In a high-tech age, there are some traditional values about aging that are worth retaining.
In my most recent post, "Analog Aging in a Digital World," I discussed “the benefits of adhering to a few analog ways of aging in the world, despite all the digital progress that’s been made” using these examples:
Considering older adults as individuals rather than as memes or caricatures.
Accepting aging as a natural process.
Serving elders by using a person-centered rather than institutionalized approach.
These values target healthy perceptions of aging and positive behaviors that arise from them. But there’s a bit more to be said about the benefits of taking analog approaches, especially while a person is young, years before entering older adulthood. Because everyone is aging, it’s smart to want to maintain a productive, quality life as long as possible and to accumulate the kind of social wisdom that comes with experience and a perspective that is honed over many years. In other words, everyone should aspire to be an elder in training. Therefore, why not anticipate that time of life by developing these analog habits early on?
Appreciating silence. Our world is becoming more and more crowded with aural and visual noise: blaring music, ubiquitous advertisements, interrupting cross- conversations, superficial and/or strident cable and social media chatter. While these modern, digital situations are designed to convey information quickly, we often forget to question the necessity and quality of that information. Moreover, it seems as though we are losing the ability –– and desire –– to be comfortable with silence, to turn off our electronic devices and simply be in our environments, to really listen to someone else before speaking and to evaluate the level of truth of what we hear and say. Besides seeking freedom from distractions when focusing on tasks, elders often take great pleasure in savoring experiences for their intrinsic value, placing them in proper perspective. Not bad skills for elders in training to hone.
Setting personal boundaries of information-sharing. One of the potential gifts of elderhood is the ability to be more discriminating, to know what is important and what is not in any given situation. While there have always been people of all ages who lack personal boundaries and have a compulsion to tell all about themselves or others, there is a growing ease bordering on recklessness regarding the desire to focus on self-important details and to constantly share those details with others. Taking selfies, tweeting, video messaging, texting, and sexting words and pictures are new technological ways of instantaneously updating the world about our lives. But often we don’t take into account that the Internet is an indelible medium and that there is a potential danger in posting personal information that can negatively affect our reputation, including the ability to get hired or keep a job. The question is: Do we gain more than we lose when we voluntarily give up our privacy and dignity to cyberspace on a global and permanent basis? It’s an analog question each of us at any age should ask and answer for ourselves.
Making relationships mean something. Social isolation is one of the greatest health threats to older adults, not just because it can deny access to physical support but also because the loneliness and lack of opportunity to contribute to society can lead to depression. Fortunately, networking is one of the activities that the Internet has exponentially improved, and it can be an effective and empowering way to increase one’s presence and knowledge and to share one’s talents and services with others. That being said, it’s worth our while to understand that there are levels to intimacy and commitment, that “friending” thousands of people doesn’t make us popular or more cherished, and that by spending time casting our relationship nets too widely we might begin to neglect tending to relationships with those who are closest to us and whom we value the most. Using social media to keep in touch with family and real friends is a smart way to age in a digital world.
These are analog issues that are simple and low-tech and reflect values that worked well in the past and can still apply today.
Anyone, regardless of age, can embrace them.
Article originally published at changingaging.org.