It’s called the Global Positioning System (GPS), and it was originally designed to assist soldiers and military vehicles, planes, and ships in accurately determining their locations worldwide.
Today, however, you and I rely upon this amazing technology not to determine our location, but to find our way to destinations for which we used to consult maps. At least that’s the way it’s suppose to work.
I say “suppose to” because there were times when my old GPS did not provide the needed coordinates to my destination, and actually had me going in circles, with correcting comments like “recalculate!” And that just really ticked me off, so that I start talking back to this inanimate device, and telling it to give me the right directions, or shut up! Which, obviously, was an effort in futility.
However, my new GPS is much more friendly … doesn’t tell me to “recalculate” … and is extremely accurate. Which only goes to prove that given time and improving technology, even “Gerty” (my name for the female voice on my GPS) has become my best travel buddy.
As I think about my GPS experience, it reminds me just how much technology is impacting our lives, especially as seniors. Anyone over 60 can remember the days when a cell phone was something that required a backpack to carry, and a computer took up a whole room with air-cooled floors to prevent overheating.
Today, we carry both the phone and computer in one small device that fits into a purse or attaches to a belt. A device that has the computing capacity of a one-ton computer that businesses used just 60 years ago.
Frankly, what concerns me about these remarkable advancements is that many seniors have been intimidated and frustrated by this evolving and dynamic technology. For many, it represents an overwhelming obstacle to communication… especially with younger family members. Instead of picking up the phone to call someone, more and more young people are relying on texting. Something we seniors find both impersonal and less effective in transmitting a meaningful message.
Even for those of us who have adapted to this new technology, we have our challenges as well. Not just with texting, but with a whole new vocabulary that includes such things as downloading… blogging… twittering… etc. It’s enough to intimidate anyone.
So when I talk about a GPS system, and “finding our way home”, it’s not just about getting directions to get from one place to another, but it’s more about finding our place and fitting in to a world that’s rapidly changing all around us. And unless we do, we will find ourselves becoming increasingly isolated and lost.
And by the way … it’s not just seniors who are facing this challenge. As young people become more and more detached from interpersonal, oral communication, and rely on words in the form of impersonal “text” messaging, they too will encounter an increasing isolation and disconnect from meaningful relationships. The real challenge, it seems to me, is finding better ways to communicate between the generations, and that means “finding our way home”.
Carl R. Johnson is the Community Relations Director for Kitsap Alliance of Resources for Elders (KARE)