back to article Think you're tech savvy? You won't be when you're old

Psychologists in Florida say that greater efforts by web designers and gadget developers are necessary in order to prevent old people being cut off from the wired society - and add that this problem will get worse, not better, as today's tech-savvy adults will be at least as bewildered in their old age by tomorrow's tech as …


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  1. Max_Normal

    It's a bit of a sweeping statement.

    This does not really apply to everyone does it. My parents are in their 70's and they use photoshop, do web design, send emails, surf the web etc. and they had no comparable tech when they were young. Sometimes I have to teach computer literacy to 20 year old freshers at the university i work at, and they have no idea. Things are much more subjective than this article would suggest.

    I am willing to bet everything I own that most people who are "Tech Savvy" enough to be visiting The Reg will still easily assimilate new technology into their old age, and they all have a head start on my parents because they are already using current technology!

    Moreover, tech seems to be evolving rather than moving in huge difficult-to-span jumps, and we are evolving with it, even as we age. There would have to be an incredibly major change in technology/human interfaces to cause a future problem for even the less "tech savvy" amongst us. I think that this theory was only half-formed, so I can believe that the researcher involved may struggle with future tech, even if the rest of us don't!

  2. Torben Mogensen

    Distracting ads

    If you want to make a website easier for the elderly, then drop the distracting, flashing ads, so only the functionality required for the site that is shown. We not-so-old people have learned to ignore the ads, but they can be a serious distraction for people not used to the web.

    As for the future, I'm sure that there will be many things that I will prefer doing the "old-fashioned way", even when there are faster and more flexible means available. But that is nothing new. Some people still use typewriters, and I see no problem in that if they only write letters once every week or so -- the investment in learning how to use a text editor and a printer can easily be higher than the time you save by using them. This is the basic trade-off: When you get older, it takes more effort to learn new things, so the reward needs to be higher.

  3. Liam Johnson

    They forgot "less flash"

    Although it is getting a bit better, some pages still take so long to load that I forget what I wanted there in the first place(*). Dread to think what it will be like to 40 year time :-(

    (*) mostly bacause I can be bothered to wait and head off to another page instead. Half an hour of news, youtube and other assorted sites and I will probably forget to go back to the first page at all.

  4. Brett Weaver

    There is no way....

    That the old codger in front of me at the bank is going to miss out on the opportunity for a bit of human contact with a teller.

    At my local branch there are a couple of ladies that make the trip worthwhile...


    While its true that hardware technology is getting more powerful, we know that by the time we retire, Windows will have slowed even quantum computers to the speed of a 386 SX running windows 3.1....

    Maybe we have been the ones to drive the really fast computers! Like the V8's of the late sixties we will never see their like again!

  5. Pete 2

    Ahhh, another ageist excuse for bad design.

    As a thought experiment, take what these floridian cyclists said and substitute the minority of your choice for references to internet-users' age. (Note: I'm not having a pop at LP, so hopefully the shot will go past the messenger and score a bull on the actual target). Maybe choose the minority that you're a part of: for we're all at the edge of the bell-curve in some respects.

    Now consider just how ignorant, bigoted and downright WRONG their statement reads. Although the Disabilities Discrimination Act seems to be observed more by it's omission than it's compliance so far as website design goes - especially where the use of FLASH is concerned, the suggestions that these guys put forward are really nothing more than the sort of design guidelines that any experienced website designer would regard as common sense. That is, if they weren't more interested in the coo-ing approval of their superficial peer-group, than with getting monied surfers to buy their customers stuff.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Halo

    Doing the kind thing

    When an old person reaches the stage that they can't even tune in a Freeview STB or set up a universal remote, it's time to have them put to sleep.

    I don't know if that means gas or injection.

  7. Gordon Pryra
    Black Helicopters

    A ground war in Aisa

    Would sort out most of these problems.

    With less people making old age, we can afford to train the older generation (most people would still be paying taxes on thier earnings so we won't be strapped for cash)

    I believe that this was the whole point behind Bush and Blairs actions.

    Visionarys the both of them!!

  8. Dr Who

    Definition of success

    I'll know that I've made it when I don't have to touch a keyboard or mouse all day, when I can turn off my mobile for 24 hours and not even think about it, when I don't need to wade through the torrent, made up largely of crud, which is my email/IM/Facebook/LinkedIn/Twitter feed to find the few little nuggets which are actually worthwhile.

