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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 6, 2009 1:20:23 PM PST
Barbara Sher says:
Is it true that young people are always the experts in times of change? Is Web 2.0 really an elder killer? Yes, to the first. Not so sure about the second.

Re: The young people have the advantage and become the experts while older people fall behind in this new internet era:

Yes, the younger generation sems to always be ahead when things change: immigrants know that their children understand the ways of new world better than they can, or want to: my father at 13 was the go-to guy instead of his Russian father because he was in school, spoke English and knew what was happening. Unlike his elders, who would have been the experts in the old country, he, and all the kids his age (and younger), enjoyed the new ways and learned them effortlessly.

More evidence: I don't remember where I read this, but during the Renaissance, when clocks replaced sundials and hourglasses, adults couldn't grasp how clocks worked or what they were looking at, but children had no problem.

Even in my lifetime this held true: in the early 50's my father brought home a TV set and none of us - my parents, or my brother and I (10 and 11 years old) -- could adjust the 'fine-tuning' knob (it was the only knob on the TV set) to zero in on the channel beam and get rid of the snow, even (if we were lucky) get a sharp image on the screen. We often had to wake up my 4-year old baby brother to come out and fix the fine-tuning, which he would do half asleep, then stumble back to bed. :-)

On the other hand, how do we make sense of the woman who called into the Brian Lehrer show this morning (where I learned of this book)? She was retired or out of work and in tight financial circumstances at the age of 55, until she started using the Google 'give it away free' model -- and called in to say it worked. She's doing fine, now.

And what explains the students in my writing/speaking classes, most of them between the ages of 40 and 65, not techies in the past, who have become experts on Web 2.0 itself, and are, for instance, in the top 50 on Twitter, and are teaching all the rest of us how to use the new tech?

Maybe the answer is that people who *must* learn (like the woman who called in to the show) and people who *love* to learn (like the people who sign up for classes like mine) are using a different brain than the one we usually associate with older people. They have pounced on the new internet toys with the fascination of children.

Maybe the internet has caused the same 'dendritic fireworks' and brain plasticity as learning a new language does -- at any age. That's what Betty Freidan's sources say in her great book, The Fountain of Age, (sorry, can't find the page).

Love to hear your thoughts on this.

Posted on Feb 9, 2009 7:00:39 PM PST
Very insightful, Barbara.

I would agree with you that the "digital divide" does not have an age boundary. The boundary is on adaptability. Granted, kids do not need to adapt, they just accept. But older people *have* to adapt and embrace the new, and those that do, thrive.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 13, 2010 7:46:56 AM PST
Very interesting post by Barbara Sher.

There are a great deal of misconceptions about older adults and how they use the Web. Web 2.0 applications are widely used by many older adults as well as younger adults. Social networking is one primarily example. Facebook has become a social hub for many older adults and has help many to find new friends and reconnect to old friends. Many older adults use the Web for many similar reasons that younger adults have. Older adults want to read the latest news, find friends, research information about products, and purchase items online. Older adults even play online games and watch videos, just like younger Web users.

While there has been some research into adaptability and learning regarding older adults, there hasn't been any definite obstacles that preclude older adults from learning new technologies. While some research has shown that older adults may require longer periods of learning and have more difficulty in remembering new concepts, on average they just as capable in utilizing new technologies as any other age group. The exceptions may be adults with severe cognitive limitations or impairments caused by disease or injury.
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Initial post:  Feb 6, 2009
Latest post:  Feb 13, 2010

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