Have Things Changed or Stayed the Same?

Despite the advancements in technology, most of our basic human needs have not changed. Technology has just offered us a different and often more expedient way to perform many key functions.

Many older adults feel there have been dramatic changes in the world, especially throughout the 21st century. The differences often discussed range from children being more intelligent and active to advancements in technology.
Is it a valid belief that things have changed drastically or have adults continually raised this viewpoint since the beginning of time?
There is no question that there have been many developments during the 21st century. The introduction of the internet into our daily lives and related devices and applications has transformed the way we communicate, learn and relate to others.
It is difficult to see an individual, no matter what their age, who is not attached to a cellphone. We can’t escape the use of cellphones at social events, schools, dinner tables and, unfortunately, by drivers in cars. A senior citizen recently said that she was annoyed that cellphones are always present, even in doctors’ waiting rooms. The cellphone has almost become a human appendage that we use daily for entertainment, reading, researching and communicating with others.
Technology has invaded every aspect of how we live our lives. We are now able to continually monitor our fitness, sleep and vital health statistics. Paper calendars have been replaced by digital versions. We listen to music online or from digital audio files, not from CDs or records. Online shopping and e-readers have been the catalysts for the dramatic reduction of brick-and-mortar book and retail stores.
Dating websites have almost eliminated the custom of blind dates arranged by relatives and friends. Certain words like “typewriter” and “encyclopedia” are foreign to our children. Specific inventions and how to achieve and perform certain needs have been replaced with new options. We don’t need to watch a television show at a certain time, wait to learn about the news or have large rooms to house computers.
Fortunately, technology has saved many lives. Previously, hearts couldn’t be repaired, certain cancers could not be treated and health issues could not be detected without magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) and other diagnostic tools.
Unfortunately, wars still occur due to conflicts over religious beliefs and rights to oil and land. Simply put, the application or means to achieve specific goals have changed, but people’s needs are the same.
Has the essence of life really changed?
Despite the advancements in technology, most of our basic human needs have not changed. Technology has just offered us a different and often more expedient way to perform many key functions.
But people are people; we are all born the same way and face the existential issue of what happens after we die. We all need to be loved, have our basic needs of shelter, food and security met, and to find purpose in our lives. We still need to communicate and socialize with others, receive health care when we are sick and care for our loved ones.
What has changed is how we do things — we may learn in new ways and be reminded of the time, important dates and when to wake in the morning with other devices. We may communicate through text messages, Skype and Facebook, but we have the same goal as people before us to connect with others.
No matter the time period, there will always be people who perceive the world as a place that has dramatically changed and lament for the old way of doing things. This fear of change is not a new feeling. There are people who viewed the invention of cars, refrigerators, televisions, microwaves and smaller computers in a negative light, while others embraced the changes and viewed them as a new way of accomplishing the same goal more efficiently.
It is not accurate that the majority of senior citizens oppose new technologies. During a recent discussion with a 94-year-old woman, she marveled about the existence of Google, the use of cellphones and the changes that she has witnessed during her lifetime.
Of course, there will always be people of all generations who are not open to change. There will always be teenagers and young adults who feel that their parents and people from other generations lived with dinosaurs during the Stone Age.
It is up to each of us to determine how we perceive the world around us.
Next time you hear a younger person state that “you don’t understand something because the world has changed dramatically during your lifetime,” take a minute and explain to them that people are the same and have the same basic needs. They probably won’t agree with you, but some day they may remember your discussion when a younger person tells them that they are from the Stone Age and asks them about how it was to live with dinosaurs.
Marcy Shoemaker, Psy.D. is a psychologist at Abramson Center.


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