Technology

Crossing the Technology Gap

February 18, 2015

Technology Gap photo

I typed these words to a friend, not knowing whether she would understand anything in the message besides Word:

Not sure why but just to be safe I resaved it in Word 97 in case you have an earlier version but I am sure you probably have an more current version of Word than that. I also saved it as a PDF in case you have Adobe Acrobat Reader. Let me know if you still have problems.

My friend is an Older Boomer and she adopts technology only as she needs it, and she doesn’t need it much. She lives fully in the non-digital world, preferring to do puzzles rather than surf, also something she’s never done, the internet.

Generations-chart

There seems to be something to the dividing line some demographers use to separate Boomers into Older and Younger.

I am a Younger Boomer in a family of Older Boomers and I have loved technology since the day I turned on a television.

Yes, TV and I were introduced to the world around the same time.

My brother and I dragged my sister reluctantly into having a home computer when I was moving to Prague and she would have to SKYPE me. It was a gigantic task that involved me buying things online that she could pick up at her local Staples, my brother planning to fly to Phoenix to install the thing, and a lot of panicked resistance from my sister. She is now excitedly SKYPYing with my brother and me, but that’s as far as it goes.

The Facebook account her son set up for her goes unused. Many of her friends are on Facebook. I know because they insisted on being my Facebook friends. My sister is part of a loyal quad of women as endearing as the Sex and The City gang. Two of the three happily post pictures of children and grandchildren. My sister and her other friend prefer to meet in person for lunches and movie nights, dinners and holidays, the images shared in their minds, but not on the web.

ScannerI am trying to teach my sister to use the scanner in the snazzy printer/fax/scan/copy unit we got her. Then she can scan her edits to my novel by email instead of the snail mail mode she’s used for years. My sister is a writing professor and her input was worth postage both ways. But soon I’ll have her feedback in days instead of weeks. I can employ technology like Team Viewer or video calls to get through it, but there is a river of anxiety to cross.

My older brother, mentioned above, is a strange hybrid. He makes a healthy living at a technology company. He loves technology, and has bookshelves of books on coding and networks. He not to secretly believes these networks are evil and for years forced me to buy him books off of Amazon unwilling to give them his credit card information.  I finally reminded him the local bookstore could order books for him and he’d be supporting local bookstores. He now knows the staff by first names and the guy who manages the technology section is willing to talk tech with him for hours.

My late Baby Boomer friends are all over the map on technology. Most, quite honestly struggle, even when successful. They touch tech with the fear of being left behind, mixed with f*@# this why can’t I just go read a book on the sofa.

To be honest, I have Gen X’ers who grumble about the technology.  Some who refuse to even own a smartphone.  They have the right to demand their freedom, but will they pay for it with fewer career prospects and lower income potential?

Tech gap catching up

As society widens the gap between haves and have nots, tech is a part of that. You can leap across that technology canyon to greater riches and prosperity. The jobs websites are filled with listings for software engineers and digital social media gurus. Do us bottom of the Baby Boom have enough tech savvy to take a run for it? Some of us were early adopters, even if our first experience with the computer was taking punch cards to the processing center on campus, before computers were personal.

I have always loved technology, don’t know why. I resisted when my father insisted I take typing in high school, I was never going to be someone’s secretary.

ibm selectricBut, I ended up hauling my IBM Selectric to type the Bar Exam after law school. Once I had felt the freedom of tapping away at keys I was hooked. Had one of the first Palm Pilots because my thoughts had always been scattered and I needed a better filing system.

Now that I am in Prague, a city with lightning fast internet, world class universities, and global tech companies like Microsoft, I am feeling the tech pulse beating in my heart. I like telling stories about technology, like planning technology, analyzing technology, touching technology.

Unfilled job CollageSo, what is going to happen to my Boomer friends. Well, truth be told they are all retired or semi-retired or in forced retirement because technology bars them from the job market.

The global challenge is to reskill the over 50 unemployed population that exploded in the U.S. and Europe during the Great Recession. There are jobs in both these markets going unfilled because of the skills gap.

Is there hope for this group, or will they be too resistant to change?

Rise of the over 60 apprenticeResearch has found that older workers on average are as productive as younger workers. When reengaged they add value to the development of the next generation of leaders.

There is much at stake in this conversation. The ratio of Baby Boomers to everyone else is tipping the talent scale.

Ratio of Older to Younger Workers

I’m not worried. Just like grandma can learn how to email and view Instagram when an adorable baby photo as the reward, and seniors master SKYPE to stay in touch with loved ones, it’s not over until it’s over. That’s what my silver-haired friends, oddly they all are, demonstrate every time they travel into technology with me.

Succesfully crossing the gap

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