The Implications of Aging and Technology
Throughout childhood, adolescence and adulthood, there are numerous opportunities for human connection and the transference of thoughts, feelings and ideas with one another. Because we have the ability to independently get from one place to another through whatever means of transportation is available to us, we are able to seek out our own connective choices. As adults, we are provided with a vast array of avenues to connect such as work environments, faith families, clubs, social groups, neighborhood friends and our own family and extended family. We can gain a sense of companionship from many places. A state of social isolation only occurs if a person chooses not to reach out to others. However, with an aging population, the idea of finding oneself socially isolated becomes a very real possibility. Once retirement occurs, or the ability to drive declines, aging individuals may find themselves with fewer choices for social interaction.
In this fast-paced world that is electronic and data driven, it has become customary to carry on the connections of social life through some form of technology. Some of the devices and their programs include smart phones, computers, email, facetime, snapchat, twitter, Facebook, text and Skype. All of these devices and/or methods have provided us with the ability to communicate immediately and thus have an amazing ability to update us on each other’s lives and the world around us. Despite the availability of these devices/programs throughout many homes, that occurrence is a relatively new phenomena. Personal home computers were entering homes in the mid 1980’s. The internet and World Wide Web came after in the early to middle 1990’s and cell phone usage did not become a widespread common practice until 1999. When looking at these facts in light of our aging demographics, it raises the question: are older Americans seeing the electronic advantages as a way to stay connected?
According to the US Demographics Profile of 2018, 55 to 64 year olds made up 12.91% of the population and 65 years and older adults made up 15.63% of the population. What this means is over ¼ of the United States population grew up without technology. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1955, grew up with typewriters as a form of technology. They only had to learn the system one time. Years later, despite many model changes and going from manual to electronic, they could still type because there were no changes to the system. Today, technology is ever advancing and every system changes rapidly. For the aging population this means that even their devices don’t remain static.
The most recent research indicates that 42% of elders do not go on-line. 56% would need help learning how to access social media while 50% of all adults have smart phones only 18% of older adults own smart phones. We see AARP print articles such as the Aug-Sept 2018 issue that “70 is the new 65”, and is encouraging people to stay in the work force until 70, citing the financial gain for the individual. However, if those work places are needing to use ever changing computer programs or devices for applicants to remain job current, this may be a daunting task for some who are aging.
A study done by Denise C. Park, PhD and Gerard N. Bishop, in response to older adults and cognitive training, found that there was some neural change in the aging brain, “including speed of processing, working memory, long term memory and reasoning”. Brain stability and the ability to learn new complexities such as foreign languages may change as we age, depending on individual backgrounds and experience. Technology in itself is a data driven type of foreign language. What this means for families is that technology might be useful for staying connected with some aging individuals; however, for other older individuals, keeping current with ever changing devices and programs may be a daunting task. (Park and Bishop 2013)
In order to assist an aging employee or family member to use ever changing technology, it may require additional training and time on the part of the family member or employer. Patience will be needed to reach the goal of assisting individuals to widen their ability to stay connected and current through technological tools. In today’s world, it is now evident that technology has had a significant and necessary impact on society. It is one more tool that can be used to widen an aging adult’s sense of connection. However, it is equally important to understand that nothing takes the place of human, face-to-face interaction. When individuals can no longer drive, have retired and many of their friends are gone, it will not be technology that fills that void but the loving presence of others around them.
Over the next few issues of Wholeness Healing Today, Dorothy Molczyk will be providing articles that may assist others in their own aging process as well as other age groups who are interested in aging issues.
US Demographics Profile 2018.
Park, D.C. PhD and Bishop, G.N. DiplPsy, The aging mind: neuroplasticity in response to cognitive training; Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience//www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. articles 2013Tags: aging and technology, elderly going online, helping the elderly stay connected through technology
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Mental Health Practitioner
Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor
- Dorothy Molczyk, LMHP LADC, provides individual, family and group therapy at Wholeness Healing Center. She is experienced in serving children, adolescents and adults. Her areas of specialty include substance abuse/dependency, healing from traumatic events, recovering from loss, and behavior disorders in children and adolescents.
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