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You Are Not Too Old for Technology

Age isn’t the limiting factor; it’s all about attitude.

Using a Laptop
(Image: canva.com)
I keep hearing from people who consider themselves too old. They're not. Don't be like them.

“I’m too old for this.”

It’s something I hear too frequently.

When it comes to computers and technology, I have only one word for you: bullsh*t.

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TL;DR:

Too old for technology? No.

Negative self-talk may convince you you’re too old to “get” or learn about technology. Nothing could be further from the truth, regardless of your age. If you have limitations, they are generally not age specific, and can be compensated for. Success with technology, or any endeavor, is significantly more about attitude than it is age; just ask the 95-year-old computer instructor or the 100-year-old blogger. Being willing to learn, and knowing that you can, will help you stay mentally fit and young.

The remarks I see

Questions I receive often include self-deprecating remarks like “I know I’m tool old to for this” or “Put it in extra simple small-word terms because I’m too old.”

My reaction — which you mostly don’t see or hear, of course — is a frustrated sigh, a shake of my head, and sometimes an actual cry of “bullsh*t!”

You. Are. Not. Too. Old.

What I also see

Some years ago, I stopped by the local senior center to check in on their computer-related offerings. After we chatted for a while, the gentleman in charge of teaching several classes on Android phones and related devices asked me how old I thought he was. I’m pretty bad at that, but I threw out a guess of early 70s.

95.

95, and not just using but teaching technology.

I know of octogenarians and nonagenarians who are having the time of their lives with technology. One of my favorite bloggers recently crossed into centenarian territory.

They still have questions — everyone does — but they’re using their tech to stay active, connected, and interested in the world around them. They’re using technology to stay young.

They do not let age get in the way.

Attitude trumps age

It doesn’t matter how old you are. I see “younger” folks (whatever definition of “younger” you like) who struggle with technology as well.

What matters much more is your approach, your attitude, and your willingness to learn and grow.

That’s true at any age, but particularly as we age, it’s part of staying mentally fit. It’s not the problem; it’s part of the solution.

Ignore the negative stories

Negative age-related self-talk is reinforced by rampant ageism in much of western society.

People often include their ages as some kind of apology or excuse to hide behind. They apologize for not catching on to something, or not catching on as quickly as they feel they should be able to.

The perception is that younger people are more capable.

I say again: bullsh*t. Don’t buy into the lie.

Limitations are ageless

Many people confuse limitations with age.

Be it poor eyesight, poor fine-motor skills, or even a perception of being unable to accomplish things as quickly as others, these limitations and others, while perhaps more common as we age, are not limited to the aged. Pick any difficulty you think you experience, and I can assure you, there are people much, much younger who face the same or worse.

There are more people of all age groups facing limitations than you might think.

Limitations can be overcome or accommodated.

It’s often not about you at all

Technical gobbledygook, as I like to call it, is a huge issue. Some of the biggest barriers to technology are the terminology, the concepts involved, and how they’re presented. If you don’t understand something, it’s not your age; it’s the writer’s inability to communicate in an understandable way.1

People of all ages have trouble with technical gobbledygook.

I’ve commented before that feel like I’m a glorified translator, turning technical gobbledygook into hopefully understandable English.

“Just wait until you’re older”

This is not a new pet peeve of mine, and I’ve talked about it before. A common reaction is, “You just wait until you’re older, buddy!”

As I write update this, I’m closing in on just past my 65th birthday. Many people who tell me they’re “too old” are younger than I am.

Short of severe physical or mental disability, I expect to be doing what I’m doing, or something similar, until the day I die. I hope that’s many, many years from now. I’m having too much fun.

Sure, I might encounter new limitations along the way, but that can already happen at any stage in life. I’ll cope as best I can.

Do this

It’s probably obvious by now, but this is something I’m passionate about.

Whatever your age, stop using it as an excuse.

There’s an entire world of possibilities you’re selling yourself short on. You’re stepping away from it every time you make that assumption and every time you have that internal dialogue with yourself.

