Thriving with the new technology

Wayne Clark PhD and Woodrow Clark PhD

This blog is not about finances, pensions, social security, 401ks, nor IRA’s. Instead it is about living a physically and emotionally healthy last chapter of our life by enjoying the new technology, new services, new ways of learning. In the 60’s and 70’s the concept of lifelong learning became a theme for development of new skills needed by workers and new ways of educating throughout the lifespan. The history of formal education beyond grammar school, high school, and college, goes back to at least the Chataqua movement of the 19th century. In the 1960’s educational institutions began providing in person classes for interested adults to learn: different languages, new skills to operate computers, techniques in photography and art classes as well as travel education experiences. Many of these opportunities still exist today for all ages, including boomers.

Now in the 21st century we have even more ways to learn, especially at a distance, with new technology, distance webinars, zoom classes, instructional You Tubes, and do it yourself (DIY) videos. We now have in our hands instructional methods for how to do everything from fixing a clogged sink, to understanding how to play a musical instrument. We have distance learning when we want it, in our homes, on our laptops, and at our fingertips on our smart phones. This paper is about a couple of the many ways to access and educate ourselves. We can still enjoy our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews when available to teach us, but we can also educate ourselves.

You might ask, why do I need to know new things or why try and fix something myself? Why not ask a grandchild, or pay somebody to come over to my house to fix something? Well certainly you can take advantage of those in person opportunities with friends, colleagues, skilled professionals, or relatives. However, let’s say you either don’t have the money to pay somebody or you don’t have the relative around when you need help or you live alone either in a remote area or in the heart of a city.

For example, let’s take the tools of the technology modern world and learn how to use them. This exercise will not be exhaustive. In fact, the modern tools can be used for finding an expert, to come onto your smart phone or laptop and teach you how the darn thing works. Even if we show you how to find an expert, we will not identify every circumstance or situation you need to learn more about, fortunately some of these methods will leave you with a feeling of “I can do that”. There are three basic methods of getting to these learning opportunities: video conferencing like Zoom (or other ways of connecting to a class or webinar); do it yourself through YouTube, Pinterest (or other video instructions); and streaming an instructional series (e.g. the piano guy). Many of these three modes are free, some require a subscription, and virtually all can be searched on your browser.

The first hurdle to accessing these new modes of learning is by having internet connectivity and the hardware such as one of the over three billion smart phones in the world. In the United States many if not most households have either smart phones, tablets, desktops, or laptops. Most if not all in the US have some form of connectivity to the internet, which coupled with the hardware (smart devices), you have the tools to get to the modes of learning. Now let’s explore ways that Boomers can use these modes and tools to operate the “new-fangled” equipment. These different modes of learning will improve our ability to be independent, resilient, and thrive.

Starting with what I call “how do you do this”? Which applies to just about everything from building a deck or just opening up an app, to getting the most out of your hardware. For instance, how many times have you wanted to do something simple, like make the print bigger on your smart phone? But there is nobody around to help. You can do that if you just google (inquire with your browser) the question and you will get the answer, either showing a set of written instructions or some other social media such as You Tubes, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. No matter who we are, we all have tasks, items that we do not know how to accomplish. Or we at least need to be reminded how to do these things.

The initial tasks needing instruction are not the elaborate items like how to build a deck or how to play the piano, instead we start with the simpler tasks like how to use a hot spot on your phone or how to fix a clogged sink. There is a road map that can get you to a destination (how to fix your sink) but will not actually show you how to fix the sink, when you get to your destination or the site that has the step by step instructions, then you can learn how to fix the sink. Start with your search engine (google chrome etc.) that helps look up the places that will provide information or instructions about the item, issue, and tasks you are seeking. For instance, you type in the item, press search, up pops a dropdown list of DIY sites either written or YouTube’s about fixing your sink or opening your hotspot. Now you are equipped to do what before the technology, a plumber or your grandchild would have been needed. You can do it, however if you forget or what they showed you didn’t work, then look up whether you followed the instructions or try another instructional video. From now on we will start with the same initial steps, enter the project in your search engine, choose one or more from drop down list and proceed to follow the instructions.

The next set of learning is video conferencing or group learning such as found in a classroom, but today is called distance learning, where there might be an instructor and other students, but they are not in the same place. They are in their homes with their laptops and smart devices. Zoom, Go to Meeting, Google Meet, Skype, etc. all have the capability to have multiple participants in multiple locations communicate with each other about everything from a choir rehearsal, a bridge game, to topics like economics, mindfulness, etc. These instructional opportunities are blossoming all over especially with a pandemic in place that prevents us from gathering in classrooms and gatherings of more than 10 people. Social interaction can continue to occur but just not in person, there is something to be lost in not seeing the frown on somebodies face or the rolling of their eyes, which can be seen more easily while in person, nevertheless you still can have most of the essence of the social communication.

A final learning opportunity is the one on one tutorial that is also now available thru distance learning, my best example is the “Piano Guy”. An extensive series of piano lessons both in streaming form and workbooks that enable you to learn to play the piano in your home on your own time with some ease and pace of learning that fits you. The piano guy (like many tutorials) is a subscription that costs money, but there are other apps that can be downloaded without an extra charge. Learning to play the piano is just one of the many skills you might want to pick up in your senior years, learning to paint, draw or other ways of expressing your self creatively. Learning to do yoga, Tai Chi, meditate, etc. all can be learned through instructional streaming opportunities. The list is infinite for how to be resilient by learning new things and thriving in that new world you have created.