2016-05 From the President: Our Quest for Commitment, Connections, and Convenience

As I end my term as president of UMRA this May, I must say that I am continually impressed with the talent, commitment, and breadth of connections that UMRA provides to its members. Likewise, that the members, particularly the board and committee members, commit so much talent and time to the organization.

There is a quest to continue involvement with the University and with each other. There is a reinforcing culture that emanates from our common roots in the U of M and a quest for lifelong learning and connection. UMRA is a convenient way for us to stay committed and connected. It is an enlightened organization, and I thank the membership for the privilege of being your president.

Staying connected is critical to our sense of well-being—at all ages and stages of life. If it were not, there would be no Facebook or Linkedin, Snapchat, Instagram, Text messages or Twitter. These convenient forms of staying connected and meeting new friends have tapped into a basic human need to reach out and touch someone. Yes, telephones work well and so do fax machines and email and hand-written letters, but increasingly, we seek rapid and succinct communication.

Not only do we want instant response to our inquiries but we also want many people to see what we are thinking, doing, or advocating. It is ever so gratifying to have 37 people “like” our post on Facebook. It so very convenient to get an instant reply to a text message telling us that our luncheon speaker is “on the way.”

The use of these new communication tools illustrates the human quest for convenience. Even before the invention of the wheel, humankind has created labor-saving innovations that allow us to do more, faster, and better. We have not only adopted these innovations, we have pursued them vigorously. Everything from canned soup, to fast food, to automatic shifting cars, to electronic books, and on-line classes have “convenience” stamped all over them. Smart phones and electronic tablets have replaced numerous other gadgets because they are so easy to carry around. In one small phone (and tablet) I have a library of books, an alarm clock, camera, NOAA weather radar, at least five news sources, a mapping program, an encyclopedia of up-to-date information about almost everything, not to mention the entire Internet, contacts, email, notes, games, music, a telephone with FaceTime, and more.

For this convenience I have willingly released information about my location at all times and risked my financial and personal data being stolen and misused. Some would argue that I traded privacy for convenience. But the point is that when given a choice, human beings choose convenience. Not because we are lazy, but because we seek personal productivity. We want to do more! We can pile on activities and connections and commitments.

In 1992 I wrote an article called the “Quest for Convenience: A Matter of Time.” * In it I argued that the increased value of time that came with rising household incomes and women working outside the home predicted the trade-off of capital (money) for labor (cooking at home from scratch for example or traveling to a book store to find a book). As an economist, I measured the value of time by the revealed wage rate. Like all other commodities, scarcity increases value, and time is no exception.

As retired people, our revealed wage rate may be lower and time may be more abundant on a daily basis, but it is less abundant on a lifetime basis. We will choose convenient gadgets, venues, and events that make our lives easier and more comfortable and more connected. Hopefully, all this convenience will put more life in our years, more years in our lives, and also make us happier and healthier.

—Jean Kinsey, President, 2015–16

* J. Kinsey in Cereal Foods World, 37:4, p 305.