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Older people allegedly flummoxed by new-fangled things

Older people allegedly flummoxed by new-fangled things

Just as you can't teach an old dog new tricks, you can't teach the over-50s new manual tasks, such as operating DVD recorders or iPods. Or so new research suggests. On the plus side, older people probably find it easy to turn this page in white-hot rage.

Researchers at Heriot-Watt and Strathclyde universities claim that physiological degeneration in the connections between cells in the frontal lobe means that older people are allegedly flummoxed by new-fangled things such as taps that you pull rather than twist.

Researcher Dr Lauren Potter says: "Older people will have problems when forced to adapt to a new way of doing things. For example, they will find it harder to adapt to digital TV, drive a new car with unfamiliar controls and use other modern household tools and utensils."

The stereotype of ageing duffers befuddled by new technology is not new. In 1993, Toby Young wrote in the Guardian: "Why is it that no one over 30 can operate a video recorder? My mother can manage the household budget ... but she is totally baffled by the VCR." How stupid Young must have felt when he turned 30 and found that he could still operate a VCR.

By contrast, at 27, I could not programme my VCR - chiefly because it was designed by Satan. Nearly two decades later, despite age-related frontal lobe degeneration, I can use DVD players and iPods, partly because they are more user-friendly than the VCR ever was.

Moreover, it is untrue that the older you are, the less able at manual tasks you will be. Potter recognises this. She says of the over-50s that "some perform poorly while others consistently cope well. The key for future work is to find out why this is the case for some but not other people as they get older."


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