Cellphones at the dinner table can be an annoyance
May 28, 2018

Q:  I always look forward to visits from family who live out of state. I enjoy cooking but when you live alone it doesn’t have the same appeal. When I knew the “gang” was coming I prepared all their favorite meals. My frustration level finally came to a boil a year ago. We would all sit down at the dinner table and their phones were either ringing or a beep could be heard signalling a text was coming in. I told them the new rule at my house was no devices at the table. The oldest grandson said I was behind the times and even joked about the flip phone I still use. Am I just out of touch and being unreasonable?

A:   According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center there is a “notable digital divide between younger and older Americans.” The generation gap exists in many facets of our social and personal approaches to life. Perhaps there is much to be learned from all of us regardless of age in regards to technology.

The ownership of smartphones has more than doubled in the last five years. While the purchases are higher among young and middle-aged individuals, older adult consumers have also increased. How people use the device has an impact on whether or not they choose to spend the significantly higher price on a smartphone. For someone whose primary purpose in having a cellphone is for emergencies only then it is understandable why the less expensive option works perfectly fine for them.

The younger generation has grown up with technology impacting their school and home life. They would find it almost archaic that their grandparents labored over a manual typewriter to complete term papers or haunted the local library to do research. Older adults have embraced the use of personal computers and approximately half have access to high speed internet in their homes. One complaint often voiced by them is the frustration of costly upgrades every few years and the lack of instructions for the devices. For older adults who may live on a fixed income it is understandable they may hesitate to invest in the most up-to-date technology. Their value system sends a message to spend money where it counts the most for them.

Your message to your family about turning off devices at the dinner table is certainly your right in your own home. There is a concern voiced by many older adults that people are losing the art of communication, the ability to talk face to face with people. Anyone using any type of cellphone should also be sensitive to a level of etiquette – know when it should be turned off or put on vibrate.


Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.

Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.

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