An oft repeated grouse these days is about young people being too engrossed in technology and gadgets of varied kinds. Many senior people complain about the lack of attention that the youth of today pay to them and their needs. ‘My son is always busy on the phone or on his computer’ is the common plaint that one hears.
As a motivational speaker I tell young audiences of the need to balance their time between delving into technology and wholesome human experiences. This will be all the more necessary going forward when the all- enveloping impact of artificial intelligence would take over life as we know it in many more ways. Millenials can learn from older generations about prioritizing their time and not spending too many hours each day staring at screens. Experienced persons would also be able to tell them a thing or two about what really matters in life, and why they should avoid spending much of their lives pursuing transient goals.
However, a neglected aspect of our times is the opportunity for older persons to learn new things from these tech-savvy young people. Many elders spend agonizing hours staring at gadgets clueless as to how to move forward. Mobile phones which annoyingly ring at formal gatherings most often belong to older persons and they are unable to switch them off. While one sympathises with them and feels for them in their moment of embarrassment, it is clearly
incumbent upon them to pick up the nuances of using a mobile phone if they own one.
What I usually tell older people about technology is that they simply have to shed their fear of gadgetry. And if they can use the television remote control with such adeptness all day long, why can they not make friends with the mouse on their computers? In any case most of the devices these days are touch-screen enabled and easier to manouvre.
Research indicates that a significant number of older persons are using smart- phones these days, as well as electronic tablets. Social media usage has increased by leaps and bounds even amongst the plus-70 age group. Face time and video calling are wonderful facilities too as many grandparents have learnt, to their delight. Watching their grandchildren grow up via long distance screen presence is a facility that no other sets of elderly persons have ever had in the annals of recorded history!
Some organizations across the world have actually started initiatives whereby young techies instruct small groups of befuddled elders about the basics of user friendly technology. It might be a good idea for Indians all over the land to set up small ‘nukkar’ tuition centres for older groups of people whereby they undergo short term courses in the basics of using the internet and related matters. Another aspect of this is the need for the elderly to protect their passwords and use internet banking safely as well as judiciously. Many senior persons are loath to use net banking as they are afraid of losing money due to erroneous entries or of forgetting their passwords when they need them the most. It is at such times that the need for a mass scale digital literacy plans is felt the most. It is imperative for all human beings to be digitally literate when the world is using technology at all levels of human endeavour and is likely to do so even more in the era of artificial intelligence, the nascent years of which are already upon us.
Even routine tasks like ordering groceries and food from restaurants, through home delivery services, require basic know how of smart phone usage. It is not possible that a younger person would always be around at home to assist an older relative in the usage of technology enabled functions of life in these times. American writer Alvin Toffler famously said, “The illiterate of the 21 st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and re-learn.”
In a dynamically evolving world, none of us can afford to sit on our laurels and close our minds to further learning. However old we may be.