Future historians will more than likely refer to this time in our history as the Computer Age, similar to how we refer to the Industrial Revolution of the late 1700s through the 1800s. From the first commercially successful computer (UNIVAC in 1951), computers have rapidly grown in their capacity by virtue of the ability for memory storage. With the development of solid state electronics and integrated circuits, size reduction has been accomplished exponentially. With the development of the Internet, we now have access to unlimited amounts of information shared around the world from a home computer, a laptop, or a smart cell phone.
By the time a child enters school today, they already know their way around a computer keyboard better than I did after taking a year of typing classes in high school. It is not uncommon for parents to keep track of their children’s activities via text messages during the day. The business community loves this as it is less disruptive of the work place than personal phone calls. Meetings are scheduled, conferences are held, orders are taken and fulfilled, important documents are distributed, and customer service is only a click away on today’s computers. Computers have become an integral part of our lives in just the past 60 years.
Computers are convenient and cost efficient enough that everyone has at least one, right? Not really. There is a whole segment of our population that has not embraced the computer age and they are now having difficulties that we should not overlook. This segment includes many of our senior citizens, especially those that were not in the work force and therefore not exposed to the increasing use of computers in the office. My mom is one of these individuals. It took her years to figure out how to program the VCR to stop flashing and she still hasn’t learned how to access or set-up voice mail. Why can’t she just use an answering machine? Every where she turns these days, she is directed to some website for help – she doesn’t have Internet access. A lot of her friends don’t have internet access. It is not that they are incapable of learning how to use a computer that is why they aren’t connected; it often is a cost or a disability factor that prevents them from getting a computer.
Mom lives on a modest fixed income like many of our senior citizens. With the rising cost of food, fuel, housing, and medical care (especially with aging bodies), most senior citizens have barely enough income to pay their existing bills. Add in a few physical limitations such as aging eyesight, cataracts, shaky hands, or arthritis and we get a better idea as to why so many of our senior citizens have not joined the computer age. Like my mom has said in our many talks, “I am doing just fine without a computer, not everybody needs a computer.” As we allow computers to be more and more a part of our everyday life, we must remember those that are like my mom and make allowances that will keep them functional without going on-line.