Navigating Technological Challenges During The Pandemic

by Roselyn Poon

What comes to mind when you think of the type of people who live on the edge? Maybe adventurers, adrenalin junkies, risk takers, extreme sportsmen, gamblers, people who choose to live a life you consider dangerous? What about fringe dwellers? Do words like hippies, freaks or outsiders pop up? Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, I probably had a list similar to yours. However, thanks to the lockdown, I learned something astonishing that has changed my understanding of our current society to come.

I discovered that our elderly, or seniors, are involuntary fringe dwellers living on the edge of society. Note: I said involuntary and it may further surprise you to know that seniors are the largest marginalized cohort in western society today. The principal reason for this travesty is technology.

Technology is the agent of change that is transitioning our society at breakneck speed from people-centric to techno-centric, and there is no turning back, at least not in our lifetime. This techno-centric way of life is great for you and I, and anyone else who still functions in the mainstream; however, for those who for any number of reasons have been left on the outer edge, it is filled with fear and trepidation.

Think back a couple of months when you first heard about the virus on the news or social media. The key points that the media stressed was the vulnerability of the elderly, anyone over 60 years of age, and the speed with which it was spreading. Like me, you probably raced to your PC or iPhone and started trawling through Google, YouTube, news feeds and the social media channels you usually spend time on with the aim of finding out exactly what was going on and what you needed to do to avoid the Grim Reaper. You discussed it with everyone you came in contact with and your thirst for information may have even inspired you to actually reach out to anyone you knew who was in the medical field or the front line. I bet that within a couple of days you were wired into the information channels and organizing your life saving strategy. I know this because I was right there with you. It wasn’t until I was invited to talk about face masks on a local news program that I learned what was going on in the non-techno world of the elderly.

Following the broadcast we were inundated with telephone calls from scared seniors who wanted to buy personal face masks. They were so grateful to hear that there was a local company making masks that they could buy over the phone. I learned that most of them had zero access to technology and were terrified to leave their homes because of what they had heard on the news. The most vulnerable sector of our community was isolated and fraught with fear.

I talked to people living alone who had no relatives to ask for help; others had older siblings dying of cancer with no way to get masks. There were times when all I could do was cry when I got off the phone. One lady called to place a second order for masks because the first order she received was the wrong size. I could barely hear her trembling voice as she explained what had happened. She wasn’t asking for a credit or another order for free, she automatically assumed that it was her fault and she wanted to make sure we were not angry with her and allow her to place another order. I checked her order and called her back to explain that it was our fault and we would ship the right size to her free of charge immediately. She was so happy you could instantly hear the relief in her voice. All was good in the world again.

Many seniors had ordered masks to give to their neighbors and others living in their community. Violet, a beautiful little lady, kept ordering masks, and one day when she called, I happened to answer the phone. I discovered that she kept giving them away to others who didn’t know how to get to the shops, or order on the internet and desperately needed masks. In her last order, I included a special purple paisley mask for her, and she sent me the most beautiful heartfelt thank you card.

The wonderful seniors I came in contact with are intelligent, clear-thinking people who are living on the outside of our new techno-world. They have been practicing isolation and social distancing longer than we have; for some it has been decades. They know they are not as robust as they once were, they just need us to remember they are here and that they need a little help from time to time.

I am known for writing upbeat stories and, believe it or not, this is upbeat. In the end, they could get their masks without fear of being scammed or taken advantage of. They were able to help themselves and each other and I believe they went to bed feeling a little bit better about themselves and their world.

Remember, the one thing we all have in common is that one day we will fall into the category referred to as the elderly, unless of course something untoward happens beforehand. Either way, be prepared.