While many have turned to online searches for phone and address information, making phone books obsolete, it has made it difficult for those without access to technology or access to information. who are not comfortable with technology, such as the elderly.
The first printed telephone book, a piece of cardboard listing 50 people, businesses, and offices, was published in 1780 in New Haven, Connecticut. From there, phone books became a staple of households for over a hundred years, arriving at the door in the mail and providing people with a connection with residents, businesses and organizations.
The first electronic directory was created in France in 1981, on a system called Mintiel. Following the widespread adoption of the Internet, telephone directories were first brought online in 1996, when Yellowpages.com and Whitepages.com were launched. From there, it only took a decade or so before online number searching completely replaced searching through a phone book.
With less eye on the phone book, advertisers have also moved away, making them less financially viable for publishers. In addition, some communities have banned them outright, citing them as unnecessary or harmful to the environment.
But the demise of the phone book has created a void for people who don’t have internet access or aren’t comfortable looking for things online. Not everyone owns a computer or smartphone, and some rural areas have inconsistent or expensive internet.
But there are some options for finding information.
One of the best local physical resources available is the Seniors Resource Handbook, a printed directory of services and organizations in Strathmore and Wheatland County. The book, produced by Bridging the Gap, provides a description of each organization and department, along with their main phone number, contacts, and other information. The book can be picked up from the Wheatland County Office, Strathmore FCSS and Strathmore Public Health Unit (650 Westchester Rd).
Residents also have the option of calling directory assistance (411). However, it costs money, usually between $ 2 and $ 2.50 per call. People with accessibility issues can contact their phone service provider to sign up for the free 411 service.
Another option is to visit the Strathmore Public Library, where staff members will help visitors find the information they need. The library also provides computers connected to the Internet, as well as technical training workshops to help residents learn how to use them. There is also an online business directory for the Town of Strathmore (www.strathmore business directory.ca) which could be printed with a little help.
The city’s Seniors Advisory Committee understands that many seniors do not have access to general information due to the lack of technology, Councilor Denise Peterson, committee chair, said in an email.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the group held several coffee meetings each month and one briefing per month to disseminate the information. While these efforts are now shelved, they could be an option for the elderly and others looking to connect when things return to normal.