Opinion Column

Community Editorial Board: Coming up to 65 in the digital age

By Hilda Young

How old are you? Have you been carded recently? Do you remember life before computers? Can you still read? All these questions and more get asked by the younger generation of us old farts. As I am approaching my 65th birthday I am questioning more and more what age and health means. My ability to think clearly depends on how much sleep I had the day before!

I remember life before computers. I even remember life before ballpoint pens. I have terrible, illegible handwriting. I write with my left hand (actually I can write equally poorly with both hands). Penmanship was always a challenge for me. I learnt to print with a pencil and do cursive writing with a fountain pen. Our desks were the old fashioned joined style with a hole in the top for the bottle of ink. We had to dip the wooden pen nips into the ink and try not to make a mess on the paper. Our desk had pink blotting paper on the top to catch any spills. Eventually we graduated to the fountain pen with refillable cartridges, then on to replaceable cartridges. That did not always stop the messes!

When I came to Canada I used a fountain pen for special events. Most of the time I used ballpoint pens and pencils.

I was in high school when I heard about computers. The nerds took computer science and data entry! We used to laugh at the boxes of data entry cards! Little did I know I would marry an engineer with computer background who spent his career writing computer programs!

Although I took typing in Grade 9 on a manual Underwood typewriter I had to get paid typists to type my university papers if I did not want the challenging work of typing 1,500 words with no spelling mistakes!

After I finished university and moved to Manitoba, computers for family use became common. My husband used to talk about using Mass11 (word processor) but it meant nothing to me. I did take high school courses to learn how to use a word processor with DOS and Word Perfect.

I finally started writing on a personal computer in the 1990s.

Now my writing and editing is usually done on Mac! I still like to write out my ideas on paper.

Most of my family communication is by email and Facebook. I keep up with relatives in Norway and England by email. We rarely have phone conversations. My 95-year-old uncle emails a semi-regular update about his health. If I do not hear by email from him for a while, I send a message to see how he is doing. He did not learn to use a computer until he was 85 so my struggles are humorous in comparison! My cousins in Norway send me Facebook and email messages but never phone! By comparison I remember hearing about the death of an uncle while we lived in England. A relative phoned the vicar of the church we attended and he let us know as we did not have a home phone!

However I consider myself old and decrepit enough to appreciate the written word on paper. I still prefer to read a book in hardcover or paper back as opposed to a Kobo or Kindle. I have problems remembering passwords so I frequently have to change them.

I am known as the bag lady as I have a different bag for each group I belong to! I tend to keep paper copies of everything I do plus email back ups and hard drive/back ups so I am over backed up.

My family finds me a challenge as I usually have a cell phone, book-sized daily journal and a calendar around to keep track of my commitments. That does not stop me from getting mixed up and forgetting information.

I hope by the time my actual birthday comes around in the fall I will be focused enough to only have one type of communication to deal with. But that would mean no email/text messages and phone calls from my daughter? What would we choose? What is going to be invented in the next five months? I need to know before Halloween!

My health depends on sleep and exercise. Now I am challenging myself to act younger and be more in tune with my body. I am using all forms of communication as I try to live in balance with others through a healthy life style, clean eating and exercise.

My bones tend to ache more as I get older and I spend more time at the computer so I need to balance time and energy. As one nears the official old age pension age then a lot of life comes into focus. Learning new skills becomes a challenge that also means more bags! I need to keep everything in different folders! Maybe when I am 65 I can use that as an excuse for my forgetfulness.

Next week: Wendy Michael