Cross Country Checkup

Has the wisdom of older people become sidelined in the age of Google and YouTube?

The wisdom of elders: Have techno smarts and youthful savvy eclipsed the wisdom of age and experience? With guest host Suhana Meharchand.
Helen Colly, a mentor at University Hill Elemtary School in Vancouver helps out with a grade 2 class on Thursday afternoon, May 25, 2000. Colly, 63, is a "school grandparent" who mentors and helps students face the scholastic challenges, like learning to read. (Nick Procaylo/CP PHOTO)

The wisdom of elders: Some older people say they feel left behind in a digital world. Have techno smarts and youthful savvy eclipsed the wisdom of age and experience?

If you've been through an airport, train station or bus station over the past week, then you know this is the time of year when people travel and they do it mostly to get together with family and friends. It's one of the few occasions when extended families spend time face to face, sometimes with three or more generations, all in one place. It's a moment when all the texting, e-mailing, Facebooking, and Skyping takes a back seat to the close encounter of a family kind. It's also a moment when family dynamics can bubble to the surface, as the various generations try to re-establish their roles.

In the past, the elders of the family were looked to as the gatekeepers of knowledge, revered within the extended family—a family that stayed pretty much together in the same community. But with the arrival of mass air travel and a global world, extended families have become increasingly scattered across continents and beyond. The rise of electronic communication and social media means we can still stay in touch ...but is it really in touch? Digital communication also brings a change in the way we seek information and answers to the basic questions that pop up in the course of daily living.

Grandparents now mostly live apart from their families, so it's not always easy to pop around for advice or to share a story. Now it seems the information held by the most experienced members of our society is now uploaded into the cloud -- easily Googled with a few strokes on a keyboard. Elder wisdom for the most part has been sidelined in favour of youth and technological know-how.

Although some studies show seniors are feeling overlooked in today's fast-paced digitally driven world, it seems Canadian seniors are fast becoming the largest group of new internet users. They're adopting social media and embracing digital technologies as an information tool at a rapidly growing rate.

And social media and digital technology are now being offered as solutions to loneliness and independence later in life.

Is technology a way to bridge connections between families and friends? Or does a generational divide go hand in hand with the digital age?

Do we still have time for meaningful interaction with the elders in our community? Does that require face-to-face interaction?

Does technology divide or connect your family? Are you finding that everyone is going to their own room to connect with friends on their individual devices? Or do you also gather together as a group via Skype with far flung grandparents or aunts and uncles? 

Is technology more a barrier or a bridge across generations?

Our question today: "Has the wisdom of older people become sidelined in the age of Google and YouTube?"


Susan Pinker
Developmental psychologist and journalist based in Montreal
Author:"The Village Effect: how face-to-face contact can make us healthier and happier"

Brenda Rusnack
Producer of Cyberseniors documentary and  President of Bestpart productions

Annette Rapoport,

 Henry Lickers
  Environmental Science officer for the Mowhawk Council of Akwesasne

 Dr. Maxine Hancock
Author and retired professor of interdisciplinary studies and spiritual theology at Regent College, Vancouver