Friday, 29 March 2013

#348: Techno-Grannies

We have just acquired a Google tablet, a Nexus 7.   Like iPads and other similar devices, it is able to serve as an e-reader for books purchased online, or downloaded for free from the public library through Overdrive.  

Overdrive is the Big Daddy of library e-book providers all over the world (even in New Zealand, as I discovered this time last year), so it was Big News when they recently announced an even easier way for tablet owners (me, me!) to access e-books and read them in their browser without any additional software. This new option is called Overdrive Read, and according to the Overdrive bloggers who are promoting this new service it is simple enough for your grandmother to understand 

Sheesh.  How is it that by virtue of being over 65 and having a grandchild,  I seem to have stepped into an alternate universe where I am suddenly considered stupid? 

Indignant as I am, I do admit that old people are not the first to embrace the latest techno-craze.  They are not tweeters and they rarely text.  In a movie theatre, they do not have to rummage for their cell-phones; the phone is already OFF.  

But if older folk seem reluctant to embrace some aspects of a digital lifestyle it is not necessarily because of perceived difficulties.  It is because some techno-behaviours just seem pointless.  Why would anyone bother with something if it just seems silly?  I know 90-year-olds who understand tweeting, but cannot, for the life of them, imagine what they would share in 140 characters.  If they really wanted to tell someone Did seated exercises, but elbow acting up.  Lunch so-so. Soup too salty.  Watched birds at feeder.  Played euchre with Doris, they would pick up the land line.
In 20 years of trying to encourage older library users to make friends with computer technology, I have heard many reasons for techno-avoidance:

I don't have the money for all those gadgets
I don't need to follow every fad
I have better things to do with my time and energy
I'd rather have real [not Facebook] friends
I'd rather read real books [not e-books]
These excuses are still out there, but I hear them less and less.  That was then.  Now, most of my young-elderly (65-75 year old) friends own desktops and laptops. Many also have tablets and e-readers.   They have email accounts and they Google like crazy. Some even text their kids and grand kids, and a few are on Facebook where they enjoy the jokes, games and pictures. But they are selective: Skype, yes.  Tweeting, no.  If the "app" fits, they wear it.  Otherwise, why bother?

"Appy" Holidays:  4 old people, 8 devices.
Last week, I attended a Tech Talk at the library for those interested in downloading e-books and audiobooks to dedicated e-readers and tablets.  Over 20 people were in attendance, and they were all over 65.  There were 3 guys, and the rest were women. probably grandmothers,  They seemed to be understanding everything perfectly well.

Overdrive, are you paying attention?




Friday, 22 March 2013

#347: Re-Tired

Would you rather be retired or re-tired?

There is a difference. Retired folk are expected to withdraw, cease activity and go to bed.  Retirement, thus defined, is nothing that anyone would look forward to unless they were really ready to leave their job and have a good rest.  But then what will they do?  Because when these eager retirees are refreshed at last, they aren't going to want to be "retired".

On the other hand, people who re-tire get a new set of wheels (metaphorically) and take off on a new path, with a new attitude, for new adventures .

Someone recently suggested this re-branding exercise to me and I like it.  I want new wheels!  I am tired of being "retired."

In that spirit, Bruce and I have decided to join our NZ friends, John and Anne, in London for a couple of weeks in May. We will sleep on their couch, help with the cooking, and in the daytime we will do a lot of exploring.  At least that is what I expect since John tells us that he has just purchased a box of 30 different walking tours of London.  Yikes. That should either whet my appetite for further travels or send me into retirement -- the other kind.

But now I know that I have a choice.  After I catch my breath, I can once again re-tire.
The road ahead for the "re-tired"...

Friday, 15 March 2013

#346: Local Content Lacks Bite

I love the CBC (our national radio broadcaster) and the morning show that originates from Toronto.  Of course, I do not live in Toronto.   We are are 100 kilometers away, so it is a bit weird that I happily started my day with detailed knowledge of traffic on the Don Valley Parkway, facts about guns and gangs, and whatever story highlighted the antics of Canada's least-loveable mayor, Rob Ford. 

No more, however.  Last Monday, we said goodbye to Metro Morning, and hello, Morning Edition.  Now on the 89.1 band locally, we have our very own CBC morning show originating just down the road in Kitchener-Waterloo.  We get local news, local weather and local traffic reports delivered by a team of entirely likeable journalists including Guelphite, Craig Norris.  What's not to love?

It is early days yet, but so far this program is not kick-starting my day.  One local commentator remarked that she now needed to brew an extra pot of breakfast coffee because Morning Edition was not energizing her. I agree. But I don't think the problem is the format or the presenters--it's the content.  Dare I say that we live in a slightly boring, nerdy part of Southern Ontario?  We have an excess of universities and colleges and manufacturers.  We produce Blackberrys, Toyotas and bull semen. Yes, the K-W area is arguing about the development of a casino, and of course we are all interested, but the discussion is just not the same as the hoo-haw that erupts in Toronto when MGM Resorts (and Casinos) comes wooing the city council with a proposal to completely colonize the waterfront.

As a retiree, I suppose I should be glad not to have my blood pressure disturbed by the morning's news. Happy, beyond belief, that our politicians are intelligent and thoughtful.  Happy that there is so little crime.  In fact, many older people move from Toronto to this area because they want the guarantee of attractive, sensible communities, sensibly run.

It just doesn't make for very interesting morning radio. But, perhaps Craig and his crew will find a way to eventually include content with a bit more bite. As a start, might I suggest an item on werewolf movie-making in nearby Hespeler?  Nerdy and edgy --  it would cover all bases.

