Not a New Year’s Resolution: Beware of Your Inner Luddite
At the age of 76 I thought I had become used to computers. I had overcome my initial fears and trepidations around the infernal machine that I suspected would explode or break if I did the wrong thing. In 1995 I bought my first computer, at the age of 56. I took private lessons, I made frantic telephone calls. I learned how to use “Word”, how to create diagrams and insert images into documents. After all I was not a Luddite, that is, someone who fears or simply avoids technology, a person opposed to increased industrialization or new technology: I was not a small-minded Luddite resisting progress.
When I retired I enrolled at UBC; I wrote intricate bilingual academic papers on Biblical Hebrew, and Jewish law and ethics. I had to learn how to use a new version of Word in all its intricacies, in two languages—more lessons, more computer skills. Then I became the editor of Jewish Seniors Alliance’s website. One of my tasks was to post all the senior community events on our Calendar page, from thebackend—another steep learning curve! I also became the person who created and organized the articles, the interviews and the images for their magazine Senior Line—more stress, more knowledge, more confidence.
However some recent challenges have brought me face-to-face with my fears and insecurities. My new computer was sending me messages every day “Download Windows 10 Free” (I had Windows 8.1). I ignored them for months. Finally I wrote an email to my computer geek, asking him to come to my home and download Windows 10 as well as get rid of the many vicious pop-ups which were harassing me. He sent me a very kind message saying that it was simple, that I should not have any problems, that I should call him at any time if I needed to. With his reassurances, I decided to accept the challenge. I was not a Luddite! So, I sat down and proceeded to do it. I now use Windows 10 and the pop-ups are gone. No problem!
I suspect that I am not alone with my deep-seated anxiety about technology. My generation did not grow up with computers. The society we live in is full of technologies which did not exist 35 years ago. I can remember distinctly learning to use my bank card with a PIN, learning to pump my own gas, learning to use a bank machine and a parking meter, and that was just the beginning. Now I pay my bills on-line, I do my banking on-line, I purchase books, movies and other products on-line. Email is my favoured mode of communication. I almost never use the telephone. The new Compass Card is the next obstacle for seniors. EBooks offer worlds of entertainment and enjoyment, libraries offer them free. Video rental stores are gone, replaced by Netflix and streaming video (full disclosure: I rent DVD’s from two of the remaining video stores). I haven’t even mentioned the Smart Phone which I know I must buy: I am prevaricating and Boxing Week has passed!
Seniors are already at risk to become isolated and marginalized; to slowly disconnect from social activities and society. If we seniors do not learn these technical and digital skills, we will be left far behind, our choices will become limited, and we may become locked out of so much of what society and technology has to offer.
The senior advocacy community in Vancouver recognizes these issues. The Jewish Community Centre has been offering courses in iPad, Laptop, Smart Phone, iPod and other appliances for several years. This month Kehila Richmond begins its offering of courses in Word and Excel, for beginners and those who wish to move up to the next level. Jewish Seniors Alliance’s next Empowerment seminar is entitled “Technology: Give us the Tools to Finish the Job.” Our children and grandchildren, who “know it all” and are happy to strut their stuff, would be pleased to teach us. We have to ask! And those who can, can offer to help.
Gillian Shaw recently wrote in the Vancouver Sun (December 26, 2015) about a “transformation that will see many material things we now take for granted replaced by software and information…If you think of your smartphone today it probably has 40 or 60 apps on it and every one of those apps represents something you used to buy in a store. We’re not just replacing those things with software, we’re also replacing the store and the distribution channel and the truck and the warehouse. It’s a gigantic trend that is going to continue for the next 10 years.”
I love my computer, I adore email, I get enormous satisfaction out of creating an article using a diagram or an image; yet I still feel anxious and fearful when I approach a new technology or a new program. A little reassurance and support goes a long way in mitigating these negative emotions. Find the course, hire the geek, ask for assistance, keep up, stay connected and get ahead. Life is too short for dithering.
Happy New Year.
Dolores Luber, January 2016