    You have made it when you can chuck your technology out of the window and get a real life.

    When you get old, I predict you will want to cross to the other side of the digital divide. It'll be your reward for the years of being a slave to the machine.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You don't have to be 65...

    I'm 35, with a CompSci degree and generally consider myself more tech savvy than most. And yet I feel embarassingly old when I get together with my friends and hear their teenage kids talk about all the features they use on their phones, utilize websites that I've never heard of, etc.

  10. John Chadwick

    When I'm 64

    I've been using computers for well over 30 years now, GUI's since my Xerox Star Workstation, and I don't have an issue with new ways of doing things, or even new technologies, the idea of gesture computing, 3D surfaces, even direct mind control of systems interfaces don't phase me. But I do have a problem with radical new software, that isn't, or new products that don;t give me anything useful that I don't already have. I wonder who I'm talking about. Trouble is most new users don't know what we could do 25 years ago, so think some stuff is new, when it really isn't.

    I wonder who I'm thinking of.


  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Exactly what I was thinking. My family is full of aging non-techies eager to try out new technology. Certainly my parents' generation (now in their 50s) don't seem to be suddenly lagging behind and I sincerely doubt that I'm suddenly going to be unable or unwilling to pick up new technologies - it's a habit of a lifetime at this point and I don't see that changing.

    If my eyesight's deteriorating a bit at the point where the four dimensional holographic display comes out, I'm sure I'll be able to find the contrast control and choose bigger fonts rather than sticking to my crusty old OLED.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Goodbye Keyboards...

    Thats all seem to hear at the moment and like the idea of a paperless office its an absolute load of bull....

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    usability design issues

    Good ideas. While they're at large fonts and high contrast, web designers should also try to stick to color-blind-safe colors -- a usability issue for a significant segment of the population *below* 65.

  14. zenkaon

    A good book

    Read accelerando by Charles Stross. An excellent Sci-Fi story where technology accelerates at an incredible rate. It's an awesome book. From now to fully uploaded personalities who leave their crude meat bodies behind! Highly recommended!

    If the world goes this way then I won't be able to keep up!!

  15. Graham Dawson

    Don't agree

    Dad has often said that he'll only start using computers when he can talk to them. You'll find that a lot of these "oldies" are only avoiding computers because they're still basically the same as they were in the 1980s, they just look flashy and shiny but you still have to use a keyboard and mouse. Try using one of those when your fingers are curled round from arthritis. My 79 year-old grandmother manages it but that's because she's a persistent... person.

    This idea that the fogies of the future won't be able to keep up with technology is rubbish, if future technology is actually going to make its own use easier then they'll be able to keep up far better. I know I will.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    RE: Distracting ads

    Install Adblock for the oldtimers. I'm not even 30 and I can't handle all that advert noise.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    So whats so wrong with older things anyway?

    Of course, they are assuming that as you get older you cant handle the latest 'experience' any more.

    As opposed to being old enough and experienced enough to realise what is useful and what is pointless fluff. And that newer doesnt mean better or faster (I'm looking at you here, Microsoft!)

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't agree either

    My parents aren't exactly tech savvy, but they're happy with e-mails, word processing, spreadsheets and looking to seriously study digital imaging. They do need help with advice on buying hardware but frankly that's such a boring area and a minefield to find decent quality kit I can't say I'm surprised they're not very interested.

    I'd call myself extremely competent at IT, but the IT world is so huge that there's not enough time to cover everything. iPlayer? Never used it - only clicked on its Flash version once. MMORPG? Big waste of time and I like finely crafted stories with a definite beginning and end. Overclocking? I desire longevity and stability above all other things. Streaming music and iTunes? I still like CD and SACD and don't need music constantly playing.

    It's more that as you get older, you concentrate more on what you believe to be important, and less on fripperies.

    Online banking is an extremely poor example. Telephone banking (assuming there isn't a huge queue) may be more efficient and more pleasant to use than booting up your computer, typing in your passphrase, using your SecureID device etc etc.

  19. Keith Oldham

    "What do old people know about computers ?"

    This (or similar) is an often heard comment (or at least sentiment) - the simple reply is that they invented them !!

  20. Elmer Phud
    IT Angle

    Does this mean that it works both ways?

    "When an old person reaches the stage that they can't even tune in a Freeview STB or set up a universal remote, it's time to have them put to sleep."

    I'll see if the average computer techie can sort out the problem with my car.

