Are Boomers Who Haven’t Honed their Tech Skills Too Late to the Game?
By Nancy A. Shenker*
If you don’t incorporate technology into your daily life, you’re missing out. Even if we didn’t grow up with it, we can learn about it and apply it.
Do not fear technology...embrace it. More than 50 percent of today's jobs require some degree of technology skills, and experts say that percentage will increase to 77 percent in the next decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The National Council on Aging reports that by 2019, more than 40 percent of people over age 55 are expected to be working. On this basis, it’s important that our contemporaries get up to speed so they can prosper and compete in a rapidly changing workplace.
Here are some simple fast facts:
- Older women—80 percent are more likely than men to be impoverished according to the National Institute of Retirement Security.
- Millenials are expected to overtake Boomers as America’s largest generation by 2019 and will be competing for the same jobs.
- Boomers have skills and wisdom that younger employees may not. That, combined with technological skills, can keep us relevant – well into our 100s.
Going online opens a virtual world of opportunity. Digital media/technology has a few major purposes:
- Professional: Helps people remain gainfully employed longer and be more useful to employers.
- Social: Expands your circle (personally and professionally) so you can be connected to family and friends and battle loneliness.
- Educational: Offers access to information, inspiration and even courses online which can keep your brain and body healthy for years to come.
- Entertaining. There’s so much to access online whether information, photos, music or podcasts.
Health benefits. Many of the technologies developed for Boomers can lead to more independent living and encourage more activity. Technology can monitor health, offers mindfulness and breathing exercises, track blood pressure and so much more.
I speak at conferences and often appear on radio and TV (and in good old print media), as well as online. Not only do I come in contact with thousands of people through my professional and social life, I have 20,000 "virtual friends" on social media, many of whom are using digital tools -- just not to their fullest. In addressing the importance of Boomers getting on board with digital media/technology, I bring credibility to this issue as someone who has lived through four decades of tech transformations--from typewriters to artificial technology and machine learning.
I don’t mean to imply that all Boomers resist. But because digital media is a second language for Boomers, it can be intimidating. Boomers may sometimes get lost by the speed of change and/or frustrated by not having the right "tutors" to keep them up to speed. And individuals of all ages learn at different rates and in different ways. (Millenials may understand the "how-tos" of digital media, but they don't necessarily know how to apply it to business.)
Here are five things Boomers need to know about the new technologies.
- Technology is ubiquitous. If you "missed the memo" you need to start catching up -- now.
- Voice recognition (like Amazon Echo or Google Home) will be applied to all aspects of business.
- Keep an eye on AI, machine learning, and robotics. They will transform the world as we know it.
- Again, do not fear technology...embrace it.
- Baby steps. Do one small thing each week to get you closer to mastering technology.
We need to eliminate the perception that older people are “fossils” or out-of-touch. When people my age joke about how they don’t know how to use apps or talk about their VCRs, they simply reinforce a negative stereotype. Do not reject change and progress…embrace it!
*Over the course of her 40-year business and marketing career, Nancy A. Shenker has been a C-level executive, entrepreneur, and mentor to hundreds of small businesses at all stages -- in industries including food & beverage, travel & hospitality, technology, fashion, and real estate. She has written four books and publishes a women’s entrepreneur community called sheBOOM.com, as well as AI website Embrace the Machine, and travel and lifestyle website BleisureLiving. She’s a columnist for Inc. Magazine where she talks “Bodies & Bots: The Human Side of AI and Tech”, and her business and lifestyle wisdom and wit has been featured by Forbes, CNN, ABC News, The New York Times, HuffPost, and many other consumer and media outlets.