By Featured Blogger Curtina Simmons
Let there be no doubt about the role of technology in today’s world. We have cell phones, mobile apps, lap tops, Iphones, Ipads and televisions on standby that probably watch us more than we watch them. All of which help us communicate to and from any location in the world. We are communicating with each other and so are these hi-tech devices. Most of our services are managed by computers that talk to each other. Thus, reducing the need for human involvement other than to code and program them. The excitement expressed each time a new gadget or device is introduced is reminiscent of days gone by. I’m beginning to wonder what or how I got anything done before now.
I chuckle to myself when I hear young adults talk about “privacy rights”. In the 40’s we had rotary land line phones. We had two and three party lines in my neighborhood. You were assigned a number of rings as notification that the call was for someone in your family. Most families had only one phone in the home, Nosy old women would listen to calls others were receiving. What was supposed to be a private conversation became the neighborhood’s business. Private lines were available for businesses and wealthy people.The 50’s opened the door to extension phones and the affordability of private lines. Touch tone phones emerged soon there after.
I am reminded of the first time I heard about a vending machine and used one. It was the era of automation. You could get a lot of things like sodas, cigarettes, gum, candy etc. out of a vending machine. We were just as excited then as others are today about computerization. If you were born after 1962 you may not have heard of “automats”. The most popular one I remember was a complete coin operated restaurant called Horn & Hardart located in mid-town Manhattan. My friends and I went there for lunch occasionally. It was one of the forerunners to the “fast food” craze that emerged in the late 60’s.
Without any forewarning I arrived at work one fall morning and a personal computer (PC) was sitting on my desk. I looked at it and thought to myself “Oh Lord ” I just lost my administrative assistant. In addition to my other responsibilities of “things to do” I knew that I would have to learn how to use this PC . Sure enough, in black and white, there was a workshop notice attached to the screen informing me that workshops on computer utilization would begin on Friday. My first act of the day was to inform my husband that the weekend trip to the beach was cancelled. It was 1988 and access was limited to word processing for desk top publishing. Internet access became available in early 90’s at work. Work demands skyrocketed so I purchased a PC so I could work at home.
After some struggle..it wasn’t all that bad if you could resist the urge to stay on the internet all day. Like many other adults over 60 yrs, I’m wondering if technology is a “friend or foe” for older adults? Unlike younger adults, this requires a different set of skills. It has been a real effort for us to get use to automated telephone inquires. Our nimble fingers can’t seem to keep up with our brain when we try to text. The greater issue for some of us is this on-line banking thing. Automated deposits and withdrawals to pay our bills has been a mind blower. Many of us still do it the old fashion way…personal checks. But we really like the convenience of ATM machines and debit cards.However, the familiarity of paper still haunts us…we want a paper statement from the bank at the end of the month.
According to a Pew Research Study conducted by the Princeton Survey Research Association: for adults 65+ 41% do not use the internet, 53 % do not have broadband access and 23% do not have cell phones. Only 27% use social networking and 18% use smart phones. This study suggests that some of the factors impacting the use of hi-tech capabilities can be attributed to physical challenges, skeptical attitudes and a decline in cognitive skills. However, once they are on-line computer utilization becomes an integral part of their daily lives. 71% go on-line almost everyday and 94% say that the internet makes information more available to them. It’s a mixed bag for those over 75. There is empirical evidence that some skill sets diminish with age i.e. eye-hand coordination and others unnamed.
Whew!! Having said all of that I think computerization plays an important role in maximizing the quality of life. An example might be the progress that has been made in healthcare. The ability to diagnose and treat an illness in its early stages can be attributed to technology. Another thing that comes to mind that is important for seniors to consider is “social isolation”. Many of us live alone. It should be a comfort to interact with others through social media if nothing else. Some of us resent not having telephone conversations or face to face contact with people on a regular basis. Some retirees say they had enough of computers when they were working and are not interested anymore.
It can be said that we’ve been through three stages of growth; mechanization, automation and now the digital age. Each stage bearing its own set of barriers, challenges and successes. There was value in the old and there is value in the new. I believe in progress, however, let us not throw away the good. I have issues with grade school children that are so dependent on computers many of them can’t spell or don’t have enough cursive writing skills to sign a legal document. It is a combination of the past and the present that create the future. In an effort to remain current I tried windows 8. Hated it because it moved too fast and had too many icons. If Apple becomes the computer of choice…forget it. And I will forget the computer in “toto” if and when windows 7 becomes obsolete.
Brook Benton, a well-known recording artist and favorite of mine wrote a song called “It’s Just a Matter of Time”. An excerpt from the lyrics suggest and I quote; “nothing stays the same, everything must change”. And it has.
Got to go now, because one thing that hasn’t changed for me is an occasional “swig” of Hadacol…good for the soul and relaxes the mind.
Curtina is a Retired university administrator and professor. She is a blogger, political junkie and urban youth consultant. Contact Curtina at moaninmary.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter @moaninmary
(c) 2014 Curtina Simmons