Copyright (c) 2009 Mary Lloyd

I’ve always believed in computers—if my kids were going to use them. I started buying them for my boys when my older son was 12—in 1981. But my personal commitment to computers is far more recent.

When I HAD to use them, I did. Batch cards on the mainframe at the university where I did my doctoral work. Word-processed progress reports when the corporation where I worked insisted. I took company training when I had to. And generally told myself, “yeah, but…” in terms of doing anything beyond the obvious.

When I left the corporate world to pursue writing novels, I finally started APPRECIATING my computer. And when I began writing screenplays, the specialized formatting software seemed like divine intervention on my behalf. My tech comfort index increased even more when I took classes online as part of a year-long graduate certificate screenwriting program from UCLA. I’d joined the ranks of the cyber-skilled.

Not really, but at least I’d made a key transition. I wanted MORE–to learn more, to do more, to be more effective with what my computer and the Internet offered.

When I got into writing non-fiction, I discovered that publishing details for the bibliography and background on people I wanted to quote were a lot easier to find online. Once the book was published, I learned my computer and access to the World Wide Web and social networking sites are essential marketing tools. Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. YouTube. Flickr. All resources and information conduits. But also things I’ll be learning forever since they’ll continue evolving for as long as they exist.

That discouraged me at first. But it’s a precious gift, and one I wish more of my generation would accept. Learning is GOOD. If you’re over 50 and insisting you don’t NEED e-mail, or even a computer, you’re missing the point. If you “don’t want to deal with all that,” please reconsider. If this is you, some tech savvy loved one probably printed this for you, right? Eventually, you’ll be relying on that kind of kindness for the bulk of your information if you don’t get on the bandwagon.

The “all that” you want to avoid is where the future of the written word is going. More and more companies are putting statements and product information online and asking you to “go paperless.” More and more information you really need—about prostate cancer or current road conditions in Montana—is easily available online. But that’s not the greatest benefit either.

The fastest way to feel, look, and be old is to stop learning. If you want to come across as just marking time until your appointment with the undertaker, go ahead and ignore technology. You can do that. But you lose. Call it stubborn. Or scared. Or lazy. It’s a bad strategy no matter what label you use.

Yes, you will feel brainless the first few times you get on the computer–or the Internet. Yes, you will make mistakes. Yes, you will want to throw the thing out a second story window when you can’t get it to do what you need to do no matter how hard you try. But you know what? That happens regardless of how old you are when you first start using a computer. Even geeks face that, but they understand it’s part of the drill and just keep going.

Stop telling yourself you don’t need to do this. You do. If you can’t afford a computer, go to the local library. They’ll even help you get started.

Keep learning and you’ll start to recognize the potential of the Internet to improve your life. It may be by paying your bills online. (Studies show that online bill paying is less risky than sending checks through the mail—and cheaper.) It might be in finding a group of like-minded people to share ideas with. You will feel your world expanding as you become computer savvy. It will give you access to a whole lot of information you’ll be very glad you could find. Plus it’s a good way to stay in touch with people you care about.

Commit to being computer savvy even if your job doesn’t demand it and your family isn’t begging you. Access to information and connecting with others is faster and easier. Even better, you’re proving you can still learn—and that you want to. Key pieces of staying vibrant.

Who knows, you may get so far that you teach your kids things. Last week, I mentioned Worio to my ubergeek son. (It’s a new search engine that competes with Google.) He hadn’t heard of it. Yes! Just call me Grandma Geek.

Mary Lloyd is author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. She offers seminars on creating a meaningful retirement and consults to businesses on how to use older talent well. She is available as a speaker. For more on how to get the best out of life after 50, go to => http://www.mining-silver.com .

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