The Flinchum File

Thoughtful Economic Analysis and Existential Opinions
Subscribe to the Flinchum File
View Archives

Too Old To Care?

The local Veterans Administration medical system has a new, modern check-in procedure . . . by text message. There is just a large sign instructing veterans to text a five digit number, and they would then receive a reply-text with instructions on what identifying information is needed and must be entered by the veteran.

I was sitting in back of the waiting room when an elderly veteran walked in. He stood in front of the sign for a long time, becoming increasingly agitated. Finally, he asked a younger veteran what he was supposed to do. When told to pull out his phone, we saw it was an old flip-phone. The younger veteran pulled out his smartphone and entered the required text number. When the reply came back asking for the older veteran’s identifying information, he was handed the phone. Trembling, he admitted he could not see the keys well enough to add the info. The younger veteran offered to enter the information for the old man. Standing there, he first looked fearful and then angry. He turned around and just walked out.

Why do older people have such trouble adapting to technology? Of course, there is no one reason. Old people might joke their memory bank is full and cannot hold anymore. Some scientists tell us that neural pathways are like muscles, which atrophy when not used. A surprising number, facing their mortality, conclude that religion is more useful than technology for entering the afterlife. Many oldsters suffer from depression and don’t see the point of learning something new, just to take it to the grave. Some oldsters are passive/aggressive, knowing it is easier to simply nod their head and then ignore the true-believers.

During the Vietnam War, baby-boomers learned the government lies when expedient, and they watched the slow decay of the media, as well as institutionalized religion. It is small wonder they have “trust issues” and don’t want to learn something they don’t trust, such as computer technology. Despite hearing all the stories of computer hacking and viruses, younger people have no such concerns, because they buy software to protect them from software . . . huh?

Of course, none of this helps the elderly veteran wandering around in need of medical care. He doesn’t need to understand his fear of technology. He just needs a doctor.