Foster an attitude of learning. Do it at your own pace, but know that you can.

You’re not too old for this, and I really, really (in case it’s not clear), really want you to stop thinking that.

It’s bullsh*t.

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Footnotes & References

1: To be fair, it’s not easy, but it’s also not given nearly enough attention by the technology companies involved.

50 comments on “You Are Not Too Old for Technology”

  1. I would like to wish you a Happy 65th Birthday!

    Thanks for all your “translations” they help my wife and I in many different aspects of computing, and take us from “what does that mean” to understanding the concept.

    Glad to hear you do not plan on retiring soon.

    Reply
      • and 80 is what I am. Started with Apple II when it came out. TV for a monitor. Other teachers would not touch ‘that thing’

        Taught classes, learned coding by analyzing programs. Developed websites and maintain two to this day. Still a resource for people.

        Ok, I’ll stop rambling.
        HmS

        Reply
        • I am also 80. Was a civilian for USAF from 1984 to 2004. Recall getting a Zenith computer which ran DOS. Mozilla was a “browser” of sorts. Had fun and some training. Real training came when Windows came into play. I saw it as a challenge and still do to this day. Over decades, learned a lot from jobs and teckies. Good for the gray matter. Went through a period of time, as a secretary, people would come to my desk with questions about MS Office and other applications. Good old days. Been enjoying Ask Leo for quite some time. Best to All.

          Reply
  2. I’m 72 and I answer most of the questions that come into Ask Leo! I believe it’s learning new things that keeps me young.

    My father used a computer till he passed away at 95. My mother started using computers at 80 and continued until she passed away.

    Reply
    • Mark.

      I am sure you are correct, learning something new does keep the mind active and younger without a doubt.

      Thank you for all the responses you have made over the years … you have answered my questions several times on this site.

      I am finding Wordle and all its offspring to be doing a fine job on my brain also.

      Reply
      • I never got into Wordle, but puzzles like that are great brain exercises, and as they told us in school: “the brain is like a muscle and needs to be exercised.” That applies now as much as it did then. And all of you in between ages, it also applies to you: Keep your brain exercised.

        Reply
  3. I am glad to see this. I work with computers all day long. It is a love hate relationship. Mostly hate at this time. I realized that my use of computers is limited by fear. Your articles are helping with that. And I work all day long on a computer the last thing I want do is look at another computer when I get home. But my computer life is in a rut. Reading your article makes me wonder what I’m missing out on. Thank you for the encouragement. Barbara

    Reply
      • I am 78 and have worked with computers since 1967 (I cut my teeth on PDP-8s).
        Use computers EVERY day, mainly Windows 7/10/11 and Android.
        Can’t imagine life without these incredibly useful bits of kit. Especially now we have ‘t’internet.
        Now teaching myself about iPads/iPhones to better help those who drop-in to our weekly technology “help” sessions locally.
        Fear not – Every day is a school day!

        Reply
        • Me too, I’m glad to meet someone else who started on PDP-8s. That 12-bit boot startup from the front panel switches always makes me nostalgic for when life was simple and straight-forward & you could see the 1s and 0s happening.
          I’m 79 and working full-time managing software testing in mobile comms.
          I keep having to learn new techniques to keep up with testing what my bright bunch of developers throw at me.

          Reply
          • I started out on a CDC 6400, one of the larger mainframes, in 1967 and a couple of years later, I used a PDP 8F, the smallest computer, which used a punch tape reader as an input device. I learned much more on the PDP8 as I had direct access to the CPU and RAM.

  4. I totally agree with this. I’m 82 and have been in technology since the late 50s.During high school, I learned radio and tv electronics. In the navy I was a sonar tech. After that I went to school and became a research assistant at Bell Labs for 35 years. After retirement I joined a navy ship reunion association. When asked to take on the website, I said no, but after considering it more, I realized my mind wasn’t working like it used to. Taking on the site changed that. I also leaned to create a database for the group. What a difference all this made

    We have about 275 active members all between 70 and 95. Over th past 5 years I have bee notified of members getting rid of computers as they feared them. Some I have been able to get back on, but it’s difficult. We do a quarterly newsletter and those without computers or smartphones get it via USPS paper.

