Are the elderly welcome in our new technologies?

In this post I would like to discuss wether or not the younger generation is keen on letting the old one in on “their” new technologies.  Even if the senior citizens want to use the technologies are they in some way “allowed”?

Of course this is not a question that I can give a absolute answer on. But I will tell you a story that can give a glims on how the youth reacts to an elder in their midst.
The story is this:

On august the fifth 2006, Peter Oakley a 83 year old pensioner from Leichester, England, posted his first blog on youtube
He had just become a widower and wanted , as he said in an interview commited by unruly Media (see link below), to “meet new people and find penfriends – but without disrupting his ‘reclusive life’ behind the screen.” What followed whas a youtube ‘boom’.
The uploaded video got over 400.000 views in less than a week (and is currently at almost 3 million views). On top of that he got a staggering amount of comments and mails which he one by one read and replied to, thuss resulting in new aqcuaintances and even friends.

The whole story can be read on
unruly media
There is even a scientific paper written about this.

This story shows us that the elderly are not only allowed on new technologies, but might also be embraced in doing this by the younger generations.

Of course this one testimony doesn’t mean that seniors are always admitted on every technology.

Taking for instance an example that Peter Oakley himself cited: ‘Elderly behind the wheel of a car’
As can be seen on this facebook group , or this site there is a lot of criticism on wether or not elder people are allowed to drive on the roads. This discussion, in my opinion, goes further than issues about safety because the solution often mentioned is that there should be a new driving test of some sort at the age of 70 (currently being used in the UK). What strikes me in this solution is that in every age section, there are people who drive more dangerous then the average elder, and that the lost of sight and reflexes is not something that invariatly just ‘pops up’ at the age of 70. Therefore, if your only goal was more safety,
it would be a vastly better measure to ask for a license renewal every, say, twenty years or so. The fact that this is not the case gives me the feeling that there is more going on here, that in our subconsious we just don’t like elderly to mingle with ‘our’ techology at there pace.

As you can see a conclusion is not simple to make. In some instances our senior citizens are allowed and embraced in our new technologies, but on the other hand, we can sometimes have the urge to exclude them from some technologies, especially when their interference comes at a cost to our speed and freedom. So, when we think about elderly not being capable of doing a certain job, we should always ask to ourselves if we are really just focussing on objective reasons, or if we are just scared to be held up by our elder citizens.

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2 Responses to Are the elderly welcome in our new technologies?

  1. karelvanderelst says:

    While your argument might be valid (though hard to (dis)prove), I believe you’re a tad overzealous in your conclusion. Single examples of both extremities do not necessarily show a duality in laws and habits. I’m mainly having difficulties with the conclusions regarding the reevaluation of the driver’s license in the United Kingdom. To quote your post:
    “(…) we can sometimes have the urge to exclude them from some technologies, especially when their interference comes at a cost to our speed and freedom.”
    I don’t see how our ‘speed and freedom’ would be affected in any noticeable way if other countries decided to implement this reevaluation. Safety is the keyword here, one that can’t be ignored by claiming partial ignorance. If you had a way to catch bank robbers, but only the ones that weren’t particularly good at running, you’d still use it despite obviously ignoring the more agile criminals.
    If you can exclude certain drivers from the streets when they’re clearly not capable of driving their car safely, this reasoning remains intact. Obviously it would be safer to test every driver every year, but practically, choices have to be made.

  2. Jeroen says:

    I don’t know whether the comparison with the bank robbers is fully at its place here. Let’s do the following thinking experiment: what if they decide in England that ‘obviously’ female drivers are far more dangerous then male ones and hence, female drivers should renew their driver’s license, let’s say, every 20 years… what do you think?

    However, imho the question here is: is the example given really an example of people not wanting to let elder people use modern technologies, or just an example of how some (right or wrong) prejudice leads to a certain discrimination of certain, in this case elder, people? I can hardly imagine a lot of people having a problem with elder people using facebook, IPads, modern wheelchairs or whatever new technology. What do the others think?

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