As millennials, we know the problems involving family and technology all too well. Older family members either like to call on us to fix their random gadget’s problem or like to report to our parents about the “weird” photos we were tagged in or our whereabouts. The struggle can be real and it can get tiring. But I read about a statistic that shocked me more than I’d really like to admit: Around 40 percent of adults over the age of 65 do not touch the Internet — at all. And to me, that’s actually pretty appalling.
The rest of the Pew Research Center’s report was a lot easier to believe. Affluent seniors tend to use the Internet more often compared to those making less than $30,000 annually. The 59 percent of adults ages 65 and up who do use the Internet love using it daily for email and social media, just like you or me, while the 66 percent of offline seniors answered that they needed help to get on the Internet.
That last statistic actually doesn’t surprise me much, once I looked past my college student bubble. Living around the likes of mostly 20-somethings and rich La Jollans, I’ve been accustomed to seeing phablets whipped out of the tiniest purses and a smartphone in everyone’s hand. And alternatively, coming from the Bay Area — home of Silicon Valley, where the Internet is almost as essential to us as the air we breathe — is another source of the blanketed reality I lived in. But if you think about technology, the Internet and how much has changed in the last decade, it’s really not hard to imagine that someone who doesn’t access the Internet as much as we do could have trouble using it. And with new gadgets coming out every year, even our own parents could use the help catching up.
As kind and generous as my parents have always been, I’ve been pretty sure that over the years, my mom would intentionally gift me new tech products so I could conveniently teach her how to use them later. I’ve come to terms with this, and now my mom and I have an unspoken agreement on this. A few years ago, not so much.
My cousins were green with envy when I received the first generation iPod nano for my 12th birthday when it released in 2006. A few months later, my mom got her own iPod and slyly asked me to import hundreds of ‘80s oldies, Bee Gees and Michael Jackson songs into it. Being the annoying and spoiled 12-year-old that I was, after downloading, importing and dragging each song into iTunes and on her iPod, I complained about how much work it was at every given opportunity. It probably took weeks for my family to hear the end of it.
So this holiday season, I challenge you to be much jollier and kinder than 12-year-old me. Help your grandparents set up a Facebook account, teach them how to take a selfie or even use Skype. You can still outsmart them and hide from them the hardly innocent photos on your Timeline, but you’ll be spreading the joy of selfies and social media. If that’s not enough incentive, DoSomething.org’s Grandparents Gone Wired campaign is even awarding a $10,000 scholarship to a lucky millennial that snaps a photo teaching a senior how to get online.