Joan Sharp is a smart as a whip 88-year-old who knows what she wants from technology and is even more emphatic about what she doesn�t want.
A widow for the past nine years, the Blackburn Hamlet resident is probably more tech-savvy than most people her age. She has had a computer for about 25 years � she's now on her third, but it�s slowing down and she likely won't replace it. She has an e-reader, Amazon Alexa and, her technology of choice, her iPad.
The iPad is her entertainment centre (she plays games like Canasta and Spider Solitaire) and her source for news, weather and anything else she wants to do on the internet. She uses email and not only stores her family photos on her device, she has them organized into albums. She actually has two Alexas, gifts from two of her sons, but she doesn't use it for much more than to turn off the bedroom light.
While Sharp is quite content to go online for information, a Google Assistant has been a life-changer for another friend. In her 70s, she has lost much of her sight due to complications from diabetes. "Hey Google" allows her to use her voice to access the internet as easily as most of do by googling with our keyboard. It has simplified her life, lessened her dependence on others and she loves it.
After talking to people of various generations, it's clear that the extent to which we rely on technology most often depends on how much we need it. Necessity, as they say, remains the mother of invention.
I am younger than Sharp by about 20 years, so have used computers for much of my adult life. I am mostly self-taught, so know that I only scratch the surface of what my devices could do for me; but they serve my purposes. My husband, on the other hand, retired before computers were in wide-spread use and doesn't do much other than email.
But, and this is the crucial point, he hasn't had to learn to look things up on Google, register online for his Learning in Retirement courses at Carleton or look up a phone number, because he has me to do it for him. If I weren't able to fill the role of household "techy," he would learn. Given the expanding world of technology, it is unlikely he would manage without improving his skills.
"The way things are going now, I don't know how you are going to be able to exist, communicate and get along if you don�t have some type of technology," Sharp says.
However, she has reached the limit of what she can absorb. "My kids are always buying me this techy stuff," she laments. "But no more. I am not interest in learning anymore!"
Surviving without a credit or debit card is becoming increasingly impossible. It's been awhile since most airlines accepted anything but a credit card for onboard purchases. But, I was surprised to learn that since October 29, only regular and prepaid credit cards and VIA Rail gift cards will be accepted as methods of payment on VIA trains. If you want that glass of wine, you�d better have the plastic to pay for it.
I mentioned earlier that Sharp is a firm believer in having technology that enhances her life. Primarily it is to keep in touch with her large family of four sons, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren through email, Facebook, Facetime and digital photographs. And that means the world to her.
Sadly, she also has to acknowledge that at her age, most of her childhood friends have passed away. "And the couple of friends I have left, don't even have a computer."
There is one pervasive technology she refuses to embrace: the smartphone. She is unmoved by a granddaughter who really wants to be able to text with her. Sharp is emphatic: "Sweetie, I don't want you to text me. I want to talk to you. If you want to talk to me, I'm home. And if I am not here, leave me a message and I'll get back to you." (And she laughs, having just had her driver's license renewed for another two years, she is unlikely to want an Uber!)
At one family gathering, she put a basket by the door to collect phones as people arrived. "There's nothing worse than being in a room with a group of people and everybody is sitting there; you're talking to them and they all have their heads down and their phones in their hands."
We can learn a lesson from this wise and active senior. And yes, she does have a cell phone. A flip phone in the car in case of emergency.