“Oh, it’s easy,” she said. “Just ask your teenager how”. This was a young client’s response to my request for her to give me editing rights to her company’s Facebook page, which I needed for content marketing campaign that I was running for her employer. Besides the fact that she didn’t understand the request, I was a bit put out by her somewhat ageist assumption. I work in digital marketing, I can run rings around my teenager when it comes to Facebook.

Statements like ‘learn to use tech like your teen’, ‘half our workforce are over 50 and they don’t use social media’ and ‘tech-savvy teenagers teach their parents online skills’ are misleading, untrue most of the time and serving to entrench ageist attitudes that aren’t doing the ageing workforce any good.

In view of this, I’m not surprised that research by Australian insurer Apia reveals that millennials believe over 50s are too old for modern technology. “Over half of Aussies over 50 believe they can keep up with the latest technology trends until they’re 80 older, while their millennial counterparts think people become too old to persevere after 60,” Apia says.

It’s true that GenXers like myself, and boomers, don’t do ourselves any favours when we boast that we get our kids to handle the complicated stuff because it’s too complicated. What we mean is that more often than not it’s because we’re lazy and getting the children to do it is the path of least resistance. If anything, that says we’re a lot smarter than we give ourselves credit for.

I’m a latchkey kid, and I’ve just turned 50, but believe or not, I worked with computers in school way back in the 1980s. Today, I work with a variety of software tools like Workflowmax, Office 365, Facebook, Instagram, WordPress, Hootesuite and HubSpot. Nobody taught me how to use these tools. I figured it out and learned by trial-and-error, and I’m not alone. Technology and how we effective and adaptable we are in working with it is not a factor of age, but attitude, energy and your particular learning style.

Young or old, learning styles are universal

Writing a story recently about digital natives recently, I interviewed e-learning expert Tatyana Protsenko that ‘young or old’ everybody is a digital native.

“I would be hesitant to call people digital natives because the digital revolution and disruption has already happened. It’s all around us. Everyone in some form or another, to be productive in work and life, is resident in the digital environment,”

Learning styles, or our ability to engage with digital learning, don’t differ across generations either we by and large all have the same basic senses, so the way we process information doesn’t change.

Confidence makes the difference

Tatyana says that the difference between generations is confidence. “Older demographics have a different attitude to digital learning, in that they lack confidence in their own digital literacy – they lack the pathways of who to go to for support, and how to go about learning those skills.

The director of an inspiration and communications agency, Kim Goodhart MA (Hons), Psychology University of Edinburgh, works in the area of vision inspired leadership, says confidence comes from having goals bigger than ourselves.

“People who have a vision will overcome all obstacles and fears – even learning new technology – if we are motivated by a bigger goal.

“Link the challenge, whether that’s learning new technology or a new job over the age of 55, to something bigger, and suddenly it becomes fun,” she says. “You just have to look a child who is learning to walk. The don’t fear falling because what they’re doing is part of something bigger, so they just get up and try again.”

A similar sentiment is shared by high school dropout Vaughan Rowsell, the founder of international retail point of sale system (POS) Vend, when he declared that the company isn’t that interested in tertiary qualifications when it comes to hiring for skilled roles.

“We don’t look at the qualifications, we look at their adaptability and their creative thinking, their ability to work in a team and to fail – these are the things you don’t learn in a formal qualification. Definitely not failure, but that’s also the biggest thing that you learn from.”