Get Over It – I’m Middle Aged And I’m Tech Savvy

It’s time to ditch the prejudice that older people can’t work with technology

THE POST-MATCH huddle after my son’s rugby on Sunday was a bit unusual.

Normally, the Under-18s all squeeze together briefly to review their rush defence, the lineouts and what not, but The Coach had a different message for them this time.

“Lads, your parents are struggling,” I heard him say.

“They can’t do this new RFU* computer system and if they don’t get their heads round it and register you, we’re going to have to cancel games.

“So can you sit down with them, lads? Help them with it?

“You know what old people are like when it comes to computers…”

I turned away, a bit choked up. It’s true that I was having a ’mare with the RFU, but I hadn’t realised it was my fault.

But was I sure it wasn’t me? For weeks, I’d been inhabiting that Internet No-Man’s Land where a page looks – and acts – like it’s a maddening piece of crap. But it’s also got you so unhinged and riled up that you know you’re not operating at your best, either. **

And what was Coach on about – old people?

It’s all right for him, I thought, with his flourishing Facebook page and his quirky uploads lampooning Brexit, but he’s got to be 50 if he’s a day.

A bit of age solidarity would have been nice…

I mean, if we ourselves perpetuate the stereotype that older people are shit with tech, how can we blame everyone for believing them?

In the late 1970s, you did ‘Computer Studies’ with a ruler and pencil because there weren’t any actual computers in schools.”

I will admit that, until recently, I’ve had a meh relationship with technology.

When I was at school, Computer Studies lessons were only just starting, and tech wasn’t in any way sexy, like now.

In fact, in the late 1970s, you did ‘Computer Studies’ with a ruler and pencil because there weren’t any actual computers in schools (or, at least, not in my comprehensive).

In the 1980s, we got an Atari home console with Pong on it, and I liked playing Space Invaders at the pool after swimming club – but when I got into my twenties I don’t see any reason to play golf on a screen when you could go out and do it for real.

I used the editorial systems at the newspapers I worked for – but when I went back to work in primary schools after several years caring for my own kids, I found that I had de-skilled calamitously.

For starters, they were using those new-fangled iPads, with all that weird tapping and two-finger swiping – and, frankly, it wasn’t good for my self-esteem that seven-year-olds were running rings around me when it came to operating them.

I also gained a reputation for being generally technophobic because – even though I used it all the time at home – I could barely sign on to email at work.

As a lowly Teaching Assistant, I wasn’t given a computer, or much time to use someone else’s. And – because there always seemed to be some sort of problem with it, or me – I started to find ways around using IT whenever I could.

Unless I want to work in B&Q until I’m 70, I’m going to have to try.”

I think it would amuse some former colleagues to know that I’m a blogger now – but once it became clear that I’d need tech skills for the job I had in mind, I enrolled at college for a suite of digital media courses.

It didn’t matter that I was often the oldest there. But, because I was so keen to learn, and so nervous about not understanding stuff, I did end up leaving a couple of lessons in tears.

And what always happened after that was that I went home and practised hard on my own, and I caught up.

Not only have I – eventually – got used to WordPress and set up a blog with widgets and tags and properly sized photos and whatnot, but I’ve also got quite adept at making my own digital images for each one.

Even if they look a bit stupid to you, I always get a kick every time one comes out right, having sourced, layered, cut and airbrushed for all I’m worth. It’s called Job Satisfaction, and I had started to forget what it felt like…  

So I’m glad that I’m getting over my tech issues. It might be a bit of an ask, going for a digital media job at my age, in a world full of age reservations.

But unless I want to work in B&Q until I’m 70, I’m going to have to try…

* The Rugby Football Union, English rugby’s governing body

** Actually, it was their fault! After ages holding on the phone, a helpful woman at the RFU emailed me a fix for the page and I became the first Dad to penetrate the bureaucracy (not to mention a club legend).

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