Not too long ago, I was preparing for a business trip. In need of a certain cosmetic, I made a trip to a well known retailer in town. While I was looking at all the possibilities, and also trying to find another item, an associate stopped to ask if I needed help — good so far. When I described what I was looking for, she told me the product had been discontinued. Noticing my disappointment, she then suggested that I should ask my child or grandchild to “look it up on the computer. You know, the computer.” She must have taken my astonished look as permission to go on to describe what can be found online if one knows how to search. Honestly, I was so taken aback that I could barely find words to tell her that I am computer literate and I can certainly do my own searching. When I finally did tell her, she said, “Good for you honey.” The insult to my ability to function in the digital age stung. I’ve been thinking about this since that shopping trip.
A similar situation occurred when I was upgrading my smartphone and the associate talked down to me as though the learning curve on a new phone would be difficult. OMG! Come on, retailers. Please teach your front-line team members that older is not dead!
Now, for those who don’t know me, I do have some gray hair. Okay, so it’s more gray than my natural brown, but I know a few people younger than me with much grayer hair than mine. But gray hair or not, I like to think I’m keeping up with technology (as much as possible) and I’m pretty good with what’s going on around me. The only thing that really identifies me as getting older is the cane, walker, wheelchair, or whatever I’m using at the time to help me get around. Since an auto accident — which my husband, Dave, is quick to jump in with, “It wasn’t my fault” — I’ve had issues with standing and walking.
I’ve invented tales about how I “fell off my Harley” — that brings a laugh from friends and family. However, even with this new “challenged” persona, I am still me. My personality did not change. My brain functions pretty good. I still enjoy business functions and my favorite thing to do — networking — is still alive and well.
We have four generations working at my company and I am able to relate to and communicate with everyone — even digitally. I’ve been a featured monthly columnist for a major industry software magazine for many years, along with writing for other business publications. I know others in similar situations. So, are we allowed to “act our age” — the age we feel like, regardless of how many years that shaves off our actual physical age — or are we expected to smile as we slowly fade into the background of doing business? We’re not alone in this feeling. There are others who feel they have to constantly prove themselves in order to keep the respect of colleagues at work.
I’m using this forum to suggest that anyone judging an older person’s abilities and awareness of anything digital better rethink the way they interact with us. They may be surprised to find their story in print — or gasp, online!
Entrepreneur.com reports that an older worker’s “maturity comes from years of life and work experience, and makes for workers who get less ‘rattled’ when problems occur.” These older workers know how to use a computer, and we can do our own searches, thank you very much.