A senior “Aha!” moment.

seniors and technologyAnybody in business who is over age 50 has seen or engaged in the snarky exchanges between the seasoned (and usually downsized) professionals and the 20-something hipsters. One of my favorites had to do with “reverse mentoring,” the idea that recent college graduate Jason is going to show grandpa in the corner office how things get done. The “you just don’t get it” barbs were intense. The seniors, who have had a little more time to develop their sarcasm skills, more or less won. And nobody got it, including me.

Since turning 55, I have officially declared myself a member of the senior set; “middle-aged” only works if I plan to live to 110, which I don’t. So, I feel qualified to speak from the perspective of someone who came of age in the working world as the technical world was just beginning to explode. Here’s the real issue…

Young Jason looks at me as a geezer, and rightly so. I am post-menopausal, jaded, short of patience, thick of waist, and a bit nostalgic for the days when experience counted for something. (That’s my problem, by the way.) Jason doesn’t think I have kept up with the technology required to do business, especially the marketing business. He thinks I stopped caring about what happens in the world as soon as they parked that magic box on my desk, the one with a blue screen and blinking cursor (at the time). He doesn’t believe that I not only know how to turn the damn thing on and send an email { gasp } but I actually understand things like search engine optimization. He doesn’t know that I adopted desktop publishing the nanosecond it was born, sometime before he was. He doesn’t get that I am, at my advanced age, just as addicted to my electronic devices as he is and that I use them for business.

And I don’t blame him.

Why? Little Jason’s experience in his short time on earth is that his parents and grandparents have thrown up their hands and said, “I just can’t learn that” when it comes to using their computers. Notice I didn’t say “programming their computers” or “fixing their computers” but simply USING them. Is it any wonder then that Jason’s 55-year-old CEO also views his or her own older employees as incapable of using technology? Is anyone surprised that the boss hands over management of social media to the first intern he or she passes in the hall? Or that the company’s website is designed by his or her nephew for the simple reason that the kid “isn’t afraid of it?” Is it a surprise that the CEO thinks that anything that happens online is an IT issue and not a marketing issue?

Ah-freaking-ha. Now I get it.

It’s not Jason’s fault at all that seniors are assumed to be universally incapable of using technology. It’s our fault. It is the fault of people who, if they had decided back in the 50s that they weren’t going to take the trouble to learn to use the telephone, would now be living under bridges. That plastic thing humming along on your desk or in your lap or in your hand is today’s telephone. Is it more complicated than a phone? Yes. Most things are now.

So, Jason, I understand. You’re waiting for us to retire and stop being a pain in your butt. If the stock market hadn’t tanked a few years ago, some of us would have been out of your hair by now. You’ll just have to wait for us to die, I guess. In the meantime, could you come help me…?

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About Kim Phillips

Marketer, artist, blogger, entrepreneur, teacher. Helping people connect.
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14 Responses to A senior “Aha!” moment.

  1. Judith Wolf Mandell says:

    The madder you get, the funnier you write! This one’s a classic. Send to AARP Magazine?

  2. Lynne Spreen says:

    Seniors need to “Lean In,” too! Thanks for this. And there’s a corollary: as long as the entire freakin’ culture accepts that OLD=BAD and YOUNG=GOOD, the Jasons of the world will just be using the playbook we wrote for them.

  3. Boomers as a group are incredibly tech savvy. My dad (who is actually from the Silent Generation) worked as a sales man to oil companies like Shell, Exxon, Chevron, etc. He wrote his own CODE to create a data base that would do all the things he wanted. He doesn’t need anyone youthsplaining* to him about how to use a computer. You paint a very vivid picture. Great sentence style and diction.

    variant of “mansplaining”

  4. b+ says:

    You know, I think you are right. If those younger people around us don’t understand how wise and quick their seniors are it is because we don’t let them know. Your Jason will be brought up short before long you can be sure.

    b+ (71, owned the first apple computer on the market, can write html when I need too, gave up most email long ago because I have found faster ways to communicate and can give anyone advice whether they need it or not!) :)

  5. Cynthia says:

    This is an aha moment. What I love about GenFab is having friends whose eyes don’t glaze over when I talk about blogging or SEO or even Pinterest. Something is in the air however… my friends are beginning to come to me with questions. So glad to find your blog. Love your writing.

    • lucidgal says:

      Thank you, dear. I do find that some mature workers have thrown up their hands, but some of the most tech-savvy people I know are past age 55. Gotta stay in the game, right?

    • b+ says:

      I would agree…GenFab has made a big difference in my blogging experience.

  6. Ginger Kay says:

    My mom has only recently accepted that long distance rates no longer apply to phone calls. I laugh about that, but the truth is, I am not tech-savvy myself.

  7. joyweesemoll says:

    I’m always amazed at how tech-savvy and age get attached to each other. Working in a university library, there were plenty over-40s who knew a lot about technology (including helpful history). There were also plenty of younger students who had no interest in technology and learned only enough to get by, asking for help if anything was out of that small circle.

  8. sue bock says:

    I totally agree with you on your perspective. I do have to congratulate my mother who at age 90 wanted a computer. My dad however, wouldn’t even go into the room. I would have to say my mom was rather progressive.

    You can engage in midlife and be progressive yourself. The young ones will help you stay up to date (because quite frankly who has time to know all the new technology). I love my electronic devices too and still its nice to have input from other sources.

    Grab midlife by the tail and make it work for you. It certainly sounds like you have

    Sue Bock
    http://couragetaodventure.com/blog

  9. Classic! I’m pretty tech-savvy, more so than both of my adult sons.. and I, admittedly, have no patience for young whipper-snappers like Jason! (had to use that ‘old lady’ word)

  10. beverlydiehl says:

    This is great. Mind you, I do know the feeling that if I have to learn One More Thing, my head’s gonna explode, and it won’t be pretty. I *don’t* know how to use my smartphone very well, BUT I can make a desktop just about sit up and dance. I am giving my offspring tips on how to build up his FaceBook fan following. So, not a total idjut here, mmm’kay?

  11. Love this! I teach people how to use Apple products and the “older” folks fall into two categories…I want to learn and I will use this or I don’t really want to do this, I just feel like I need “one of these”. I want to have it all, learn it all and use it….ALL!

  12. That is my fear — being overlooked because of my age. So far it hasn’t been an issue since my boss is a year older than me. But she’s leaving in June and I have no idea who will replace her yet.

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