senior-using-laptop-blowing-steam

Funny and Not So: Seniors and Tech

You know the “grandkids equals free tech support” TV ad that everyone over 60 hates? That ad is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to one of the top two senior stereotypes—the one that says we’re technophobes.  (Top stereotype number 2? “Seniors don’t care about sex.”)

Think it’s an exaggeration? Just Google “Grandma finds the internet meme images” and you’ll see. (Since apparently you’re not capable of conducting a Google search, click here to let us Google that for you!)

These senior-technophobe stereotypes aren’t just on TV. They’re in ads, marketing emails and brochures, along with online blogs and articles for and about older people. The illustrations come from libraries of stock images—photographs that are cast, posed and shot by people who have never met an actual older person in real life. The idea of seniors that these photos present is so outmoded, the models might as well be wearing togas. Most of the people look puzzled, confused or baffled, squinting at the screens with glasses perched on their noses or gaping in astonishment. (Or blowing smoke out of their ears like the man in the photo above, which is titled “Too difficult.”)

The photos and their titles are pretty funny. But when you get past the LOL factor, remember that these images shape the way the world sees us and our relationship with technology—and they may even shape the way we see ourselves.

We ran a search for the term “seniors using technology” in a popular stock library and here’s what we found—the silly, the condescending and the just plain laughable. By the way, the titles are real!

1. “Shocked senior couple with a laptop computer”

shocked-seniors-at-computer

2. “Woman with a laptop looking surprisingly [sic] at computer” 

woman-with-mouse

3.  “Senior man who is very modern”

senior-with-laptop-shocked

4. “Shocked couple with tablet”

shocked-couple-with-tablet

5. “Senior couple confused by tablet PC” (Maybe because it’s facing the wrong way?)

seniors-confused-by-tablet

6. “Four glum seniors huddle around computer, looking disappointed”  

seniors-huddled-around-computer

7. “Grandpa DJ”   

grandpa-dj

8. “Adorable couple”

adorable-senior-couple-with-laptop

9. “Elderly gentleman with smartphone” (or, elderly gentleman who just discovered online porn?)

seniors-with-technology-stock-photography

10. “Senior couple with smartphone” (Yes, they might be talking to each other.)

senior-couple-with-smartphones

11. “Confused in front of the laptop”

confused-seniors-with-laptop

12. “Elderly couple having fun with the laptop outdoors” (Looks like fun, doesn’t it?)

seniors-outdoors-with-laptop

13. “Exploring the web”  

seniors-kissing-with-laptop

14. “Senior woman in casuals using social media on her Smartphone”

senior-woman-tweeting-on-smartphone

Yay for technology and seniors! 

group-of-seniors-thumbs-up

 

Which one’s the funniest/saddest?

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8 comments
  • Garrett Ball
    REPLY

    These photos are unthoughtful at best, and offensive at worst. Heck, just look at this website, which is built around the tech-savviness of seniors. I started a business (10 years ago!) that was completely dependent on people over 65 being active online. Much has changed in the last 10 years. Those pictures may represent the early 2000s, but today’s 60+ person is tech-savvy, has used tech at least some of their working life in most cases, and is capable/ready to use the “old” and learn the “new”. Had a client ask me last week why I wasn’t doing a screen-share with him to go over a proposal – shame on me for not expecting that!

    • Barbara, Senior Planet editor
      REPLY

      Hi Garrett, that was exactly our point. These are among the photographs that are available to advertisers, marketers, editors and other media professionals who want to illustrate materials on seniors and technology. No wonder the stereotypes persist!

  • Arlene
    REPLY

    I heartedly agree with the above replies. My first reaction at looking at the pix was that they were all posed and shot by someone who has no respect for seniors. The majority of them make the subjects look doddering and demented. Who’s minding the store — 20 year olds?

  • Arlene S.
    REPLY

    Really, the only picture that rang true for me was the last one, with all thumbs up. The rest are almost depressing in their ignorance.

    So, I’m checking over my comment and realize this is long enough to merit Curmudgeon status, but if anyone’s interested, here are just a few things this subject brought up for me, a Boomer:

    For one, it’s kind of silly to assume expertise of ‘all’ young people with all things tech, based on the fact and/or assumption that many of them can use devices etc. they pretty much grew up with anyway. Let’s see how some of our younger people (note, I don’t assume all, because they’re individuals too) would do facing a blank gray screen with the little line of white print at the bottom of the screen demanding that you type in. ..something?! vs. pretty picture icons or instant assist via Google. Shall we mock younger people who didn’t grow up on farms etc., if they lack the problem-solving skills once needed to deal with crops or assembly lines or accounting systems back in the days of paper, and no Google etc.?

    Second, older folks who didn’t happen to work in offices when tech was introduced may or may not have an interest in something that has been marginal to their life experiences – and yet somehow so many have gained substantial expertise in what they have had reason to focus upon. My Mom, a truly smart woman, was not especially interested in spending her last year’s learning, setting up and trouble-shooting a laptop or other device because once she had spare time, she preferred to spend it doing something creative, useful, and interesting to her, all while mastering the intricacies of Medicare @@. But she fully understood the capabilities of tech and would ask me to ‘ask Ralph’ (family name for my Samsung tablet) something that required a little research.

    Third, after spending time with a few interns over the years, it was pretty clear that they too, differed as individuals in terms of understanding or using devices. Faced with a work task that involved online research, most came back with the most obvious (and fastest) response – “Here’s the first ten pages of my Google search on the subject you asked about, I typed in (subject)” The intern I still remember? She listened to me talk about what the point of the exercise was, asked good questions, and returned with a detailed outline (will spare you the details) that showed a true capacity to think beyond the obvious, coupled with a real interest in doing so.

    And, sorry, but this Boomer in her last work years, was asked to participate in some pretty interesting projects that involved tech stuff because a fair number of younger staff showed little interest in participating in something new, an area we were still figuring out, something that involved even deciding what questions to ask, where issues of tech were inter-twined with policy etc etc considerations. The door was open to anyone who was interested, too, but as one (younger) colleague said, “I do my Facebook. I don’t have to learn this other stuff.”

    But I didn’t really tune into all this til the day I sat on a plane as we landed, very late, across the aisle from a young woman with a $tate-of-the-art i-phone calling her Grandmother to say she wasn’t sure she’d make her connection. She was upset, so I suggested she just check online – but she didn’t know how. I didn’t either, but after about 3 seconds of thought, it was a Boomer (and I know I’m not the only one! ) standing there as we filed out, typing ‘status, delta #’ into the search box of my tablet for her and about 4 others.

    We’re still all individuals. ..right? And please note, I’m all for younger people, too – and the perspective of anyone who is actively participating in life.

  • Alexander Chionsini
    REPLY

    Frankly I don’t think any of the photos are funny. Why would we want others to think as we age that we have the propensity to become more stupid and incapable of using electronic devices. Why paint that type of picture of older people.

  • Roberta
    REPLY

    I find none of the above photo shots of seniors (ALMOST ALL IN COUPLES) amusing or funny. I am 82, female, and have
    had my own computer for 11 years, after taking classes. After 80. there are far more single/divorced/widowed females
    around than males. But I’ve never found stereotypes amusing or interesting. RJF NYC

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