What I do appreciate about the new morning show is the occasional Guelph-centric item.  (CBC 89.1 was first to break the tragic story about a young Guelph police woman item killed recently in a traffic accident.)  And I certainly love in-depth local weather and traffic updates! This is news I could use....if I had to.  If the 410 were blocked at the Hespeler Road, I would know exactly how to avoid the problem......if I had to.  But I don't.  Instead, I just give thanks on behalf of local commuters. I am so glad that I am no longer one of them.          

Friday, 8 March 2013

#345: Positively Pessimistic

No sooner had I posted my last post about nurturing optimism than I noticed a tiny article in our morning paper headlined: Pessimists Live Longer!


This whole idea seems so counter-intuitive that I decided to seek more information about the original study.  It turns out that a German study reached this conclusion based on annual surveys in which respondents were asked to predict their "life satisfaction" 5 years down the line.  Researchers were surprised to discover that among people 65 and older, those who had predicted a gloomier future were actually healthier than those who had been overly optimistic.  Five years later, the pessimists had fewer disabilities and, more importantly, they were still alive.  And the reason?  It was speculated that worriers take fewer chances and therefore rarely put themselves at risk.

If you think this inference is a bit depressing, you'll be pleased to know that most discussions about the power of pessimism also point out alternative conclusions from American research indicating that Optimists Live Longer!   This leads me to wonder if national characteristics are affecting the results. Are Germans just gloomier than Americans?  Someone should do this research in Canada where I predict a long-range study would show that cautious optimism/ pessimistic positiveness is the best way to a long and healthy life.

In any case, it looks as if we do have a legitimate choice, and I know which one appeals to me.  Pessimists might be safe and sound, but are they having any fun?  Do their friends want to visit?  Do they ever travel?  Or will they live to 100 having ultimately bored themselves to death?  Reading about the benefits of pessimism reminds me of that other bit of advice about longevity:  Eat Less, Live Longer!  This is the regime that advises us all to reduce our calorie intake by about one quarter.  But who wants to be thin and old and grumpy?  When I think about applying these limits to myself, I invariably decide that I'll forfeit a couple of years for the sake of the occasional dessert.

So I'll cultivate optimism! And maybe I'll take a few risks, but nothing too drastic.  I am, after all, an older Canadian.  
And as if to illustrate my point, there is a YouTube video making the rounds this week:  Dancing Nana  While you are admiring her moves, notice how she uses the handrail to good effect. 

Runaround Sue, rock on!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

#344: Long Live Calendar Girls

As I looked at the upcoming offerings at our local "alternative" movie theatre, I noted that during March, there are 22 opportunities to see Quartet, that optimistic, feel-good movie about seniors, whereas the Oscar-winning Amour, which depicts the unhappy realities of aging, will be screened just 4 times. 

Reality is clearly a hard sell.

An economic model might explain this discrepancy -- why one film is 5.5 times more popular than the other.   I figure it is all about the laws of supply and demand--what is plentiful and what is scarce.  Take reality.  There is already a whole lot of it out there.  It is impossible to avoid, and it smacks one in the face as one ages.  We don't really need more.  But hope--the only thing that makes grim reality bearable-- is a commodity that is not quite as readily available.   So we grab it when and where we can, and sometimes the best we can do is escape for awhile through movies or books. We fuel hope with imagination. If we can laugh, if we can identify with characters who overcome challenges not unlike our own, we are uplifted and fortified against the daily grind.  (Librarians like to think of life this way.)  

It helps, of course, if the consumer of uplifting books and movies has a predisposition to good humour.

I had reason to contemplate this recently while visiting 83 year old "Hetty", one of my more adventuresome retirement home readers. (She is the only person I know who has read all three of the Fifty Shades' books!)  But when I dropped in for my weekly visit I found her unnaturally subdued and dozing in her chair. She explained that one week before, she had had major surgery, and a much anticipated tropical vacation with her daughter had to be cancelled.  A follow-up medical procedure was also recommended, and she was adamant that it not take place. She had spent the morning in tears.

That's reality for you. It had dealt this woman a major blow, and since I think of Hetty as naturally optimistic,  finding her in a gloomy mood was really distressing. But I also knew that she consciously tries to cultivate a cheerful outlook so I left her with books I thought she would like.  Her preferences?  Absorbing fiction (no mysteries, and no mindless fluff, please) with a good story and a happy, or at least a "good" ending.  (If the Quartet DVD had been available, I would have brought that too!)

The book she enjoyed most that week was Marrying Mom, about an older woman whose children want to marry her off so they can keep her from interfering in their lives. It is clever, funny and uplifting -- a typical offering from Olivia Goldsmith.  But just because you write uplifting stories doesn't mean that you are happy. Hetty was horrified/fascinated, to learn that Goldsmith, depressed and insecure, died at 55 while undergoing a facelift.

Goldsmith's novel may have worked some magic, however.   I could see, without being told, that optimistic Hetty was back when I dropped in to collect the books.  All I had to do was glance down at the coffee table where she had displayed a 2005 calendar featuring barely-clad older ladies in Calendar Girl get-up.  I examined the cover picture and burst out laughing.  "It was my swim team" she explained. "We were raising money for charity."  I flipped through until I found Hetty, Miss May, coyly covered by a large and judiciously placed bouquet, and I laughed some more. "And how are you doing now?" I inquired.  She said she was healing nicely, and because it was important to her kids, she had decided to have the additional procedure.  "And I hope I can go on that holiday next year!"  She grinned, and added,  "I'm going to need another bathing suit!"  

I can't help but think that Hetty could have taught Olivia Goldsmith a thing or two about harnessing imagination in the service of happiness and hope.