Old People And Technology

Many people believe, erroneously, that old people can’t figure out new technology. This was something that came up while I was at RightOnline.

Does this really make any sense? While there may be SOME physiological changes that make it harder to “teach an old dog new tricks,” they can’t be too significant given the number of older, tech savvy people that are out there.

Personally, having done technical support, I have come to this conclusion: Old people tend to be bad at learning new technology because they believe that they’re supposed to be bad at learning new technology. That’s it.

How can that be? Well, imagine this scenario.

John Smith is 60 years old. He starts trying to use Facebook. He can’t figure something out and gets stuck. He sighs, “Old people can’t use Facebook.” Then, he gives up.

John Smith Jr. is 20 years old. He starts trying to use Facebook. He can’t figure something out and gets stuck. He sighs, “All my friends are using this and if they can do it, I can do it.” He perseveres and 45 minutes later he gets it.

Three weeks later…

60 year old John Smith starts trying to figure out Twitter. He runs across something he doesn’t understand. He thinks, “Old people just can’t use computers. I’ll never figure this out.” He quits.

20 year old John Smith Jr. starts trying to figure out Twitter. He runs across something he doesn’t understand. He thinks, “Oh, wait a second. This works the same way that Facebook does.” 10 minutes later, he has it fixed.

Keep playing these same scenarios out over 5 years, 10 years, 15 years and the kids can intuitively figure out new technology while the “old” people get stuck every time.

Look, I’m pretty good with tech. I used to do technical support. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace. I can tinker a bit with my website’s code. I have a pretty good basic understanding of how the internet actually works, etc., etc.

But, guess what? I get stuck on things. Sometimes I have to spend an hour or two trying to get a video program to work. I have to do research, get advice, and just tinker with things to find out how they work. I even have to pay someone, Danny Carlton, to do my website coding.

So, here’s what I would say: whether you’re 17 or 70, you can learn to deal with new technology. It’s just a matter of believing you can do it and then putting in the time and effort.

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