Imagine taking your Christmas vacation in Florida. What could be better than spending a December warmed in the sun, basking on beaches and visiting tourist attractions with family? How does that pleasant picture change when I tell you this: you’ll have no internet access for the entire two weeks.
I’m visiting my grandparents in Florida over Christmastime. For two weeks, I won’t have internet because my grandparents don’t have it in their home. Now, I’m not writing to complain. I’m actually looking forward to taking a break from an internet-saturated lifestyle for those couple of weeks. I see it as a bit of an experiment even.
As I’ve thought about my coming temporary break-up with the net, it’s made me think about my grandparents’ lifestyle choice. Many members of my family have tried to convince Grandma and Grandpa to connect to the internet, explaining different service options and various conveniences it holds. Still, they’ve held out. Each time, they’ve said it’s too much for them to learn at their age.
Somehow, it only just hit me: the internet intimidates my grandparents. These are my grandparents we’re talking about! They’ve seen so much of life, had so many experiences, and have crazy amounts of knowledge—and yet, they’ve avoided the internet because it’s overwhelming, even scary to them.
Isn’t this true of so many elderly people within our society? How many times as young adults do we hear, “All this new-fangled technology…I don’t understand it,” or we have a cell phone thrust by wrinkled hands at us in frustration?
Technology has created a huge divide in some ways between the young and the old. Our way of life is vastly different than what our grandparents have known. Some of the elderly have stepped into a more tech-filled lifestyle, while others shrink from it completely, thinking it’s something for “those crazy kids.” Have you ever sensed a certain disgruntlement from those above sixty who avoid the internet and technology? I have, and only recently have I begun to think about why that’s there.
Could part of it be that as we’ve moved into the technology generation, our grandparents feel somewhat useless to us? Before Google, where did we go for answers? Those older with more understanding of the world. I think many elderly people are frustrated because we’ve replaced them with our technology for answers. In that, however, I think we often confuse knowledge with wisdom.
No matter how many answers Google holds, it can’t give the wisdom and perspective we need as young adults to live our lives well. Those who have lived more of this life have unique lessons to share with us that all the technology in the world can’t provide. I believe the elderly are becoming more of an untapped resource within our generation. We are teaching them about technology, but forgetting to seek their guidance.
As you go into the holidays, I’d encourage you to seek out the elders within your family. Ask them about their lives—for their stories and lessons. Don’t forget: we need them, and they need us.