“I ain’t sayin’ for you to stay,” said Grampa. “You go right on along. Me– I’m stayin’. . . This here’s my country. I b’long here. An’ I don’t give a [goshdarn] if they’s oranges an’ grapes crowdin’ a fella outa bed even. . .
They crowded near to him. Pa said, “You can’t, Grampa. This here lan’ is goin’ under the tractors . . . you’d starve.” (Steinbeck 114)
Grampa Joad in this passage depicts the quintessential attitude of many of the old towards transitioning – not only towards a new, potentially more provident land in the literal sense but – in the figurative sense towards the unfamiliar terrain of the unknown of new technology. Even in spite of the chance to engage in current technological activities with succulent prospects of metaphorical nourishment of social and educational connectivity, the aging members of society sometimes choose not to participate and remain in the shriveled up land of the pre-Internet abandoned by most everyone else given the choice. But it’s not necessarily because of a fierce loyalty to an obviously outdated and dying system as one might first be inclined to think. Rather, this reluctance to adapt has more to do with an irrational fear of the unknown and a fixation on the comfortable and familiar methods of the past despite dwindling sustainability as depicted in a study entitled “The Elderly Consumer and Adoption of Technologies.”
In an article from the Denver Post earlier this year, statistics from the Pew Internet & American Life Project show that an increasing number of the aged populace are making the move across the digital divide. “The most significant increase was with 70- to 75-year-olds, who went from 26 percent online in 2005 to 45 percent online in 2008. In the same years, [only] 10 percent more of [those] 73 years and older went online.” This data suggests that those of the older generation that have remained obstinate towards migrating into the digital age have, as a group, been dying out in the technologically archaic wasteland of the past that has since become the domain of the tractors of new media which have repossessed the land.
Grampa Joad ended up being literally bundled along into the technological vehicle of progress (ie. the new family car) by a concerned younger generation but ended up dying shortly after the journey began. Symbolically, the elderly become dead to technology when they resist its adoption. As digital media becomes essential to human interaction, those that remain stuck in a lifestyle of technological abstinence by choice become distanced from the world and risk being cut off. Therefore it’s up to the current generation of digital natives to help the older in the transition.
Already, innovations such as the Jitterbug are easing the process, but it’s important to continue to design new software that is more familiar and easier for elderly to use or else they risk losing out the knowledge and relationships which have become a central part of life in the digital age of exchange. Unless this happens, we risk losing them before they are really gone.
Yet when acceptance of technology becomes a matter of access instead of a matter of choice, the spectacle of Digital Divide changes substantially. And when the invitation to technology comes to those without but eager for access, complications ensue. Watch for more on that to follow.
*Editor’s note: Sorry about having to scroll so much. I’ve tried to change the margins, but the rounded corners of the main-wrap stay their current size and cut a line straight down my blog when I preview the updated margins. It’s still readable, just rather an eyesore to look at. If anyone can explain how to adjust the corners so they match the wrapper, please do tell.