Happily technology free

Authors: Linnea Öhlund
Posted: Mon, May 15, 2023 - 10:28:00

My grandma recently passed. At the age of 88 she went to sleep never to wake up again. She lived a long, happy life, and had two sons, six grandchildren, and currently four great grandchildren. Bye grandma, I will always love and miss you. 

Now to the point. My grandma was one of those individuals who never really “got it” when it came to technology. She only got a cellphone at the age of 78, because we forced her to, and the computer she and my grandfather owned was barely used. I have a vivid memory of me at perhaps 14 years old, asking them to use the computer so I go into paint (that was the most fun they had on the old thing). Grandma got a bit upset, saying that I couldn’t use paint because I might destroy the computer—something could go wrong and I would break it. Me, a person born in 1995 who grew up using computers, knew very well that no computer would break by simply opening paint; however, my grandma, who seemed to have no real understanding of how a computer worked, treated it like a fragile crystal vase, and I was an elephant ready to smash it! 

After a while, they just got rid of the computer. The phones they had were the ones we see many senior citizens using, with the big buttons and no apps—just call and text functions. But let’s make one thing clear: My grandma and grandpa (who passed in 2020) were not afraid of or negative toward technology; they understood the impact that the Internet and technology had on society. A part of them wanted to join the revolution, wanted to see what the fuss was about, wanted to join the party. They were both born so long ago (1925/1934) that only after they had retired did the Internet, mobiles, and computers become big. Grandma became a housewife in the 50s and grandpa retired in the 90s, both coming from small country villages in the north of Sweden. When and where they were born, grew up, and settled surely affected how they felt about technology as well as their ability to use it. I’ve been thinking recently that there seems to be so much pressure on seniors these days to adapt, to learn, to go above and beyond to use technologies. No more bank offices, JUST VISIT US ONLINE, no more paper bills, JUST PAY THEM ONLINE, no more post in the mail, JUST GET THEM ONLINE. But what if people don’t want to do that? What if they just want to live a quality life and not have their happiness depend upon technology? I once did a study with 15 seniors, asking them about their opinions on digital technology. One female participant, who herself was about 70, had a mother who was almost 100. She didn’t want to use technology but felt left out of due to the very large amount of digital and technological artifacts that are needed to do many things. She finished the interview by saying how she felt there was still a generation of seniors who needed to pass away before the intense digitalization in the Swedish society would be successful. These seniors, much like my grandparents, did not have a smooth transition from analog to digital in their lives and were, frankly, left behind due to this. 

Now that both my grandparents from older generations have passed, I think of that comment by the participant. One more step toward a successful digital society where there are no longer any individuals left who do not want to adapt. What type of society is that? Waiting for its inhabitants to pass? Society needs to adapt to its inhabitants and offer opportunities for those who choose to not use technology. They still have the right to good, happy lives not degraded because of society’s intense technological push. This should be obvious, but is clearly not.

So here’s to you grandma, for your glass vase computer and your amazing, basically technology-free life! Cheers! 

Posted in: on Mon, May 15, 2023 - 10:28:00

Linnea Öhlund

Linnea Öhlund is a doctoral student and part of the design informatics group at Umeå University. Her focus is on design for vulnerable groups in society. [email protected]
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