Monday, January 9, 2017

Can Boomers Keep up? Will we want to?



As always I over packed for my current adventure. I am a "just in case" packer. You would think that after this many trips overseas, I would have scaled it back by now, but alas, I still find myself the day before I depart adding and subtracting items from my suitcase until I am hovering within ounces of the airline's allowable weight limit for my baggage. 

Inevitably, I arrive at my destination with a suitcase full of "just in case" clothing that I never end up wearing. I also end up wishing I had packed the odd thing that I hadn't. Case in point. Something that I tend to use almost daily as I am getting older is this amazing little tool called a magnifying glass! The one we have at home is not just any magnifying glass, it is lightweight with a tri-pod handle and lights up at the touch of a button to illuminate whatever it is we are trying to see clearly. 

Unlike a cane or a hearing aid that is visible to the outside world instantly announcing "aging baby boomer", this aid to our aging vision is like a little secret we use behind closed doors to read labels (can the print get any smaller?!), observe imperfections on our bodies (I was sure I had a melanoma on my toe recently!), or to just be able to take a good solid look at a myriad of everyday eensie weensie items that a decade ago seemed much larger. 

Packing that useful tool occurred to me, but since Mick was not joining me until a few weeks later, I did the noble thing and left it for him (after all, he is a year older!). I think it was only a matter of days after landing on North American soil again before I missed that damn thing...and Mick too as a matter of fact. So, the only solution was to pick one up over here (a magnifying glass, not a new Mick). I came across this really cool mini - almost steam punk looking one called Little Helper. It is much more complex than the one back in Oz, but it looks interesting and has these little clips attached that can hold any item you are looking at which is advantageous if you are the least bit shaky or looking at something super small. It was meant to be a belated Christmas gift for Mick, but I had to free it from its box today so I could read the fine print on my "welcome to Ottawa" parking ticket. Turns out I may be able to have it forgiven as a non-resident and generally unaware idiot from Toronto, but that remains to be seen.

Anyway, I digress. What struck me about the need for this aid was how it relates to life as we approach our 60's. As I near the final third of my life, it is not only my eyes that need a little assistance. I want to see everything with more clarity. My soul yearns to ramp up the intensity of my spiritual journey. I am reminded almost daily now that there is an end to this life. 2016 was especially loud and clear on this with the death of so many of my own age or younger. How can I make this final third count? How can I move through life with more compassion? More joy? What can I offer to help? Where can I offer help? Can I keep up with technology in a way that enhances my life? As a society, are we sliding down a slippery slope into electronic communication that creates a gaping chasm where personal direct interaction with one another once existed? Will I have the energy to embrace the constant change coming at me? Some days it seems endless and overwhelming. Is that why we die? Do we just stop giving a shit about this new thing and that new way. Do our cells finally just burn out from it all? 

There are many seniors in my own life who have chosen to stop learning. They have put the brakes on life in a way that leaves them in a cloudy state of disconnect from the world. They don't own a computer. If they own a mobile phone, it is only used for emergencies and when said emergency arises, they forget how to use it or it has lost its charge, so what's the point? They miss out on instant communication with their children, their grandchildren and even their peers who have kept up.  With each passing year, I find I have more empathy for these old timers who have decided to remain in the past. It's easier for them. However, this is not likely to be an option for aging boomers. We already bought in long ago. Once our elders are gone, the companies and services that still cater to the techno-challenged will make that type of enabling obsolete, forcing anyone who wants to opt out to stick with the program or die. I don't mean die literally. I mean die in terms of living so disconnected from the rest of the world, that day to day functioning becomes impossible. You will not be able to survive without an email address. Paper bills will not be an option.  

Who would have imagined a tweeting president or the ability to access the answer to almost any question on a device you carry in your pocket? I graduated from Ryerson's School of Journalism in 1985. It was the year before computers were introduced. We typed our reports on IBM self-correcting typewriters in triplicate. There was no spell check. We had to flip through a dictionary if we wanted to check the spelling of a word. We did that a lot because if we handed in a story with a spelling mistake it got an automatic "F". We took spiral notebooks to interviews. We used pens. How is it that all of this seems archaic now? Will the way we do things now seem old fashioned in another 30 years or so? Will I become one of those old folks that gets left behind in the dust of obsolete devices? Will my current iPhone seem "retro" in 2047? 

Maybe in the next 30 years I will begin to care more about how I spend my remaining years and it will seem wasteful to obsess over the latest gadget. Meaning will replace knowing. Optimizing joy will outweigh mastering Apple's latest must-have techno tool. I already prefer observing birds at the feeder over anything technology related. Is this what happens? Do we hit a wall one day? Is that the definition of "slowing down"? Will being current and relevant reveal itself as a time thief? Will I become that strange old woman feeding pigeons on a park bench? Will young people pass by with glances of disdain and pity?

And will I care?

That bench is becoming more and more tempting some days... or more understood at any rate.