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Hi, everyone! Leo Notenboom here for askleo.com. I had an interesting notification from the AARP earlier this week. They are releasing a new book; it’s coming out in a few weeks. It’s called Disrupting Aging and it’s by the AARP CEO, JoAnn Jenkins.
One of the phrases that they used in their marketing material caught my eye and I’ll read it to you here:
“…she encourages us to rethink the negative stories we tell ourselves and each other about aging.”
This actually got my attention – big time, and I’ve preordered the book. Full disclosure – I haven’t read it. They haven’t given me any kind of a prerelease copy, but that alone spoke to me.
And the reason it spoke to me is because it’s something that I see and I hear everyday. Absolutely everyday, we tell ourselves negative stories about our age all the time. It’s unfortunate, but it’s very, very true. What’s partly frustrating about it is that there are, of course, lots of negative messages that come from; I’ll just call it, the world at large.
American culture in particular seems to place an undue value on youth when compared to age. The messages from the world, they’re not bad enough. Right? We then end up having to either build on that or amplify that by basically echoing or building these same negative messages with negative messages of our own.
And this is especially true about technology, and that’s why I’m talking about today here. One of the most frustrating things I hear, in questions or in comments that are left for me are phrases of the form, “I’m too old to get this.” To which my reaction is typically (you never hear it; you never see it) but my reaction is typically – bull! I mean that’s simply not true.
You may not be interested in something – not everybody is, but age, whatever your age might be is not an excuse to walk away from technology or to cast blame at technology or whatever it is you are struggling with is – it simply isn’t. I see that excuse used all the time. All the time. Like I said, in questions, in comments. It’s really pretty frustrating actually when you are sitting in my chair to see that constant negativity.
And I don’t necessarily mean negativity that I take personally because I happen to be “old” by somebody’s definition but the negativity I see throwing at themselves, they feel less worthy or less capable of what they are able to do because they consider themselves to be old. And yes, often I will see exactly those words in a question – I’m old and again, my reaction is “bull”. It’s simply – it’s irrelevant. The best way I can put it is that your age for something like that is irrelevant.
People often include their ages as some kind of an apology or excuse or something to, I don’t know, maybe hide behind? To apologize for not necessarily catching on to something as quickly as they feel they should be able to. There’s this perception that young people or younger people get things way more quickly than those passed a certain age, while in some cases it’s kind of true, and in some cases it’s just doesn’t matter.
Again, it too, is irrelevant. It’s not a limitation. Age is not a limitation; it’s not an excuse. Now, to be clear, there absolutely are, I’ll call them – issues. Like I said, one of the things that is probably common as we age is that things slow down. Our ability to, I don’t want to necessarily say “think” but our ability to just do things at speed decreases but that doesn’t mean we’re not capable. It doesn’t mean we become unable to do things.
It simply means we do them, maybe, at a slightly slower pace. You can still do it. It just take a little longer. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. Other comments that I get that typically people attribute to age have nothing to do really with age at all. For example, one of the current hot design trends on websites is to use something other than black… on color or some kind of pastel text or something, like I said, something other than the high contrast, nice black and white for the text that is placed on websites.
That’s hard to read for some people. In fact, especially since it varies a lot, depending on the capabilities of your display device, it could be really hard for some people to read, to see that text. It’s one of the reasons that I actually try and do pure black on white. But that’s not an issue of age. That’s an issue of eyesight, and it’s an issue that crosses all ages.
I hear it from, actually, from all sorts of people young and old. The same thing is true for I’ll say, “motor skills”. Touchpads, for example, are a non-starter for a certain type of person who, maybe, has fine motor skill issues. Typing on a tiny flat screen cell phone, for example, is not something that they are able to do because maybe they have essential tremor, maybe they don’t have the ability to use the fine motor skills that are kind of required to hit some of those teeny, tiny icons on that flat screen.
Again, this isn’t age-specific; it’s actually more common across ages than most people understand. It’s an issue, speaking of which, technical gobbledygook, as I like to call it – the fact is if you don’t understand something, it’s not because of your age, it’s because of the writer or whoever’s poor ability to communicate something.
Trust me when I say people of all ages have trouble understanding technical gobbledygook; they just do. It’s not because you’re older. It’s not because you’re younger; it’s just because the people are who are creating that information do a poor job.
Like I’ve said in other venues, I think, one of the jobs that I kind of sort of see myself as performing is acting as a translator turning some of the technical gobbledygook into English – into something that people can understand. And that again, transcends all age groups.
Reaching a certain age (you’ll notice I’ve not mentioned any ages) reaching a certain age, whatever age you care to pick, doesn’t really mean much. It doesn’t really get in the way of your ability to do things, and when you do it to yourself, when you make the assumption that you’re too old for something, you’ve lost the war before the battle’s even begun. You’ve surrendered without even trying.
And like I said, that’s one of the reasons that this is such a passionate issue for me. This is something that I care deeply about, because I just don’t believe it; I don’t agree with it. I think that you’re selling yourself short every time you say the phrase or think the phrase, “I’m too old” because you’re not.
I know of octogenarians, nonagenarians that are having the time of their lives with technology. It clearly wasn’t their age that got in the way. Nothing’s getting in the way, and that’s the point. Nothing has to get in the way. It’s all about your ability, your openness, your willingness to take on what technology has for you.
Now, I’ve talked about this kind of thing before, and every time I do that, one of the reactions I get is, “You just wait until you’re older, buddy!” Well, ok, to begin with, I’m 58, so for some people, I’m old. I know for some people, I’m not, but for a lot of people, that is enough to be “old” and if you took a look around at what I do and how I live my life and the technology that I embrace, that you’ll notice that age is not an issue. It just isn’t.
But more than that, I honestly don’t believe that it ever will be. Short of some kind of physical or actual mental disability as I get older, I expect to be doing something a lot like what I’m doing until the day I die, and I don’t think that’s an unfair assumption for just about anybody to make.
I think that we all have the ability to keep learning, to keep doing, to keep growing, to keep enjoying whatever our passions might be, and I don’t think that learning, especially when it comes to technology needs to get in the way of that at all. Like I said, it earlier it might need to take little bit more time but that’s ok.
I don’t read as fast as I used to, but you know what, it’s not getting in my way. So, you’ve accomplished a lot already. You have. And I think that every time you believe you’ve reached a point where you can’t accomplish as much as you did in the past, you’re really selling yourself short.
Like I said, this is something that I feel passionate about. Stop using your age, whatever your age is, as an excuse. There’s a whole world of possibilities that you’re really selling yourself short on. You’re stepping away from every time you make that kind of assumption, every time you have that kind of internal dialogue with yourself. You’re not. You’re not too old to do this, and I really, really (in case it’s not clear) I really, really want you to stop thinking that because it’s bull.
So, go ahead. Have at me. What do you think? If you’re watching this anywhere but on askleo.com, by now, hopefully you know the drill, go visit this URL. That’s where the video will be posted, that’s where we’ll have a full transcript in black and white, high contrast, easy to read.
And of course our moderated comments so we can deal with honest and open discussion without fear of trolls and whatever. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear it. Take care everyone. I’ll talk to you next week. In the meantime, as always, stay safe, have fun and of course, don’t forget to back up. Take care.