Did reading the title of this post make you cringe just a little? Us too!
When my dad was getting ready to retire, his employer introduced email. Actually, it wasn’t even called email at that point. His employer called it “the DG” and it had read receipts for every message. That meant when his boss sent out emails, she could tell if my dad was reading them or not. Well, he had a bad habit of deleting his entire inbox and his boss would get notified that not only had he not opened any of the emails, but he had deleted them altogether. I think he got reprimanded so many times that it almost became a joke.
Now that I look back, I realize my dad never really used email EVER. My sisters set up multiple Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail accounts for him, but he never checked them. eBay was the only thing that got him to use a computer. Actually, it was the addition of the “Buy It Now” button in eBay that really got his attention. He bought many many MANY collectibles through eBay, but that was the limit of his technology experience!
Fast forward a few years, and now we’re living with hundreds of folks just like my dad. Living in a senior community and being surrounded by 65, 75, and 85-year-old neighbors has helped us realize there’s a part of the baby boomer generation that got totally screwed by technology. We see it over and over again. A lot of people in their mid-seventies never really used technology in their jobs or personal lives when they were younger. Now, they’re forced to use technology all the time.
Here’s what we’ve learned over the past couple years while living in a senior community: 😊
You can’t escape technology.
It’s everywhere. But, many baby boomers just don’t want to accept that. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pumping gas at a gas station, taking money out of your bank account, doing taxes, or getting a soda at Five Guys…you have to use technology.
It’s kinda crazy to think about how things have changed over the last couple decades. We were at the American History Museum in Washington DC this summer and stumbled upon an exhibit focused on changes in personal technology. We sat there in awe as we looked at gadgets we owned like the Sony Walkman, Palm Pilot, Apple iPod, camcorder, Polaroid camera, TomTom, and VCR/DVD player. What’s next, right???
It’s a daily lesson in patience.
Every day, at least one of our neighbors has a technology challenge. Some days it’s not being able to buy a plane ticket. Some days it’s not knowing how to troubleshoot WiFi connectivity. Other days it’s something simple like struggling to sign up for rewards at the local grocery store.
At first, we just assumed our neighbors were pawning off their problems on us. But, we quickly realized, they’re scared of technology. They’re afraid they’re going to do something wrong and cause all kinds of problems. So, they just freeze. Or, they come see us! We had to feel out our neighbors one by one. Some of them just want us to fix the problem. Others really want to know what they’re doing wrong and how to fix it themselves next time.
It’s so much easier to have patience when we know our neighbors (and our parents) really are trying. They aren’t using FaceTime with strangers on purpose. They just don’t know the difference between a video call and a regular call.
We still struggle with the baby boomers who refuse to give up their paper checks. We just about lose it when we get behind an older lady (it’s always a woman; not a man) who takes forever to write out a check at Costco and then stands there while she balances her checkbook using the ledger at the back of the book. Serenity now!
Don’t get lazy.
We have to admit we get lazy with technology sometimes and we worry that early retirement and being out of the workplace will cause our technology skills to lag. We do everything we can to keep up with the times. We subscribe to technology magazines, search through technology-related articles on FlipBoard, and generally try to embrace change.
However, when Apple released the iOS 13 update, they introduced swipe type. You’re supposed to be able to keep your finger on your phone screen and drag it across the letters you want to type. The keyboard takes an educated guess at the word you’re spelling. Well, Carter immediately declared this update dumb. I just looked at him and said, “Really? We’re already turning into our parents.” That’s what our parents said about streaming services before Blockbuster went out of business!
The bottom line is that helping our parents with technology challenges really can be torture. We just need to be sympathetic, take a step back, and realize times have changed in ways our parents could never have imagined! We each have to own and embrace technology changes. Some of the changes are easier than others. Some stick around longer than others. And, some of the changes really are dumb. But, we need to learn from our parents and realize technology is here to stay and it’s going to keep progressing. It’s all good. Just a little painful at times.