Video Boomers and Virtual Parties

Not every senior is as tech savvy as Harold, everyone’s favorite Internet Icon.

The other day, my dad asked me to call him and give him some advice. Family friends of his were going to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary virtually via Zoom.

A 60th wedding anniversary is a remarkable milestone and deserves to be celebrated. But obviously, all people involved have concerns about gathering in large groups (which is totally understandable).

We live in strange, dangerous times. The odds of getting to a 61st wedding anniversary are already pretty long, so why take the risk? In that context, a virtual anniversary party makes total sense.

That said, as the saying goes, every solution has (at least) two problems. I spoke to my dad about what needed to happen in order for him and his partner to join a Zoom call. I had to walk him through his various elderly computer devices (I mean, he still has a first-generation iPad). Together we picked which device had the best chance of succeeding for this.

I strongly suspect that I wasn’t alone in this task: The children and grandchildren of all the virtual party guests were pressed into service as an IT help desk to figure out how to get their elderly family members online.

Deviating from the discussion of technical requirements, I will say that having attended more video meetings this year than I can count, I had a strong inkling of how the video anniversary would actually go. I’ve been in video meetings with more than 20 attendees. All the people involved in those large calls have up-to-date hardware and are tech-savvy, allegedly. And it’s still chaos.

Big video meetings get bogged down with people asking, “What?” or “Could you repeat that?” or people who forget to mute their mic, or forget that the webcam means that we can, you know, actually see what you’re doing. My dad’s partner was actually somewhat incensed by my comment about technologically clueless boomers.

“Everyone who’s going to be on this call has a Ph.D.!” she countered.

“That just makes it worse!” I replied. “Clearly, you’ve never seen someone with multiple advanced degrees trying to operate a projector or a Smart Board.”

All of those issues are a given, even without any technical problems cropping up. Let me tell you, videoconferencing almost always guarantees a technical issue occurrence, and it will almost always be a new, unique technical issue that you haven’t encountered before, so you don’t know how to fix it. But I digress.

I did my best to help him figure it out. Hopefully, it all goes smoothly.