In a recent press release, researchers claim they know Why some older people are rejecting digital technologies.
Here is a summary of why some old people are said to reject technology:
1. Personal concerns about the impact of technology on society
Seniors are said to worry that technology will cause people to lose jobs; that local shops may close; that technology will limit job prospects for grandchildren.
Do old people seriously worry about the effect of technology on jobs? I think not.
So many old people exist on Social Security and little else. When concerns about technology collide with reality, reality wins. It wins because real world concerns of old people are about maintaining health, having enough money to eat and a safe place to live. More than technology concerns, many seniors are worried about day to day survival.
2. Fear of getting things wrong
When the culture, stereotypical norms and those around you suggest subliminally or otherwise you are not quite as sharp as you used to be because of your age, (“You don’t have to do that anymore, let me do that for you”) you begin to believe you are less than competent and there is an inclination to worry technology is more than you can handle — you fear “screwing up” especially with something totally alien to you.
3. Technology is too difficult and time consuming
Again, if you believe you are no longer competent or capable because of your age, you may well plead that learning how to use technology is “too difficult” — and as for “too time consuming” — is time really an issue? Seniors have more than enough time to spend at McDonald’s, commiserating with other old people about “old times” instead of going to a class to learn basic computer skills.
4. Old people lack confidence in their ability to learn new things
Websites are said to place a burden on old people because they require old people to” become experts”, whereas previously, old people could seek out trained professionals to help with decision making. This suggests, again, that old people believe they are not competent to figure things out for themselves –that they should depend on others to do for them what they could learn to do for themselves.
5. Playing the “Age Card”
The researchers did get it right in pointing out that old people themselves often perpetuate the myth that old age keeps them from learning new things, especially learning to use technology. Old people are said to play the “age card” to justify lower expectations for themselves. Why do old people so often use their age to claim incompetence? The answer is: They have been “trained” to conform, to accept deeply embedded cultural consensus thinking about what is expected of them as old persons, how they should think and live, and how they should or should not function in society.
Promoting the depressing “good life”
It would be wonderful if we did not see another depressing TV commercial for “senior living” that shows old people in a retirement home playing cards or bingo, or just sitting around looking listless –supposedly enjoying the “good life” and instead, see seniors at computers building websites, challenging and engaging their brains. Believe it or not, building a simple website is not too complicated for a cognitively competent old person to learn to do as well as become proficient using a computer to improve quality of daily life — if only the culture supported and encouraged old people to realize their full learning potential. Remember these words by W. Clement Stone: Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them.
We have all sorts of groups agitating for “empowerment” of this or that cultural subgroup but where are supporters of empowerment for healthy old people — to get them “out of the shadows” (i.e. out of vegetative, segregated retirement environments) and back into the mainstream of life? Old age is a stage of life that has tremendous potential if only we stopped treating it as a debilitating disease akin to leprosy, and stopped encouraging those having the “disease” to isolate themselves from the real world.
When you say something negative about yourself often enough; when the culture supports negative thoughts you and others tell you about yourself, then sooner or later, you will believe and become what you and others say about you, unless you recognize the trap and reject it.
If you are “guilty” of believing that because of your advanced age you are not capable of doing something you would really like to do, then be a self starter — you don’t need anyone to “empower” you. Start now to put one foot in front of the other and prove to yourself and others that in spite of your advanced age, you are capable of doing far more than just breathing — you are vibrantly alive and clever and intelligent enough to reach what you innately know is your full potential that has value not just for yourself but for society as well.