We live in a fast-paced world and that rate seems to be picking up with each new technological innovation.
As a result, we have a tendency to be in a hurry all the time and expect others to do the same.
This causes a problem when it comes to the elderly.
Let’s face it, the elderly population has two things going against it when it comes to speed.
The first is the fact that this generation did not grow up with much technology.
As a result, most technology is new to them, and with shortened memories, can tend to be a learning experience almost every time it is used. Debit cards, ATM machines, self-checkout counters, gas pumps, all pose a series of steps that require reading and use of various code numbers.
And while there are similarities in systems, there are also subtle differences that can create confusion.
The line-up can build quickly behind them.
A second issue related to speed is the general slowing down, both physically and mentally that occurs with aging.
There are both physiological (the body does tend to shift gears downwards), and psychological (‘There’s no rush – I’ve got all day’) components to this process of taking longer to do just about anything.
And while that can be a little frustrating to both the elderly and those around them, it is what it is, a natural progression towards less mobility.
I have watched motorists vent their frustration on their car horns.
I have watched people in a line-up roll their eyes as a process unfolds slowly before them.
I have heard people speak sharply to the elderly, creating even more anxiety and confusion.
In a world where everyone seems to want instantaneous response and no waiting time, following an elderly person can be a frustrating experience.
But it goes both ways.
Many of the elderly are just as sensitive to holding up others as the others are to being held up.
They often feel anxious in crowds and line-ups and are overwhelmed by the many activities taking place around them.
That pressure results in both mental confusion and even rushing a bit, putting themselves at risk for falls.
For many, the added tension reduces their willingness to go out at all, resulting in a tendency to prefer staying at home, shut in but safe.
As the elderly population increases in size, and the tendency for automation makes us all even more anxious to get things done right away, I can see greater opportunity for conflict and distress.
I am hopeful that, at some point, automation will actually reduce the need for memory skills, while still providing a high level of security (retinal scans?), and that retail organizations will find ways to accommodate the elderly with a different level of service than young people might expect, perhaps something more relaxed and helpful.
What we don’t want are elderly people afraid to leave their house for fear of upsetting someone else or simply not being able to cope with the challenges of taking care of their own business.
Graham Hookey writes on education, parenting and eldercare (firstname.lastname@example.org).