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Commentary: Stop the world until I catch up!

We're not all tech-savvy seniors--far from it!
Can you relate? Being computer literate doesn't come easily for many of us, says this Edmonton senior. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

There are many seniors who are computer literate, an increasingly important thing to be in order to function in today’s society. Unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

It is assumed we all have access to a computer and I do. In fact, I’ve had many over the years because the technology keeps changing. Eventually I can no longer download the updates I need to do the things I need a computer to do and have to purchase a newer model. I’m not a user of technology, I’m a hostage.

It’s also assumed we can all navigate our way around a website. Websites are said to be intuitive, but my ESP must be tuned to a different station. I have yet to find a website that is actually user-friendly, or at least one that is a friend of mine.

One of my main problems with websites is I have to remember dozens of passwords in order to access them. We’re cautioned not to use the same password, not to use something obvious as a password and not to record passwords where someone could find them. But if you make too many attempts to remember your password, you get locked out of the site. If you admit you’ve forgotten it, you have the opportunity to come up with a new one, but now you have yet another password to remember.

If you can’t access the website or would prefer to talk to an actual person, good luck! First you have to explain to an “automated assistant” why you’re calling. Or you have to listen to a menu of numbers and press one, often leading you to yet another menu of numbers. In either case, your reason for calling has to fall into one of the pre-designated categories. My questions and issues seem to require more than one or two words to express.

If you do manage to explain why you’re calling, or find an appropriate number to press, you then have to stay on the line--sometimes for hours--listening to repetitive messages and tiresome music. If you don’t get cut off at some point or give up in order to get on with other aspects of your life, you might reach an actual customer service person, or a “Happiness Centre Advisor” or whatever other euphemism the company chooses to call this person. The first thing he/she/they (depending on the person’s preferred pronoun) will tell you is to go to the website!

Another societal expectation is that we all have a cell phone and carry it with us at all times. I do have a cell phone--my daughter gives me her old one whenever she upgrades to a newer model--but I don’t always remember or choose to take it with me. In any event, I resent the expectation we all know how to use an app to park our cars or scan a QR code in order to read a menu. These skills are also ones that don’t come naturally to me. I can’t even text with my thumbs. I keep accidentally hitting something that changes the language on my phone and also rearranges the keyboard.

Technology was supposed to make our lives easier. Why does it seem more complicated than ever? Why is it with all our technology that lets us connect instantly, we’re more isolated from human contact than ever before?

Shirley A. Serviss is an Edmonton freelance writer and writing instructor.