Our columnist on aging considers the pace of technological change in our society—and how human interactions will always be valuable

Story & photo by Liz Marchi

Have you ever been in the grocery store and watched an older person struggle with the checkout process, fumbling to find the right buttons on the digital pad, eliciting beeps for getting it “wrong?” It’s painful. I have always loved technology and the efficiency that it brings to our lives. I remember leaving the full-time workforce in 1982 with a static computer to raise children and then returning in 1995 to an office with the internet. It was scary but wonderful, and I have spent the last 25 years trying to keep up with tech. More and more, the ability to learn, use and adapt to technology determines our very ability to function in daily life.

We talk about “divides” a lot these days: racial, political, economic and educational, but technological capability also causes divides. Ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 every day. We are not digital natives. Cars, purchasing, home security, communication with the grandchildren, watching TV and even the new washer/dryer all require an adapter and learner. My husband is terrified of the day he can no longer get a paper boarding pass. The pace of change is significantly impacting baby boomers and is hard on those who don’t have a mindset to keep changing or are too tired to “retrain.” It can be very isolating.

With everything that tech has enabled, as we age, we need to remember there’s much more to life that just the tools. We can’t become detached from the human interactions: conversations, smiles, body language. When your days are drawing to a close, when it hurts to move forward, when it’s hard to focus because you are facing illness or sadness in your life, acts of real human kindness are paramount.

One of the hardest, but greatest, life lessons is the virtue of patience. I never understood it until the last few years. I was always moving, building changing and doing. I didn’t know the meaningfulness of being quiet and sitting with my elderly parents or a friend who was dying from cancer. The richness of those moments will stay with me forever. I’m training myself to slow down and understand that life is not just a transaction, but a rich and textured gift, which makes each day more meaningful.

Yes, we change as we age. I have friends tell me I have changed. That’s true. The value of kindness, generosity, compassion, humility and empathy has become extremely important in my life. I always loved being at the front of the room; now it’s much more satisfying to help an aspiring and talented young person to that spot. I am finding great joy and satisfaction in finding a new way to contribute to the whole in work, family, living and health.

Our richest days can come in the closing miles of the journey if kindness is our mantra.
Liz is fascinated by the various approaches to aging — from denial, to plastic surgery, to running marathons, to depression. Given our current demographics, Liz thinks there is a lot to explore, celebrate and learn from those living and aging in the Flathead Valley. Contact her at liz@lizmarchi.com.