Just like the analog shutdown
I was in an AT&T store around 2006 or 2007 and there was an elderly woman in there that was being told she had to upgrade her phone and she told them she did not want to upgrade her phone. Her device was a Nokia 51xx series device and I figured that it was a TDMA device (which AT&T shut down around the same time that they shut down the AMPS network).
The thing with elderly is they don't like upgrades and you have them screaming bloody murder when they are forced to upgrade (case in point, cable providers shutting down analog channels and forcing them to accept a set-top box or DTA). It's even worse when you add dementia to the equation as their memory issues make it beyond impossible to learn the new technology. Many elderly households still are using rotary phones that are still mounted on the kitchen wall as their sole communications source (even worse, they are still renting them as they had the option to continue renting or buy the device when they broke up AT&T/Bell System in 1984 and they choose the rent option which they are still doing 28 years later).
I am 29 years old and I cannot wait to get the latest gadgets. I plan on buying the iPhone 5 next week as I am now eligible for an upgrade on Verizon. I also just bought an iPad Mini (had to exchange it as the first one had several defects) and I bought it on the Verizon device installment plan.
If you read this comment and you have elderly parents or grandparents, ask if you can see a copy of their phone bill. Many times they have charges crammed on the bill and they may still be "renting" the rotary phone that they may or may not be using or may no longer have in their possession. I have heard many stories of elderly folks still being charged rent on phones 28 years after the breakup of the phone company and the amount they've paid over the years probably could buy 500 64GB iPhones at the full retail price.
Grandma has Time Warner for phone. She switched her phone to Time Warner after FairPoint came to town (she lives in Maine). I bought her a Panasonic cordless phone and she has a Samsung Convoy II on my Verizon ShareEverything plan as backup.
I mostly agree with you, except for the reasons many elderly people don't do upgrades. It isn't so much an issue of dementia as it is an issue of what they have fitting their needs. For instance, my parents didn't own an answering machine, and, even after I got them one, they never used it. When I asked them why, they said that, if someone really needed to reach them, they could call back if they (my parents) didn't answer the first time. Granted, this way of doing things seems terribly inefficient to me, but they'd managed just fine like this all their lives, and they saw no reason to change. It was a slower pace of life, but, if you think about it, it was less stressful to them, since they didn't have to worry about remembering to check their messages.
The same goes for cell phones. If you view them as simply a tool, like a shovel or rake, then it makes sense that some people don't want to upgrade them unless the one they have breaks. They know how the one they have works, and, as long as it does what they need it to do, they're happy. Plus, remember that folks who lived through the Great Depression and World War II were very conscious of being frugal. If they didn't absolutely need to buy something, they didn't, and that behavior stuck with many of them.
Reminds me of my Great Aunt (born in 1906) who was taken to the hospital due to heat stroke in the 90's, since she had no A/C. My Grandfather flew half way across the country to put in a window unit for her, which she never used because it was too costly to run. Used to get $2 for my birthday from her, which was like $2000 from anyone else.