On our fourth Boomer Think Tank, we focused on how technology has changed family life. We looked at which pieces of technology are used, who uses it, and how the traditional household is changing.
It’s clear that technology is all encompassing in our lives. A PEW study on adults and technology finds that:
- 82% of all American adults ages 18 and older say they use the internet or email at least occasionally
- 67% do so on a typical day
- 88% of all adults own a cell phone
- Among all adult internet users, 66% use social networking sites
- 48% of adult internet users making use of these sites on a typical day.
- 1/3 of Boomers are unmarried
- This is a more than 50 percent increase since 1980
- Most single boomers are divorced or never married
- 1 in 3 single baby boomers has never been married
- 10 percent of unmarried boomers are widowed
- Divorced boomers have more economic resources and better health than their widowed or never married counterparts
With more and more people integrating technology in their daily lives, how does this affect their family life? How does this change how we look at family responsibilities such as taking care of loved ones?
This month, our panel included:
- Bev Lesnick – coffee house owner, investee, and single mother of two
- Joseph Grier – LearnGrow llc and long-time Californian environmentalist
- Bhupesh Shah – startup creator of Ethnicomm Inc. with a multigeneration household
- Jewel Fryer – business owner, property investor, mother
- Bob Jones – serial start up entrepreneur, father
You also can view the hangout in its entirety here, check out the podcast below, or read on for a recap:
Kids and Technology
“When my now 30 year old daughter turned 10, she asked for a fax machine” – Bob
All of our participants had children.
Bhupesh uses WhatsApp, Push Bullet, and Facebook messenger to interact with his kids. They won’t respond to emails so if he something that might interest them, he has to use social media. He also uses Facebook to “creep” his kids, making sure they are hanging out with good people.
Bev uses Facebook to communicate with her older son, but her younger son is in the Navy. Echoing the other panelists, without social media, she hardly hears from her son.
Joseph’s children are a bit younger but have been on the computer since they could sit up. They were engaged with technology from the start. He would play games on the computer and even teach them how to code. It became their common ground. It is also a bonding and education tool for his Autistic son.
“Just because someone is texting you, doesn’t mean you need to answer” – Jewel
All of our participants talked about needing space from technology, as they feel like they are constantly being sucked in. It was clear that too much interaction with technology is suffocating for Boomers.
Bob made it clear that you need to draw some rules on shutting it off. However, this is not so easy to do as people think you are ignoring them if you don’t respond right away.
Silent Gen Parents and Technology
Both Jewel and Bhupesh’s mothers are iPad pros. Jewel’s mom uses her tablet to video chat with both her and her daughter (who is currently in college). Similarly, Bhupesh’s 85 year old mother uses her iPad to stay in touch with her kids, grandkids, and great grand kids who span three different countries (Canada, usa, and India). She understands the concept of routers and touch screen elements, something that just demonstrates how integrated technology is in every life.
Access to everyone, everywhere
“When we came to Canada, it was just us. So when I think of family, I thought of just us even though I have tons of family in Canada. Now, thanks to the Internet, I talk to my family in India all the time. I feel like I know them better than some of my family here in North America.” – Bhupesh
In the past, you could have family members across the globe and never meet them. Now, you have access to them through social media. This is changing the concept of who is considered to be family and the closeness of relationships.
Caretaking of older relatives
“The social contract was that the young would take care of the old because they took care of them (when they were young). And that’s changing.” – Joseph
Jewel and Bhupesh have active roles in taking care of their parents. Bhupesh’s mother lives with him.
Jewel, being an only child, knows that taking care of her mom is her responsibility. Technology has changed what this responsibility looks like as Jewel can log into her mother’s online accounts. She can check her doctor’s records, banking, and appointments.
“If someone happens, I’m completely ready to handle it. That’s so great about technology. My mother freaks out every time there is an update on her computer, but at the same time, she’s willing to learn. It’s made a world of difference. I can wait to see where we’ll be in ten years.”
Needed but Difficult Conversations
“It’s in the back of my mind, but I feel so young so I don’t need to have that conversation. I’ve taken care of myself up to this point. I’m stubborn because I know that I’ll just live forever.” – Bev
None of our participants have talked to their kids about what they want to happen when they can’t take care of themselves anymore. It’s considered the elephant in the room. They’ve started having these conversations with their parents. However, they’ve only really joked about it with their kids.
They all agree that you can’t leave these conversations to chance as they can lead to really ugly disputes. It can tear a family apart. The biggest deterrent to having the conversation is that many of our Boomers feel like they have so many years to go before it will be needed. They’ve had technology for most of their lives that it’s made them incredibly independent.
That’s going to change how they look at their golden years, especially when it comes to the care and lifestyles they want. It’s clear that they are going to stay independent for as long as they can.
· Boomer are utilizing technology to reach out to their younger family members
· Technology is a common ground and is a bonding tool in modern family life
· Location would be the key factor in determining close relationships with family; technology removes these barriers
· Due to having the Silent Gen raising them, there is still a feeling of having an over saturation of contact and a need to disconnect at times
· Silent Gen are adapting to technology, integrating in their lives so that their kids (Boomers) can take care of them without having to live with them
· None of our participants had talked to their kids about their wishes on being taken care of in their golden years
· Being so fiercely independent is making this conversation difficult for Boomers
Join us on May 6th at 8 pm EST for the next Boomer Think Tank on Education: Changing, technology, and the mature student.
About our think tanks:
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First generation Canadian. Social media aficionado. Community engager; Communications connoisseur. A small person trying to make big change.