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Fighting against the odds

In its observations upon the 21st Century the Rust community regularly reports upon the travails faced by senior citizens in coping with the modern world, not least the manner in which younger generations seem to be able to assimilate the blizzard of new ‘facilitating’ technological solutions and ever-evolving ways that human beings interact together which some of us beyond a certain age can find bewildering.

It seems always to me that the human condition has in-built time-related contradictions which complicate the problem.

At one and the same time it comes with the territory that simultaneously from inside our frail bodies (on the one hand) we tend to deal with daily life from the viewpoint that we are aged 25 max – whatever evidence to the contrary may be staring us in the face every morning in the shaving mirror – whilst (on the other) new developments keep confronting us with opportunities or ways of doing that seem superfluous, unnecessary, ridiculous or unfathomable, especially when we were perfectly happy with how things are or used to be.

Ruster Michael Stuart has pointed out how it is often possible to identify someone’s age from their musical tastes because by and large these are formed before one has reached the age of 35, after which one’s interest in the ‘new’ tends to wane.

Arguably, this is no more than an indicator of time passing and  the fact that – as we age – we gradually ‘bail out’ of trying to ‘keep up’.

Instead (if you like) we metaphorically alight from the time train hurtling into the future at the next stop, having made a subconscious decision to remain in a world that we feel comfortable with. This is despite ironically, (as indicated above) also kidding ourselves that we’re still on the train and coping with the world like a 25 year old.

One of my major irritations in life – with which many in my social circle concur – is the fact that modern computer software packages such as Microsoft Word refuses to let me arrange the structure of my letters, reports and papers how I like.

I’m referring here to how the structure of a page is laid out – the headings, sub-paragraphs etc.

In the days of typewriters the typist was king, or queen.

You could lay everything out exactly as you wished. But in the age of the computer this is not the case – it is as if some Big Brother figure has decreed there are only three acceptable ways of numbering headings and paragraphs and – if you don’t want to deploy any of them – you’re effectively pooped.

Some might sigh and say that’s progress: I call it a restriction of freedom.

For good or ill, spending time with members of younger generations than our own reminds us of how both fast the world is changing and how far behind the times we have become.

When I was a teenager, my peers and I used to smile indulgently at how out of touch our parents were with what was really happening in the world – in musical terms (to refer back to an earlier point) their musical choices revolved around Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jnr and the musicals of Rogers and Hammerstein whilst ours were already steeped in the Beatles, Stones, Dave Clark Five and Sonny & Cher … and in that sense, never the twain would meet – (which was a good thing!).

And as for our grandparents – well, they inhabited a world in which all movies were silent and in black and white, BBC news presents wore dinner jackets and spoke in clipped  received-pronunciation tones in the style so brilliant parodied by comedian Harry Enfield.

See here, courtesy of – YOUTUBE

Now Time is getting its own back on me because I’ve reached the stage of life where my grandparents had been in the days when – gently and with affection, mind you – I used to mock them behind their backs.

Recently my son Barry came to stay with me for three weeks and (I have to be honest) it was a bit of an eye-opener.

A couple of years ago when boarding a cheap flight to Mallorca, having as usual wrestled with the complexities of acquiring a paper boarding pass online and the anxieties as to whether I’d done it right, I watched agog from my seat as a man in his twenties strode into the aircraft cabin and flashed his boarding pass at the stewardess by showing her his mobile phone screen – on which, I later learned, he had downloaded it via an App.

Barry tends to be up to date with modern technology.

In contrast I’m still at the stage where I regard every time I opt to pay for something in a shop by “tapping” my debit card on top of a card machine as a “might not happen/work” novelty.

Barry, however, deals with all his various (international) banking accounts and transactions online and by smartphone. When paying for something in a shop he doesn’t “tap” with his debit card – he does it with his smartphone which somehow can pay for things all over the world!

Separately, I ought to point out that our meetings of “the old” and the “new” do not always go smoothly or without the odd confrontation.

Last week Barry decided to revamp my broadband system because it was neither strong or fast enough for his tastes.

I meanwhile – being of grandparental age, the speed of it being way beyond the that of the days when the internet took about five minutes to burst into life – was perfectly happy with it and imposed one condition, i.e. that the disruption of my access to the internet should be minimal.

In the end, inevitably, it took about six hours (and two major rows between us) for him to finally achieve his goal, after which I could still notice no discernible improvement in my broadband’s speed.

I could tell from his exasperated demeanour at my attitude that I was now ‘past my sell-by date’ as a human being and probably good for nothing but the knacker’s yard!

Anyway, now he has departed, yesterday I decided to see if I could cope with the modern way of doing things. Having read on the news media about a wonderful new accessory developed by researchers at Keio University in Japan which will help older citizens with potential ‘balance’ issues, I decided to invest in one.

Overnight, by using the Amazon website, I now appear to have spent £21,000 in buying a prototype of said item which will be arriving (as is estimated) by Saturday morning.

See here for a piece by James Cook on what I’m referring to, as appears today upon the website of the – DAILY TELEGRAPH


About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts