Twenty-five years ago, in 1991, the world wide web was born and we were all invited to join. I didn’t do it right away, but in 1997 in an absolute leap of faith at the age of 57, I launched my website, JourneyWoman.com. My dream was to connect women travelers around the world and someting in my gut told me that cyberspace was the path to take. When my children heard what their mother was up to, they rolled their eyes and said, "Mom, you’re 60-years old and you’re digitally deficient. You can’t even use your microwave. How are you going to do this?" They were partially right. In fact, I can now admit that back then, I didn’t know the difference between a website address (URL) or an email address.
Since then, I’ve muddled my way to success (in fact, I have more Twitter followers than my daughter, Erica Ehm!) But, oh, how I wish I had a mentor back in the day. It would have made life so much easier. I was a puzzled senior in what is still a young people’s world and I had little idea of what these techie geeks were talking about. None of my peers were online. They were still consulting their paper dictionaries for information. They wrote letters in long-hand and any talk of the world wide web baffled and scared them.
At 76, I admit that I often rely on my kids and grandkiddies to teach me all the new social media stuff. My grandson, who taught me how to use Instagram, now boasts to his friends with a "haha" that I have more followers than he has. These kids know cyberspace in a way we older folks will never know it. They are taught the ins and outs of cyber-safety at school while the older generation are left to learn these skills ourselves.
Gradually, over the years, many of my more daring gal pals have dipped their toes into cyberspace. They’re using Google, writing emails and even tentatively joining Facebook and trying Skype, mostly to keep track of family and friends. Still, so many of them are uninformed and still terrified of privacy issues. They know little about setting a strong password and they fear losing important information to hackers. And they should be scared. If you don't understand the space, you can be taken advantage of, easily.
Just recently, I learned about TELUS WISE Seniors, a special initiative aimed at educating seniors to ease our fears by empowering us when it comes to being online. They've created a free guide for seniors with advice on staying safe online. I downloaded it myself and I’ve read it from beginning to end. All I can say is...oh my goodness, this is the helpful information I wish I had had back in 1991! I applaud TELUS for taking the initiative to teach us. The advice is written simply (no techie terms to confuse you), the font is large enough to see without squinting, and it covers everything you need to know about protecting yourself while still enjoying the internet to its fullest (using Instagram, downloading apps, shopping online or, yes, even dating!)
You know the old adage, "use it or lose it?" I firmly believe that it applies strongly to oldies and cyberspace skills. The world is changing rapidly and so are the services we once took for granted.
And in the future, your doctor might be able to measure blood pressure via your computer. Who knows? Age isn't an excuse any more, we must absolutely keep expanding our internet skills. It will make our lives easier, keep us vibrant, and keep us connected.
P.S. This is a fun "Six Degrees of Cyberspace Separation" story to tell...I recently learned that in 1991, Time Magazine called Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, one of the ‘100 Most Important People of the 20th Century.’ Then, 10-years later, because I used Sir Tim Berners-Lee's world wide web to connect women around the world, Time Magazine named ME one of this new century’s, '100 Most Innovative Thinkers.’ See what using the internet can do for you?