    So, don’t be afrai. Just learn to be careful.

    Reply
    • Hi–Happy Birthday young fellow!! I’m 92 and my first PC was around the millennium and windows 98. It’s always a learning challenge, no matter what age, and definitely does help keep the brain activated.
      You do great work, hopefully keep it up indefinitely!
      Harv

      Reply
    • Gene:

      I’m 78 & have been in technology since 1963. I wrote my 1st computer program in 1963 in machine code (no assembler or compiler) on a small Univac computer with 15-bit word lengths. No 15-bit is not a typo! Univac 1108’s had 36-bit word lengths. I guess they didn’t like powers of 2. (-:

      I also spent 8 years in the Navy during Nam as a Data Systems Tech (I was one of the first 10 in that rate). You mentioned a ship reunion association. Is that for a particular ship or open to anybody who served on a Navy ship? I was on the USS King (DLG-10) during Nam. I’d be interested in joining the group if I’m eligible.

      Reply
  5. I’m 75 and have enjoyed using computers since the late 1970’s. My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I haven’t looked back since. Having a computer is a constant learning experience as things are in a constant state of change. I love it. I got a smart phone and that opened up another opportunity to learn something new. The technology is keeping me “young”.

    Reply
  6. Hi Leo, Longtime viewer here. Spot on with your yak. 78 and loving my pc. I have so many friends who are older than you and many have just given up on computers. I agree that the tech speak is sometimes confusing and not familiar and a hurdle that many are not willing to try. So a well-written article like this is worth a send to those people who are really missing out by not hanging in there and giving it a go. So keep up the good work, you old fart!! Or I could say to you “wait till you get older” hahah

    Reply
  7. I am 91 years old and I had to upgrade my first computer to 1gb. Salesman said I would never need anything bigger :-). The only thing I have given up because of age is driving. Sometimes get very frustrated with computers but I don’t know what I would do without one.

    Reply
  8. Equally frustrating to me are people who are convinced that the instant you set up an online account with your bank or credit card issuer(s) your accounts will immediately be “hacked” and you will lose every penny. Several times I have helped some skeptical friends in our age group (we’ll leave at “we’re not spring chickens”) set up an online presence with their bank. After they get used to it, the feedback to me is always “I can’t believe I didn’t do this before”. The same with their credit card accounts. Next up: setting up online bill payments, but let’s not do too much at once!

    I used to recommend Quicken to friends, but since Intuit went to the annual subscription model I can’t do that any more.

    Reply
    • There’s a lot of fear, absolutely. It’s not helped by what I call “clickbait media” which makes everything seem like an absolute disaster, when it is not. If that’s all you see, though, it becomes what you believe.

      Reply
    • Funny thing about credit cards. I use my credit card on-line a lot. Those have never led to a hack. I’ve had fraudulent charges to my account a couple of times due to using my card in a restaurant when the server got my number and another time two fraudulent checks were made against my account. Those checks were due to the perp guessing my checking account number. I know that was the case because the name on the fake check wasn’t mine, and I never use my checks anywhere except to pay bills by mail or renew my driver’s license. Online purchases with a company that processes credit cards correctly is one of the safest ways to purchase.

      If you want to worry about anything, worry about checks. They are the easiest to hack.

      Reply
  9. Leo,

    Thank you for the reinforcement! I am heading toward 73 years of age (notice I didn’t say ‘old’). My first computer was a Gateway IBM-compatible 8088 powered PC. When compared to the device I am writing this on, it was primitive, but I saw the possibilities and that they were limited only by the limits of creativity and motivation of those who created them. That is still true today, not just for technology, but for people too.

