Friday, March 26, 2010

Boomer Technophiles should Teach Boomer Technophobes now

This blog entry is a little different from most of the ones I've done on these pages. In most cases, I've been trying to help people adopt new technologies that may seem unclear to them or find a great application they may have overlooked. However, I came across Laurie Orloff's recent blog post called Technophiles Should Teach Technophobes Now and felt moved to discuss it. Laurie writes about aging in place, and older people using technology. She is a firm believer that technology enhances people's lives, no matter what the age, and that older people who don't know how to use the Internet are missing out. She especially worries about social isolation. She sees some hope in these news items she recently saw:
Three tiny news items -- three small steps for senior computer literacy. In New York, Microsoft and Self-Help have announced a virtual senior center -- a way that home-bound seniors can share in the activities of a local senior center through video conferencing. In Tuscaloosa, a public library has partnered with Generations Online to offer training in use of computers -- the library has the computers and software already, but is running out of funding to pay the Senior Aides who do the training. And in Rockville, Maryland, the Jewish Council on Aging is seeing a growing number of seniors sign up for computer training, fearful of being left out of connecting with their peers.
So how does all that relate to Boomers? If you know how to use the computer well enough to read my blog, you know enough to teach someone else how to use the Internet and work a smart phone, if they are willing! Laurie is worried that seniors are missing out on the sense of community that comes when they are increasingly isolated. I am worried that if Boomers don't keep up, they will be the ones isolated when they reach old age.

Laurie says that only 66% of middle Boomers seem to be working full time, and she speculates that some of that job loss might be because they are unfamiliar with technology. Not knowing technology can hamper you from finding a job if the employer only advertises online. Everyone these days has to be able to write using a word processor and surf the Internet at a minimum. Many jobs--even hands on jobs like social work and nursing--require updating of materials on the computer.

While I think much of what Laurie has to say in her article is spot on, I would like to broaden her approach. For every Boomer out there who is a slave to their Blackberry and loves Facebook and Linked-In, there's another who hasn't a clue. I know there are those who claim they don't want to have a life online. If you know someone like this, encourage them to give it a try and don't give up. In 20 years, when boomers reach a stage when they can no longer drive well or climb the subway stairs, who do you think will be the happier people? Technophobes or Technophiles?

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