In my day job, I help members of the public complete online applications. I’ve noticed that generally, older people are more likely to have trouble working with the computer.
I tell them to check their email and they type their email address in the search bar rather than typing google.com or yahoo.com and signing in from the home page. Some of the older people actually tell me when they start out that they are “computer illiterate.”
Today, I started to wonder if there is something about the human brain that keeps us from learning new things the older we get.
There are studies that show young people who grew up with computer technology have brains that are wired differently. Is there something about growing up with screen time that changes how readily people learn and understand how to use a computer?
Yet I have met a number of older applicants who walk in our office, sit down at the computer and have no questions or problems. Sometimes if it’s busy and I can’t help everyone, they help someone else. Once in a while, they even do something I don’t know how to do, like changing the size of the print in the viewer.
Other times, a young person, under 50, even the occasional person in their 20s, usually a man, will admit to being computer illiterate and I’ll walk them through most of the steps.
In my novel, several characters are over a century old. Would they be computer literate?
I’ve decided that they would, if they chose to be. It might be even true that unusually long-lived characters would be better at using technology. They’ve seen more history unfold and they may have a long-term outlook. They know the technology is not going away and neither are they.
I get the feeling some of the older people who declare themselves computer illiterate don’t feel there’s any point in learning new things. They don’t believe they have much time left.
Is this true? Let me know what you think or what you’ve observed.