Just a couple of decades ago, it wasn’t hard to find a phone booth whenever needed. Most young people today have never seen a phone booth. Like it or not, the world that we once knew is rapidly changing. We can either adapt and continue to learn, or we can lock ourselves inside the comfort of those secure booths from our past.
After giving a presentation on ageism and intergenerational communication to an audience of mostly older adults, one woman asked me how she could communicate with younger people if all they wanted to do is to communicate through emails and text messaging. Before I could respond, the woman announced that she had no intention of learning how to use technology to communicate “at her age” (she was in her seventies). For whatever reason, this woman was uncomfortable with the rapid changes that were taking place.
Adaptation is Possible at Any Age
Others have embraced lifelong learning and change. I often think of a 98-year-old neighbor I’d known who started her day searching the Internet and loved to stay in contact with family using email. I also think about a former 81-year-old community college student I’d had in one of my classes who said that if he couldn’t get a job after graduating, he’d return to school and earn a second degree in computer technology; he’d never really used a computer but wanted to learn.
We Must Keep Learning
When it comes to technology, robotics, and artificial intelligence, the speed of change and innovation is only going to accelerate in the coming months and years. If you want to read an eye-opening view of technology changes to come, I’d suggest reading The Fourth Age by Byron Reese.
As those of us over 50 are not technology natives, it can be daunting at times to keep learning about something that feels quite foreign. But learn, we must. If we do not keep learning, we risk losing our independence and possibly more.
We Have a Lot of Resources Available
Fortunately, we are living in an age when it is possible to learn new technologies by using existing technologies. When searching for ‘how-to’ information on the Internet or YouTube, the key is to use the right search terms. Sometimes it takes a little trial and error, but eventually, you can usually find the information you need. Then it can take a lot of patience.
I wanted to learn how to use the subtext feature of some video editing software I owned. I tried to figure it out intuitively, but I wasn’t successful. Then I found the right YouTube video to follow. After watching the video a few times and making notes, I finally figured out how to do something new with the editing software I owned. It probably took me 7-8 hours of work to do something a tech native would have figured out in a couple of minutes. I usually feel frustrated when I try to learn new technology—it isn’t easy for me, and it takes time and effort. Nonetheless, I know I must keep learning.
There are also free courses online that can help us with new technology. Edx is one example of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) that offer computer technology courses. Some colleges also offer free or low-cost classes for older adults.
Another way to continue learning new technology is to solicit help from tech natives. For example, when I hired someone to redesign my website, I told him I wanted to learn how to manage the site, make changes, and update it myself. Because I had found the right person to work with, I learned what I needed to know and can handle most everything I want to do. If I make any big mistakes, I know where to find the information I need to trouble-shoot, and I also know people I can contact for professional help.
Even setting up a new Smart Television requires some basic comfort with technology. Fortunately, most of the set-up is guided and isn’t too difficult. However, it helps to know what “smart” televisions can actually do (including what kind of data they can collect). After I’d set up our new smart television, I discovered that our audio assistant could remain active even after I turned the television set off. My step son-in-law was able to show me how to disable the creepy audio assistant.
We Must Protect Ourselves
Learning how to protect ourselves when using technology is something that we all need to know. We not only need to use strong passwords and have good security protection on our devices, but we also need to be aware of our technological vulnerabilities such as hacking risks and other threats.
I am not a ‘tech’ person and get frustrated quickly when trying to learn new technology. But I believe that I must keep learning and adapting. If I do keep learning, I can use technology to accomplish things, to stay connected with others, and appropriately limit my technology risks. If I refuse to keep up, technology will end up controlling me and will create barriers in my life that I don’t want.
Are there tech areas you’d like to know more about? If so, what’s stopping you?