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There they go again -- the media sneers about 'Grandma' and technology

Fast Company marks a trend -- let's stereotype older adults as Grandma.  Rant on. The latest article title was the last straw. Undoubtedly, as with the others, it was selected by young headline writers: "…the next hot market for wearable tech -- Grandma." Never mind that much of the tech wasn't wearable -- this one pushed me over the edge. So I looked around for other examples because I have seen it so many times -- there was the Huffington Post, 'reconstructing Grandma' and Amazon -- 'Grandma Talks Tech (baby boomers take to iPads too!)'. And Popular Mechanics -- 'smart tech will take care of Grandma.'

So very little thinking is in the thought from Big Think. These article headlines are built upon the assumption that older adults of indeterminate age are somehow refusing to use all of these new-fangled thingamabobs. Consider 'Getting Grandma to Embrace Technology' where the URL is neutral, but the headline made a sneering statement. Check out CNET's over-the-top patronizing -- Make any Android easy enough for Grandma to use.  Of course, there was no thought about how Android is not easy to use by anyone until your unique version has been wrestled to the Settings ground.  Then there's the Christian Science Monitor: The aging survey 2013: Technology is a big hit with Grandma (and Grandpa) -- those really old folks that are over the age of 60. Whoa, given the latest life expectancy upgrade, isn't 60 the new 40?

Check it out writers, maybe 'grandma' isn't the right terminology for that great article you wrote? With all of the inherent assumptions in that stereotypical sea, want to know something? Some older adults who might appreciate new technology are not yet grandparents! There are even 15 million baby boomer women who never had any children. Some of them who are, uh, parents of people who have children may not like being called grandma. And yet another segment, grandmothers raising their grandchildren, could be more likely to be living in poverty than their peers and can't afford that so-called wearable tech.

Headline writers -- think more carefully about stereotyping. We regularly see references to teens, boomers, GenX, GenY, and yes -- even seniors.  Those market segment words -- and the references that contain them -- make no value judgment about the sophistication or deficiencies of the subjects' knowledge of technology -- consider Pew's report on tech and teens or this article about baby boomers embracing technology (apparently it had not occurred to PC Magazine that they might be Grandmas). Let's let 2015 be the year in which lack of sophistication about technology is viewable as a market opportunity -- for new readers of standard websites, not stereotypical age-specific editions of publications like the Huffington Post.  Let's see publications like Fast Company -- with a readership that is 61% male, with a median age 42, do a bit of demographic self-inspection. Who knows, maybe they would see more readership among females on the far side of that median. Rant off.

Comments

Please try to publish your article about "Grandma" to Huffington or Slate..it's important...especially about childfree or childless seniors.

Laurie -

My favorite cartoon personality is Maxine and you're inching closer to being the animate clone. I love your perspective about ageism in the media - this blind spot is why many of the entrepreneurial ventures launched in the aging space will flounder and fail. Deservedly so. Those who do 'get it' will be wildly successful (and likely include at least one boomer in their inner circle). Keep up the good work trying to educate the ill-informed. It may be a fruitless effort but at least this reader finds it entertaining AND appreciates your intention.

Laurie,
I read your blog regularly but have never commented before, but you've struck a cord and I felt I should add my two cents. I teach a course to older adults called 'Stay Connected; Communicating in the 21st Century' on a college campus in California. I've discovered one of the main reasons many of my students are reluctant to try new devices is because they have been repeatedly told how hard it will be for them. They come into class the first day fearful and nervous. It was news to them that we ALL wrestle our way around with new devices until we figure it out and that doing so is just part of the process.

When they realized it isn't that difficult- and they understood the steps to take to learn a new device, platform or app they were off and running. Several of my students (who are in their 70's) use more apps and move around their tablets faster than many of the younger students on campus. They know they will be living many more years, want to use the technology available that will enhance their lives, and do not appreciate being left out of the conversation. Thank you for continually addressing these misconceptions.