he won't do it - no matter how much you nag him. And if you keep going on this path, you'll wind up doing nothing more than annoying him about doing something that he sees no benefit in doing.

It can be done, but it needs to be something that benefits HIM, not you.


I faced a similar situation with my mother, who is technically competent but tended to go out either without her phone, or with it turned off.

After we had a situation that was complicated and upsetting but wouldn't have been if her phone had been with her and on, we did a sort of post mortem where she ended up concluding that was the issue. That's important. Your father is competent. You asserting that having a turned-on phone with him at all times is vital won't work. He needs to conclude it.

Having done that, you now need to look at why the phone is off or not with them. I am sure you know many couples where one person is upset that their phone is almost out of battery, and their spouse is condescendingly explaining how that wouldn't happen if they kept it plugged in when they are at home ... only for the first to say "lend me your phone then" and be told "ah, er, I can't, I left it at home in the charger." This is a real problem that happens to people of all ages.

There are several good fixes. One is to buy an external battery for $10 or $20 so the phone can be charged on the go. Another is to work out a better place to charge the phone. My mother moved her charger to the living room near the front door. There is a small table where she naturally goes to check her landline messages, put down her mail etc and plugging the phone in the moment she gets home works well there. But she is likely to see it as she is leaving and remember to bring it with her.

Also, are you sure it's off to save battery? It may be off to save data. People can be confused about that sort of thing. Showing how to turn off data may help.

Another good approach is to make the phone valuable to him all the time, not just while traveling or otherwise required to be reachable. "Downloading apps he likes" hasn't worked. How about regular text/email/skype/whatever messages just to brighten his day? A fun link, a grandchild picture, some item you have bought or prepared in advance of his next visit, and so on. The more the phone has warm associations the more likely he is to carry it and to leave it on so it can deliver the dopamine. Right now, remembering the phone is just a way to do as your child tells you to do, and who wants to do that? Even if it's the logical thing to do?

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