Boomers at work

Boomers at work

Baby boomers don’t want to miss out on anything. We like to be first, special, important, and cutting-edge. But what about those boomers who use technology very little or not at all. Here are several comments I overheard recently.

“I’m not a computer person.”

“I don’t really need to be connected to the internet.”

“I never put information about myself online.”

That is perfectly fine if that is your decision. I’m not trying to sell you a computer or smartphone or force you on the internet, but honestly, I don’t understand why some boomers (and more than some seniors) are so tech averse? Or at the very least under use technology they have.

I get that some people who haven’t used technology in their careers might not want to start doing so later in life, but boomers have been part of the technology revolution. We’ve seen amazing technological advancements in our lives, so I’m not sure why some boomers are put off by smartphones, texting, or videoconferencing.

And that begs another question: Are boomers leaving too much on the table when they are unwilling to use technology? So much of the public discussion about technology revolves around social media gone wrong—sexting, bullying, and stolen identities; hacks and data loss; and time wasted on gratuitous internet surfing. With that negative backdrop, the tremendous potential of the internet is often not considered. When was the last time you read an article or saw something on TV about someone using the internet to do something significant? Of course these stories exist here, here, and here, but the negative aspects seem more prevalent.

Maybe this will help. Here are three ways I use technology to make my life more interesting, productive, and fun. Frankly, I can’t imagine losing access to any one of these.

1. Communicating with others. My family, my friends, people I work with. So many ways to communicate from texting to email, to sending short videos, videoconferencing with others, and so much more. With my 88-year-old mother living 650 miles away, I Facetime with her nearly everyday. When she tells me that she feels “ok” I can see her to check if that is true. On babysitting days with granddaughter, Castine, we use Facetime so relatives can see her at play, talk to her, and participate in some small way in her life. My BoomerTECH Adventures colleagues live two hours away yet we communicate daily through text, email, and when time for face-to-face, Google Hangouts (another free videoconferencing tool). Ok, I haven’t even mentioned social media here, but that is another way to connect through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or any of the other thousands of apps.

2. Learning. I have to admit that this is my favorite; I am learning all the time. From do-it-yourself tips for fixing things around the house (my most recent project is to build a workbench with help from YouTube videos), finding information about trips and vacations, reading and viewing news stories, newspapers, and magazines online, visiting virtually museums, art galleries, and other interesting places that my wife and I wouldn’t normally see. We’ve written before about several excellent news sources, tips for online searching, and apps for fitness.

3. Creating. I’ve said it before. I love having a camera in my pocket all the time even if I don’t use it as much as I had hoped. I enjoy sharing photos that I have edited. I enjoy making slideshows for family members, and I’m beginning to be more proficient with movie making as well. Certainly others use online opportunities for producing and sharing writing, art, music, and just about anything else. Here are some tips for taking great photos, editing, and sharing.

So, I don’t understand why someone would NOT take advantage of the many ways that technology can be useful, helpful, even inspirational. And to be clear, I’m not suggesting that anyone spend the majority of their time in front of a screen. Human contact, relationships, face-to-face communication are not going away and in fact, all are more important that ever.

Where do you start?

1. If you have a device already—smartphone, tablet, or laptop/desktop—and if connected to the internet at home or in a public space like your local library, you are good to go.

2. Don’t have your own device or need a newer one? If you are buying a new or used device there are lots of choices, prices, and many resources to help you decide what type of device you need and how that fits into your budget. There are a number of state or regional programs that provide no cost or low cost computers for those who can’t afford them. Simply search for “computers for low income families” to find a program near you.

3. Occasional use only? You don’t really want to buy a computer/tablet/smartphone but you do like access to the internet occasionally. Your local library may be the best bet. In most cases you have to use the computer in the library, but this certainly works for more intermittent use.

4. Learning and support is the most important part. There are many opportunities for learning how to use your new computer. Some programs mentioned about come with training and on-going support built in. Many adult education programs offer low cost computer/technology courses or workshops; public libraries do the same. Some middle and high schools have technology teams who offer workshops for the public or even better, provide one-to-one service to people in their communities.

Can you get by in this day and age without online access? Good question! Research indicates that 80% of boomers are online and that number grows everyday. Making the decision to stay offline is increasingly seen as curmudgeonly in a society where access to information is so important. Knowledge is power and boomers everywhere need more information, not less, as they move through the next segment of their lives.

Boomers, you do need technology to Create, Connect, and Contribute.

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