There’s something ironic about a Boomer sitting in a Zoom meeting talking to a 20-something professional about the Boomer’s 86-year-old mother’s needs. That thought went through my mind as I sought answers to some challenges my aging mother faces in her assisted living setting. I’m in the meeting on behalf of my mother because she won’t touch a cellphone, much less a computer. Her phone is a huge, red, plastic contraption with a curly-cue cord connecting the earpiece to the phone’s body. So Mom in a Zoom meeting won’t ever happen.
The meeting ends and I shut off my screen. My husband, walking past, observes, “You’ve become quite the Boomer Zoomer.” I laugh. Who would have thought it would come to this in my lifetime.
I’ve never been comfortable with the technological world. Like millions my age, we accepted our role (to varying degrees) as the unappreciated generation who started life with a rotary phone on a party line and now walk around with cellphones in our pockets. We typed our school papers on a Royal typewriter (complete with eraser smudges) but now produce book-loads of documents that often never see actual printing, but flit from computer screen to cellphone screen to myriads of other screens via electronic sends. We used to lovingly layer our black, plastic records on the phonograph. Now we argue with Alexa about what kind of music we want to hear next. Our talking became texting, our social lives moved from meetings to media, from people to posts. Our information source evolved from our parents’ ponderous encyclopedia set to the infinite feed of online material too huge to use, too vast to verify.
We try to keep up with the generations after us who seem to have been born with an innate skill for all things technological. I once watched my young son pick up a toy car and make motor sounds while he rolled it across the floor. Now, I watch young grandkids play with their parents’ phones and computers with equal concentration. It’s just weird.
I learned early on there’s no use fighting the incessant, incoming wave of advancements. We have to keep up with it, at least enough to survive. True story — when I first started this column, I typed it out on a very ancient keyboard, then printed a hard copy which I hand-carried to the newspaper office where they retyped it into their system. The day I was able to type it up and hit “send” to email it straight to the office was a big deal. Anyone under 30 reading that either doesn’t comprehend what that was like or just doesn’t believe me.
That’s OK. I find much of today’s advancements unbelievable. One thing I do believe, however, is that the advent of Zoom meetings couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. It’s hard to tell which came first — Zoom or COVID. But the “coincidental” truth is that Zoom solved so many COVID challenges. Who would have thought that Zoom would replace in-person meetings where executive board decisions can be made in a nice shirt and slippers? How could we have foreseen our church congregations gathering to sing, listen and be uplifted, each of us in our own homes, yet still very united? Who could have guessed that family gatherings would become onscreen events where kids and grandkids — sans the masks — talked, laughed, shared and grew despite the distance? How could we have known that medical consultations, with all their inherent risks from potential mutual exposure, could be overcome by safely facing each other onscreen?
I’m grateful for the technology — even more grateful for the patience of you younger folks to whom it comes so easily. You sometimes have to pause while we catch up to you. Just know that someday you will be us and will find yourselves equally grateful for the patience of the generation behind you.
For now, it’s good to be a Boomer Zoomer.