    I spent much of my adult life driving for a living to support my family. After we got that first computer, I was hooked. I taught myself a bit about Assembly Language so I could write executable routines when I found things that DOS could not already do. Learning Assembly also taught me a lot about how PCs work at the hardware level (under the hood). When that first computer died of a hard drive head crash (it was an MFM drive, and compatible drives were no longer available), that event started me on a journey to learn how to build computers from components, another task that has become far simpler and more intuitive with time. The first machine I assembled was an i386 capable of running Windows 3.1 or IBMs OS/2 Workplace.

    Shortly after the start of the ‘new millennium’ I left driving professionally behind and got a job providing technical support for cable Internet subscribers. About that same time, I started a side business building, repairing, and setting up (configuring) computers. I didn’t advertise. It all started almost by accident. My brother asked me to help a friend of his. Her computer was starting to give her problems. After analyzing/diagnosing it, I gave her a few options, I could fix her existing machine, she could buy a new machine, or I could build a custom machine for her. Oddly, the most expensive option was to fix her existing machine and she would end up with exactly what she had been using for years. Buy a new store-bought computer was the next most expensive option, but then she would end up with something that was not much more capable than the machine she was replacing. She opted to have me build a machine for her. I helped her choose the best components she could afford, explaining the why of each as we developed a list of what she would get. That computer met her needs for the remainder of her life. She was so satisfied with what I did for her and how I did it, she told her friends about me, and they told their friends. Over time I had several dozen customers.

    Today, I’m retired, and I no longer build computers for customers, but I still help out friends and family from time to time, as well as the occasional friend of a friend or friend of a family member. I am taking a course on the basics of the Kotlin programming language. Computer programming is all about solving problems. I have studied C, C++, C#, Java, Python, F#, some Pascale, and maybe a few other languages I have forgotten about over the years, but I have not found a language that gives me what I want. Kotlin seems different, so far. It lets me write code that is concise while making my intent clear.

    I have shown you a bit of my history and my present day, but my future is not yet written. The only limitations on my future are those I put there, and the same is true for everyone. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you (or me) to learn something new, or to achieve some objective. What counts is that we try, and that we believe we can do whatever it is.

    “I don’t know how” is not an excuse, it is an obstacle that can be overcome with education. “I’m too old” is a state of mind. The truth is that you are NEVER too old unless you decide you are. Don’t be ‘too old’! If you have a computer, but you don’t know how to use it well enough, check the services in your local community. I’ll bet there is a free computer basics course available, perhaps at a senior center, or there is a computer user’s club that offers free courses to members. The same holds true for anything that interests you. You can learn to do anything you want if you only try.

    My definition of ‘stupid’ is being unwilling to learn. Ignorance is not stupidity; it is a lack of knowledge/understanding. Ignorance can be overcome with education, so please don’t be stupid. If you are ignorant about computers or anything else, overcome that ignorance with education so you can do whatever it is that interests you.

    Ernie

    Reply
  10. I enjoy the article and over the past ten or more years Leo’s many articles.
    And still do at 91. Also enjoy his and my birthplace was in the Netherlands.

    Reply
    • Hi Karl,
      Born and raised in the Netherlands,I emigrated to South Africa in 2000,after being retired as a marine pilot in the Port of Rotterdam.Ever since reading the articles of Leo Nooteboom which gave me a boost to understand thery technique of the computerworld.
      Comming to 77yrs of age,I feel now beginning to live my life with the PC,which gives me a lot of satisfaction;saying it is too difficult is no excuse as there are many ways to come to solutions.I wish every senior happy computing.

      Reply
  11. My answer,,,,,I am smarter than a 6 year old, so don’t go ask them for help. If you were stuck on a deserted road with a fully charged phone what would you do. I am not too old to learn something new.

    Reply
  12. I’m 84 and my introduction to computers was with those big punch cards that mainframes used in 1965. I bought my son and daughter a Commodore 64 for Christmas in 1980, moved on through Windows 95 to today when I’m using a Windows 11 laptop. I love playing with Adobe Photoshop and Premiere but most of all I enjoyed keeping a WordPress website up-to-date for the grammar school that I attended in England many years ago. I’d be lost without this amazing technology so a big thank you to you and your helpers Leo, keep up the good work!