    (Can I also apply this to sales staff in PC world?)

  21. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I'm old

    And the only problem I have is the bloody keys on a mobile phone are so ****ing tiny now

    Come on mobile makers.... make a keypad that people over the age of 10 can use

  22. Graham Marsden

    Function determines form...

    ... as true now (and in the future) as it's always been.

    Too many designers are still more interested in adding as many bells and whistles and clever bits which look pretty to their products without considering the most basic question of "is the bloody thing actually *usable*?"

  23. Wize

    Hopefully new designs will be more intuative

    The idea should be that anyone can pick up the user interface with no prior knowledge/training.

    PCs have previously been stuck in the geek market as the many people did not know the commands to type at the various prompts. These days most can handle a touchscreen powered by windows to buy tickets at a train station.

  24. john 154
    Dead Vulture


    1.5m dollars.....just to quote the obvious....where can I get a research grant ?

  25. P.Nutt

    My daughter already thinks that.

    At just over 1.5 she was able to load the DVD and put on her own movies, At 2 she was using the PS3 and connecting to the NAS drivefor her music, also recording her own very cute greeting for me on my mobile phone (Does anyone know how to remove this PLEASE....Hiya daddy phone *giggle* was cute but its a business phone FFS!) and at 3 she is now calling me silly daddy when I have trouble finding the station on the bloody annoying SKY HD planner and I thought I was tech savy!

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hardly around though!

    Not going to fly here is it?

    My old man almost into his seventies, he got me into micros in the 80s, he got the family it's first PC, to the point were we had 6 PCs in the house, in 1991! He bought a Mac at age 67, then turned me onto them! When he was a lad, son of a single parent in the 40s, he barely had two pennies to rub together, but he loved any electrical tech, so he passed his love of technology and gadgets onto me almost by osmosis.

    I suspect a similar story for most of us on here, we were brought up tech parents, they convinced and encouraged us that's where the future lay, so we followed their guidance. Alright the tech they knew in the 60s,70s and 80s was very basic, but it still convinced them that science and tech was the answer and so it goes. I love gadgets and tech, I will pass that on to my sprogs. I married a tech obsessed geek, my missus loves gadgets and usually has the latest before me. Crikey even my little girl was playing simple kids PC games aged 3, no doubt when she hits teens in a few years she will wipe the floor with us both, and on the cycle rolls...

  27. Dale 3


    Er, have I missed something? What do trick-cyclists have to do with any of this? I'm feeling a bit senile already, especially since none of the comments even have mentioned it.

  28. Bassey

    Re: Dale 3

    "Trick-cyclist" is a derogatory term for those hard working, brilliantly educated individuals known as psychiatrists, whose insights to the human psyche and, more importantly, ability to manipulate the mind and "cure" all sorts of debilitating illnesses makes them a highly regarded and productive part of modern society. Possibly up there with lawyers and politicians.

  29. GrahamT

    I officially became old...

    ...when I received my bus pass through the post on Saturday.

    Unless you are suffering from Alzheimers or similar, your brain won't decay as fast as your body. I can no longer walk 20 miles in one go, or run 100 metres in 15 seconds like when I was younger, but I can still solve quadratic equations, debug web pages and ride a motorbike safely in rush-hour traffic, and expect to do all of them well into the future.

    When my tech-savvy 20-something kids have a problem with their computers, tvs, bikes, heating, plumbing or decorating, it is always Dad they call first. They at least understand that 40+ years of knowledge and experience don't disappear just because the birthdays come around quicker.

    Technology might be unrecognisable in 10 years time, but that has applied every 10 years and I, and most other oldies, managed to keep up with that. If anything, things are easier with modern technology. Tuning my digital TV is now a question of pushing a button instead of twiddling tuning knobs; copying a file across a network is drag-and-drop instead of learning xcopy or ftp commands; recording a programme means selecting the programme I want from an electronic guide and pressing "OK" instead of finding a blank tape, cueing it up setting start time and length...etc, etc.

    This study is fundementally flawed ageist crap.

    Now what did I come in here for?

  30. Colin Wilson 2

    WTF? You seen their website?

    Click on the FSU link in the article. Black text on a dark brown background. Ideal for us oldies - not

  31. pjnola

    It cuts both ways...

    My twenty-something nephew had to borrow a stranger's cell phone once because he was embarrassed to admit he could not work the dial on a pay phone.

