On zooming Zoomers Mar 2022

When I was growing up, we didn’t know from Boomers, Millennials or Gen X,Y or Z. You were young, then you were an adult, then you were middle-aged and then you were old.

The Baby Boomers got their name because there were so damn many of them – the result of a rush to post-WWII domesticity – that they became a source of fascination to sociologists and economists and politicians for their outsized influence on social and cultural trends. The oldest Boomer is 76 today and the youngest 58.

I missed being a Boomer by a few years, which was never a matter of concern to me, but I guess it was to others in my cohort, because the enterprising Toronto entertainment mogul Moses Znaimer, also a pre-Boomer, decided we ought to be called Zoomers and it took hold amongst the kind of educated and with-it people who are determined not to go gently into that good night.

So I am a Zoomer. It has a certain cachet. Boomer sounds heavy and noisy. Zoomer sounds fleet and active.

Covid hit Zoomers hard. We’re the highest risk group. Our physical activities dwindled. But this isn’t going to be a complaint piece about what we’ve lost. It’s a gratitude piece for the compensations we are privileged to have in this amazing era.

Foremost: the miracle of Zoom (and similar platforms for remote interaction). Every Zoomer I know zooms. My synagogue study group used to meet in the fall and the spring but stop in the winter because so many of the group went to Florida. Now it is running three seasons on Zoom, with Floridians as present as everyone else. And nobody has to knock themselves out preparing the perfect, calorie-dense sweet table for after the talk.

Every oldie I know is taking courses, attending webinars, enjoying concerts or live theatre configured for remote attendance. Or exercise classes. One of my friends joined a Shakespeare troop, who zoomed their rehearsals of Much Ado about Nothing, each in his or her own home, “performing” the play  through some technological legerdemain for a remote audience.

When you’re tired of learning, you can relax with Netflix or any of a dozen other streaming platforms to see any film, series or documentary you want. One has an endless supply of high-level entertainment at one’s fingertips any hour of the day or night. It’s the biggest and most exciting bang for the buck I’ve ever known in a long lifetime. Imagine if we were old and locked down in a pandemic 100 years ago, with nothing but a radio to enliven the long, dreary days and evenings. Go back another 50 years, and we’d be reading by candlelight. We’d have gone mad.

I’m not a Pollyanna. The restrictions have been frustrating. It’s tough to go for long periods without hugging your grandchildren. We Zoomers weren’t able to travel. The singletons in our cohort suffered from social deprivation. But zooming was a mental lifeline. It made the difference between tolerable sadness and outright depression for many Zoomers.

Now zooming is an integrated part of our lives. We won’t give it up. Our social and learning lives will become a hybrid affair. As we become less fleet (ha! Been a while since that word applied!) and less active, we needn’t despair at our shrinking mental and cultural worlds. Those worlds will come to us.

A gentle word of reminder to my Zoomer friends for the precious time that remains to us. When on Zoom, do try to nail down the rules about the “mute/unmute” function once and for all. You don’t want any of your former roommates whispering to another at your funeral, “Muted at last.”