    Reply
  13. Too old for technology? Never.

    Too old to do certain physical thing? Yup. I won’t be playing catcher in softball anytime soon.

    Reply
  14. I do tech support at my seniors’ centre. After 40+ years of teaching about or with computers I look forward to talking about tech because seniors have so much fun playing with new toys.

    Reply
  15. I couldn’t agree more with Leo. My first computer was an 8 bit Amstrad. Then came an Amiga and finally an IBM compatible. Learned to prgram on all. Now I have many emulators that allpw me to go back in time when I want to. At 83 I have a three pronged attack to maintain a young brain. Keep up my interest in all aspects of IT. Read widely in fiction and non-fiction. Listen to music. I could add a fourth – read Leo.

    Reply
    • My first computer was also an Amstrad! I did my first hardware repair to it. It needed a new drive belt and the instructions were tricky because if you turned it the wrong way a pin would fall out and there was no fixing that if it happened. My repair was successful and the read errors stopped. I never learned to code because I only used it for word processing with Locascript, but I did create a few interesting templates.

      Reply
  16. Happy Birthday Leo, and Hi! to you other kids

    I’m 90 and just getting things right. I show a movie in our Rest Home every Saturday afternoon (laptop into big wall TV via HTML) and do a flier on Thursday so people (several near or at 100) won’t forget (poster one side, outline the other, using own logo ‘cinema F’) on my Canon Ecotank printer. And surprise cards, fun certificates, birthdays etc. A hobby I enjoy that brings a lot of pleasure.

    Reply
  17. Happy Birthday to us, Leo. We are definitely born around the same time. I got into computers late in life, around age 39. Windows 95 was on top then, but so was DOS 6. I joined User Groups, bulletin boards, and read everything I could. I had mentors. My main gripe about excuses for not learning pertains more to young people. When I started there were thriving computer clubs and a keen interest among all ages. Now, all the user groups have died off due to attrition and lack of interest among young people. It isn’t enough for me to work it, I need to know how it works. Where has that curiosity gone? Has it become too easy to work it? I still know many people in my age group and younger that haven’t got a clue and really don’t want to know, even though they must use a computer for work. They just get by with the bare minimum and that is sad.

    Reply
  18. My sister told me when I turned 70 “Remember, you are younger today than you will ever be again”.

    I’m 75, my first PC was a z80 8-bit with 64k RAM and TWO 5.25 inch floppy drives. I support about ten Windows pcs amongst family and friends, and for our local University of the Third Age group (highly recommended). I sort of enjoy the occasional phone call beginning “Ummm Glenn, I think I’ve just . . . ” followed by some combination even Microsoft hasn’t heard of.

    Oh, and everyone thinks I’m a tech whizz, but all I do is search Google, and read all your newsletters!

    Reply
    • Ah! A fellow “Two-N’d Glenn” (that’s my first name, too)!

      I’m 62, and although I do have a 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium machine, I also still proudly use my Commodore-128 (mainly in “C64 mode”) — In fact my E-Mail address begins with “C128User@…” (!). It’s a 64K RAM, 1Mhz system using BASIC v2.0, and its main disk drive takes 5.25″ floppies (!!) that store a maximum of 337,312 bytes of data (!!!). :o :)

      Reply
  19. Hope that little rant managed to release the jets of steam from your ears and to cool your blood there, Leo. It must have been really boiling! :)

    Reply
  20. Another excellent article, Leo, and it never ceases to amaze me how many great comments are elicited. I’m 78 years young and as I slowly mature I realise how invaluable computers are in maintaining my sanity. I look forward eagerly to what each day as to throw at me.

    Reply
  21. Happy birthday Leo, please continue educating us in the ins and outs of technology. I have found finding the question to search for to get the answer I need is often the hardest part.

    Reply
  22. Technology and getting old. Great topic. Staying proficient as best you can while enjoying and benefiting from it is kind of like a forever road race. You just have to be moving forward if possible. ;-) Eventually we will all end up in the bushes at the side of the road but hey “C’est la vie!”. Thanks Leo! Rich in NH (new member) 74 years young and reading and watching everything you’ve published on “backing up” (my current big tech project)!