  32. 4HiMarks


    Same thing applies to manual transmissions here in the States. Almost all cars these days are sold with automatics, and your average teenager has probably never even *seen* a car with a stick shift, much less driven one.

    I finally bought my first automatic car a few months ago since the traffic here has gotten so bad I kept getting cramps in my left leg due to an excess of clutching. It is also my first car with 4 doors as all my friends are no longer spring chickens, either.

    You can count my mother among the technically un-savvy, but she has always been that way. It has nothing to do with her age. I'm getting annoyed by the size of things, my eyes can't make out the tiny type, and my fat fingers can't push the tiny buttons. Then they keep trying to cram more crap that I don't want or use into devices. I really don't want to watch TV on my phone when I have a 50" HD screen at home with a 5.1 surround sound system and a DVR so I can wait until I get home to watch it. I talk faster than I could ever type, and typing on a 3" keyboard doesn't make it faster, so why would I want to text instead of making a phone call? Newer doesn not necessarily = better.

  33. Michael Miller

    It's nothing but pure laziness

    It's not that they're left behind. They're too lazy to learn anything new. I've seen it over and over. It's what happens when you stop learning. The mind shuts off and resists starting again. It happens to all ages. I've seen so many people refuse to think. They either screw things up royally or get frustrated when mindlessly clicking/punching buttons fails.

    You have my permission to shoot me if I ever get into that state.

    Moral is don't stop learning and thinking and you'll not be left behind.

  34. Mark Monaghan

    Nostalgia ain't what it used to be

    I took my nephews to the Science Museum in London a couple of years ago and was surprised to see an ICL 19xx series CPU in a glass case.

    It only seems like yesterday when I used to get one of these started on the switches every Monday morning.

    <Wipes away tear>

  35. paleoflatus


    I don't understand. I turn 82 in a couple of months, use my computer frequently every day, read most of my news, communicate with businesses and friends, bank, trade stocks etc. on line. I assemble my own boxes from discount parts and run Debian sid, dist-upgraded every week or two, with the Liquorix kernel.

    I also have a Sciphone i68 with Net connection.

    I didn't discover Linux until I was 68, having used DOS, then OS/2 before that.

    Am I missing out on my senility, or something?

  36. jim 45

    new technology = wheat + chaff

    If you cut out all the cr@p that's mainly intended for endless, non-stop, compulsive social interaction of by very young people - i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc - leaving just truly usefull stuff - it gets a lot more manageable.

  37. Charles Manning

    I call Bullshit

    There are lots of older people who are very tech savvy. Look at the Lejos project that makes Java run on the Lego NXT. Most of the programmers making the stuff work (ie. writing/tuning Java C and assember and discussing JVM features etc) are older. Last I checked the average age of developers on that project was over 60.

    There are really two types of "tech savvy". Users of latest "oooh shiny" features might be getting younger and younger, but the actual makers of technology are getting older and older.

    While we're making sweeping generalisations, the kids of today just don't have the ability to concentrate for long enough to learn how the stuff actually works.

  38. Ole Juul

    Re: I call Bullshit

    I agree. Technological savvy is only age related in that the older you are the more time you've had to learn. Kids still come home to get dad to fix the car or ask him to fix their cell phone because he knows how to use a soldering iron. Actually, from looking at the "geeky" sites on the net, it is clear that kids aren't nearly as technologically skilled as they used to be - but they're equally arrogant.

  39. JohnG

    Swings and roundabouts

    I may be getting dozy and forgetful in my old age but at least I can read, write and have a timespan of attention greater than 2 seconds.

  40. Anonymous Coward

    If it aint broke, someone will upgrade it

    So I'm happy using vi, does that mean im too old?

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not about tech.

    It is about culture. Thus it has ever been.

  42. chris 233

    research into the bleeding obvious

    How to be a fully funded college research professor: pick at random any urban legend or blindingly obvious bit of common sense and write your research paper based on your preconceptions and misguided notions, and possibly, just possibly, one or two interviews with those in your immediate family or group of like-minded friends. Then sit back and wait for the kudos and credits to come rolling in. What a load of bollocks! Some will not be able to cope with the new technology as they age, others will. Stating this kind of nonsense as if it were serious research is a coil, as is picking one side and stating that DOOM IS UPON US! THE END OF LIFE AND TECH SUPPORT AS WE KNOW IT, etc. I'm leaving.

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