The Silver Hair Playbook™

Original article was published on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

The Silver Hair Playbook™

Boomers Into ZOOMers: Reclaiming Our Relevance By Embracing Technology

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The media is filled with “funny” videos, memes, and GIFs of older adults fumbling with their tech gadgets. The myth is that once you hit 50, you refuse to give up your flip phone and fax machine, and you still think Tik Tok is just the sound the grandfather clock in your hallway makes.

Sadly, many of my contemporaries have missed the tech memo, making us targets for derision by younger generations and eliminating us for consideration for jobs. But Millennials are not the only group that indulges in “tech-shaming” their elders. Many older business decision-makers refuse to even look at resumes of experienced professionals, assuming we are tech dinosaurs. They believe that a recent grad would be better qualified for customer service, sales, marketing, or communications jobs that require the use of technology.

The pandemic recently pushed many of my peers out of their comfort zones. They were forced to rely on video calls via ZOOM and other community apps — for both business and family interaction.

We need to keep going and commit to honing our technology skills if we don’t want to miss out on a wide range of new opportunities. After all, many of our grandparents transitioned from mops to electric vacuums (and maybe even robot floor cleaners). We evolved from our rotary dial phones to smart devices.

Learning new technologies and devices is age-blind. It may take us a bit longer to embrace automation, but that’s only because it’s not our first language. With commitment, the right tutors, confidence, and a healthy dose of fearlessness, we can master any skill.

Today’s jobs all require some level of technical proficiency. Even writers must master CMS (content management systems like WordPress) and not just a pen or keyboard. Sales and service people need to use point-of-sale systems and databases. Frankly, leaping is not all that hard.

Here are some tips for getting out of an analog rut and overcoming technology obstacles.

  1. First, never give up the fight. Unless you plan to cut yourself off from the rest of the world, knowing how to use technology is no longer an option. 3.8 billion people currently spend time on social media, so staying connected with loved ones now requires a working knowledge of apps. Connected devices will enable us to perform household tasks quickly and easily, giving us more time to enjoy our lives.
  2. Surround yourself with patient and committed mentors. Barter your knowledge of a valuable life skill for lessons or pay a professional to guide you. Be aware of how you learn best (e.g., face-to-face, self-study, etc.) and match your training to your style.
  3. When in doubt, Google it. So many resources are available online. If you could find something in a card catalog in a library, you can find it on your laptop or desktop.
  4. Embrace the Machine™. AI (artificial intelligence) and robotics are transforming many aspects of work and life. Think of the fourth industrial revolution (as this transformation is often called) as a way to streamline tasks. The more you know, the more you can benefit.
  5. Use your voice. Voice-activated devices will become even more common — extending far beyond Amazon Echo, Google Home, Siri, and other ways to talk to technology. Many of these tools will make our lives easier as we age and may face mobility and eyesight issues. The more practice you get communicating with your “robot butlers,” the easier it becomes. Soon, devices will start the conversation, reminding you that you’re running low on almond milk, your car is due for a service, or you have an important meeting at 8 AM.
  6. Remember, too, that role modeling helps shape perception. Avoid making statements about your technology insecurity or shortcomings in large groups or sharing ageist social media posts. That simply perpetuates the myth that we’re all tech-challenged and potentially unemployable. We can sometimes be our own worst enemies.

We’ve mastered a myriad of new and complex skills throughout our lifetimes — driving, changing diapers, and learning new sports and games. Technology is just one more. So, ZOOM on. Our future will depend on it.