    Reply
  23. Hi Leo, I have long admired the wonderful way in which you help people deal with the complexities of technology. I must confess to being one of those who is prone to saying, “I’m 93 and finding technology is becoming too difficult for me”, even though I have also said that one reason that I have kept my desktop right up to date (Windows 10 v.21H2, open for update whenever an update is presented to me), so you have made me realise that that was not strictly correct. You are right also to say that there are other factors involved and this is something that this article has really made me think hard about. The trouble is that I really am having more problems with technology and things are slowly getting worse. I suppse what am really trying to do is to find a short cut to make a comment about the fact that my short term memory is slowly worsening and that my eyesight is also slowly getting worse as I get older without sounding too sorry for myself. Thankyou againn for all your help over the past 15 years or so

    Reply
  24. I am now 73 and use computers daily. Started programming and operating IBM 360 mainframes in 1968. All input was done on punched cards. Learned about computers before college degrees were available. Helped a lot of people learn about computers over the years at my various jobs as computers became prevalent in the workplace.

    The very first thing I learned about computers was the size of the IBM punch cards. They are the size of a dollar a bill. The early large dollar bills before 1928. Pieces of cardboard and knitting needles were used during census counting in 1890. Herman Hollerith was working the 1890 census and realized he needed to standardize the size of the cardboard cards. Reached in his pocket and pulled out a dollar bill. A pre-1928 bill is virtually the same size as an IBM punched card. The punch cards fit very nicely in trays that banks used to carry money too. Herman Hollerith and three others started a company that ultimately became IBM. The IBM punch card also helped defined a new word, CHAD.

    OK, just for fun look up Grace Hopper’s moth.

    Reply
  25. I’m 68 going on… oh whatever. I started my computer life with a dog of a machine which used cassette tapes. Really just a toy. Then I graduated to an Amstrad, can’t remember the model, but was advertised by Mr Bean (Rowan Atkinson) and then on to PC with a 386 architecture. Today I run Win 10 and that does me. But, I am struggling like hell with the computer. What happened?? Series of mini strokes, probably 4 or 5. I have no idea because all happened at night while asleep. I struggle now with my computer. Things that I could do, I no longer can. Memory issues from the strokes means I often, but not always, forget how to do things, where the programs are, and so on. Will it get better? Possibly, but probably not. I forget something as soon as I remembered it sometimes. But sometimes not. I cannot type like I used to, that was the first indication something was wrong. In fact I thought I had early onset dementia. Went to the doctor accompanied by my son and told him. He said dementia doesn’t work like that its a slow gradual disease. I left there and said bullsh*t. Didn’t believe it. But he of course was right. So I have good days, and I have bad day. Sometimes I have nightmare days. I read things and go away and come back and what happened, it didn’t say that on the screen before. But of course it did.

    What does the future hold for me? Well like everybody I’ll die. My death will come sooner rather than later. And I have resigned myself to that fate. How long will I live? Barring accidents etc., probably another 5 years, maybe longer but then maybe shorter.

    Oh, and my wife thinks I should still drive. She’s nuts of course. I couldn’t live with myself if I caused an accident, especially if someone else died. Oh, and one last thing, it’s taken me at least 1/2 hour to write this. Pre-stroke it would have taken about 5 minutes.

    Reply
  26. My cousin Harry retired from being an accountant at 66 in 1987 and promptly had a heart attack. While being wheeled in for the operation, he told his wife to make sure she mailed in the check to book the cruise. Months later while on the cruise, he signed up for a course about PCs which were in their infancy back then and quickly realized that he knew more than the instructor. He contacted the cruise line about becoming an on-board instructor himself. More than 25 years later he showed me a spreadsheet he kept that he and his wife had sailed around the world more than seven times and had spent more than four years, more than 1400 nights, at sea. It had cost him nothing and he was even paid. Harry died last year just four months shy of his 100th birthday. He is my hero.

    Reply

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