Why? Not only do my papers serve as models to show them (with both good and not-so-good writing included - there's a huge emphasis on reflection in the course, so this gives them an opportunity to see what rewriting means), but it gives me an opportunity to do some formalized research into an area that interests me.
To that end, here is my first paper, a reflective essay on my issue for the year: the elderly and technology:
"How Am I Supposed to do That Again?"
As my mother-in-law, Nina, aged into her late seventies, she focused on two pastimes: reading romance novels and watching her crime shows on television. Because she was legally blind in one eye, she never got a driver's license. After her husband died, she became dependent on others for rides to the grocery store or to visit family. Hence, reading and watching TV became her escapes from loneliness.
Nina made the jump to the digital age of reading quite late in life. Dave, her eldest son, gave her a Kindle because her fading eyesight made reading the paperbacks she so carefully cataloged difficult to read. She loved it! She could make the font any size she wanted, so she cranked it up to a half-dozen words a page and read to her heart's content.
She couldn't figure out, however, how to buy books or how to download them from the library. Every week Dave would come visit, download a week's worth of books for her (seven of them, at least. She read a book a day) and she was set.
Reading off the device
was easy, downloading content? Not so much.
The television also became an issue for her. Gone were the days when there were only three channels and a knob to move between them. With the coming of cable, she had a hundred choices - and didn't watch 97% of them. The original three channels held most of the programming she wanted to see. But, because of that pesky lack of eyesight, she often pushed the wrong button on the remote and, instead of changing the channel, changed the setup from "TV" to "DVD" - and no matter how many times she was shown - she couldn't change it back.
Nina isn't alone in her inability to fully use today's technological advances. According to the
, 41% of Americans
over the age of sixty-five do not use the Internet for any purpose. While many
reasons were given, 8% stated it "was too hard to use" (Anderson and
Perrin). Pew Research
Why is it, though, that so many of those past a certain age have trouble handling the changes in technology? The Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) grew up with vacuum tube radios and witnessed the birth of television (Fry) . They oversaw the change in technology from those clunky tubes to printed circuit boards and solid state. Phones went from party lines to private ones and cars went from manual to automatic transmissions. They witnessed, participated in and heck, invented most of these technologies. So why so much trouble downloading a new book onto a Kindle?
Because change is hard. Moving out of our familiar paths causes stress and high levels of anxiety. According to Alvin Toffler, "change is the process by which the future invades our lives (Toffler, 1). The very word he uses, "invades", conjures up all sorts of scary images - we can feel our blood pressure rising just thinking about change.
Of course, the future can invade our lives in ways other than learning to use a new technology. Fast food franchises have become an ubiquitous part of our lives - it seems every small city has their collection. Towanda, Pennsylvania's first fast food restaurant was a Burger King built sometime in the 1970's, It wasn't fancy, but it was fast and the novelty of getting one's order of a burger and fries in mere minutes was something worth seeing.
In 1980 I became engaged to the man who would later become my husband. As a matter of course, I took Steven to Towanda to meet my Uncle Francis - a bachelor uncle who still lived in the family home on
Street. The Frawley family always considered
itself lace-curtain Irish, which is to say they were English wannabes. Decorum
was maintained - no matter what the circumstance. Conversation was never about
trivial matters and small talk unimportant. Once the niceties are uttered
("How are you?" "I'm well, how are you?"), silence
descended and the people gathered simply "set a spell" before parting
I'm no longer sure who broached the subject of the midday meal first, but I do know it was my uncle who suggested trying out "that new restaurant over in
When questioned about the "new restaurant", he couldn't quite remember the name of it, but remembered it sells hamburgers. "King, something," he tells us.
Burger King. That new restaurant that's already been there for half a decade, at least. But then, Uncle Francis is in his early 70's, so I suppose a five-year span is a drop in the bucket to him.
He drives (another story entirely!) and parks beside the door to Burger King. The three of us troop in, my husband and I already knowing what we want from past visits to other versions of the franchise. But this is Uncle Francis' first time, so we expect him to head to the counter and read the menu hanging above.
Except he doesn't. He stands looking at the tables and booths as if waiting for something. It takes us a moment to realize he expects a waitress to seat us. My husband and I exchange a look and Steven points to the menu board. "We order here and then take it to a seat," he explains.
Casting a dubious look at what, to him, is a mass of written chaos, he finally presses at twenty-dollar bill into Steven's hand. "I'd like a cup of coffee and a hamburger." He turns to me and says, "Where do I sit?"
Hiding our indulgent grins at his discomfiture in a simple fast food place, Steven goes to order and I take him to a table. I gather napkins and ketchup for the fries and "set the table" as if this were the type of restaurant he's more familiar with. Steven returns with our food and we eat the same way we sat in the house - in silence.
Our visit that day lasts several hours and on the way home, we're both in agreement: Uncle Francis hated his trip to the "new restaurant." So you can imagine our surprise when, several months later, we make a return visit and the first thing he asks us (after the pleasantries, of course) is, "Are you going to take me to Burger King again? I really liked that hamburger."
Upon questioning, we discover he hadn't been since our last visit. Why? The ordering was too overwhelming. He'd found a new way that was too much for him. As Toffler would say, he'd reached his Future Shock moment.
And what is that? Future Shock is the stress or disorientation that occurs as a result to too much change too fast (Toffler, 2). For my mother-in-law, that was trying to download new books onto her Kindle or to keep the TV on the right setting. For my uncle, it was the newfangled restaurant, Burger King. For both, the future had invaded their lives and upended their abilities to handle what, to the younger generation, were simple tasks that we took for granted everyone knew how to do.
Except they didn't. The older generation has a difficult time in adapting to the fast pace of today's technological upgrades. Someday, I'll be the one stuck, unable to move past my own Future Shock moment and my children will exchange indulgent glances behind my back. I just hope they have patience for me every time I utter the words I heard so often from Nina: "How am I supposed to do that again?"
Anderson, Monica, and Andrew Perrin. "13% of Americans Don’t Use the Internet. Who Are They?"
RSS. Pew Research
Center , 07 Sept. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016. Pew Research
Fry, Richard. "Millennials Overtake Baby Boomers as
Largest Generation." RSS. Pew Research
Center , 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 22 Sept. 2016. Pew Research
Toffler, Alvin. "Introduction." Future Shock.
New York: Bantam, 1970. 1-2. Print.