As a child of the ’80s, I’ve seen a lot of change in my 30-some years. We’ve come a long way since the days of navigating Pac-Man across the green screen of my uncle’s IBM. Back then, he was the only person I knew with a personal computer, and my cousins and I were fascinated.
The day my family got our first desktop in the mid-’90s was like a holiday. I subsequently spent hours on ICQ chatting with friends, the dial-up modem my nemesis as I frantically tried to connect and reconnect.
The explosion of digital technology is especially remarkable. I’ve spent a large portion of my career working in digital, and I’m constantly surprised by how quickly the next innovation arrives. As soon as you get the latest phone or launch a redesigned website or app, you’re already thinking about the next version and how to create X so it does Y.
Iteration and experimentation are the name of the game in order to stay relevant in this age of innovation. What’s new, it seems, will likely be old in a matter of weeks these days, and each new technology sets us up for the next wave of progress.
This is true not just in digital technologies, but also in healthcare, fitness, politics, agriculture — the list goes on.
Yet, as amazed as I am by the evolution that’s happened in my lifetime, it’s nothing compared to what my grandparents have witnessed. I’m very lucky that several of my grandparents are still around, and one of my favorite things to do is listen to them share their perspectives on the shifts they’ve witnessed in each of their 75-plus years.
So I got on the phone recently with my paternal grandparents to get their thoughts on how things have changed since they were kids and young adults, specifically when it comes to health and wellness. Throughout our conversation, the most common words I heard were: “It’s unreal that a FitBit can tell me how well I sleep!” or “It’s unbelievable how many people beat cancer these days.”
My favorite quote came from my grandpa, a spry 84-year-old who’s the oldest guy in his golf league, who still helps out on the family farm, and who is an avid Facebook user: “There’s been as much change in healthcare as there has been in cars. Our dads drove Model Ts — we now drive vehicles with GPS and all sorts of bells and whistles. Medicine has changed a lot like that.”
For my grandpa, the experience of witnessing the illness and passing of his 6-month-old brother to what they think was cancer in 1940 and the illness and passing of his great-grandson from a rare genetic disorder in 2014 are night and day. In one case, there was speculation and uncertainty; in the latter, there were definitive results based on genetic tests and treatment options that have only been developed in the last decade or so.
It’s truly amazing that so much has been discovered in the last century that we’re on the precipice of major breakthroughs that will continue to shape how we live our lives.
We devoted this issue of Experience Life to exploring some of these advancements, touching on heart health, the microbiome, Alzheimer’s, and so much more. I hope it inspires you to explore how far we’ve come — and to imagine what is possible in the years ahead.
Photography by Chad Holder