Why Do Some Old People Think Everything Was Better in the Past?

07/12/2012 01:04 pm ET | Updated Sep 09, 2012

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Erica Friedman is the President and Founder of Yuricon & ALC Publishing. She writes the world's oldest and most comprehensive blog on lesbian-themed Japanese animation and comics at Okazu. She writes about Social Media Marketing at SocialOptimized.

A friend once described life in regards to family and workplace as a treadmill. You're forced, to some degree, to keep up with technology because life requirements demand it.

Then one day, you get off that treadmill - your children leave to start their own families and run on their own treadmills, and you retire from working. Once you are off the treadmill, technology changes move too quickly to keep up with. And since you are no longer required to - and an employer is no longer handing you new technology to deal with - you slow down. You're not sending yourself to classes to learn how to do social media, or neural networking, or whatever the newest thing will be. And, for most people, income drops, so new technology purchases do too.

One day, you just think, my old cellphone is fine, my iPod is fine. I don't really need to learn the new brainwave-controlled technology, and anyway, it's expensive.

The folks on the treadmill zip by, and you are your grandparent, with one old cabinet TV, no cable, an old dial-up phone, and a brand new stereo system that your kids gave you ... and that you have no idea how to use.

As the lack of constant new data that has to be assimilated catches up with you, you start reminiscing about how simpler it was when you were younger. People had three channels on TV, they went outside to talk to neighbors, the weather wasn't so strange. Food was tastier (because of course you were younger and could eat anything, and now you're diabetic and have a heart condition and have to watch everything you eat). Travel wasn't as scary, because you watch the news, which uses the word "terrorist" every third sentence, and there was no TSA.

People were nicer then, of course, because everything "back then" was better. The fact that the sky over London is clearer now than in the 1870s when the coal smoke made it unbreathable notwithstanding, the air was cleaner in your youth, when cold and hot and exhaust didn't bother you half as much.

Your memories of things start to focus on the good and lose the bad. Your life gets smaller. You sell your house and move into a room in a senior community. Of course. it was better when you were young and your family was starting out. Now TV talks about Twitter and Facebook, and you don't really understand or like computers ... everyone online is stealing your identity, the news says. Spam email terrifies you. (How do they know my name?!? Or that I went to school in Townville?!?) You knew what people were talking about back then. Music sounds weird, and people don't talk sense any more.

The news terrifies you. War and danger on all fronts - ALL THE TIME. There is no respite. Children killed by drunk drivers, people dying of cancer, there's never any good news that doesn't have to do with pets being rescued. The world is bigger and has more countries than it did when the USSR was our only real enemy. How can a person really know if the girl who cleans their room is trustworthy? She wears a headscarf, and the news tells you all the time that that means she can't really be trusted.

My grandmother passed away this last winter at 95. We talked about things like this. In her final years, her only media was TV, and because the news made her so upset, she mostly only watched TV Judge shows. She traveled a lot in her life, so she knew that the world was not terrifying. She stopped learning new things when it just became too much for her.

But I see other older folks, being terrified every day by the news, sure that the world is waiting to get them, steal their money, torch their churches, etc. I've had personal direct experience with the narrowing of an already pretty narrow and grudging worldview, and it's not hard to see how older folks can't see the positive in the changes around them.

Change is hard, and it's scary. The world right now is not predictable and most importantly ... it's not the same as something they already know.

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