Ask most older adults if they would like to connect more often with their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
That sound you hear is a resounding “YES”!
Of course, not hearing from the kids and grandkids has been a complaint voiced by many for generations, with children of all ages finding it difficult to put pen to paper and write letters to their grandparents.
In this day and age, it seems pen and paper notes are gone forever. Thankfully, there is another option.
Technology has made it much easier for seniors to keep up with their family members, whether through direct communications or other means.
Connecting Through Technology
Technology has filled the gap left by the old ways people once used for communication like pen and paper.
A high percentage of seniors now have their own email accounts and many the ability to text message on their phones, two of the primary ways younger generations choose to interact.
Many more can connect with apps and social media.
Almost two generations already have lived their entire lives in a world that includes personal computers and text messaging smartphones. They don’t know another way of life.
Their devices carry much more computing power than the first several generations of personal computers their parents found fascinating.
Where writing letters to anyone was not high on the list for most children in the age of technology, sending text messages and emails are their primary means of communication.
New Generations of Connections
Younger people are connecting with senior loved ones through technology, not only via text messaging and emailing but also social media.
Facebook, Twitter and numerous other sites make it easy to keep up with what many friends and loved ones are doing and even carry on two-way communications.
Another very popular way for seniors to connect with the grandkids and great grands is through FaceTime on their iPhone or iPad.
Sure, you might be saying, but what about the technology, devices and the training that our seniors need to be engaged?
Evolution of Technology for Connecting
The continuing evolution of computing technology has been a major contributor to the prevalence of social media, but that evolution is moving in the direction of smaller and smaller devices.
These innovations do not lend social media to the ready access for those with eyesight that is not what it once was or fingers that were more nimble in past days.
However, more recent developments are bringing social media access to larger and larger devices and touchscreens that are easier to manipulate.
Video gaming systems, DVRs (Tivo for example), and even many newer smart televisions come with access to Facebook and other sites.
Tablet computing and larger touch screens (have you seen the HUGE touch screens on shows like NCIS?) are making social media sites accessible without even the need to use a keyboard or manipulate a mouse.
Getting Them Started
Is your senior loved one connected with technology that enables them to communicate with their younger family members? If not here are a few things you can do to get them started.
- Get (or teach them to use) a tablet or smartphone that will be compatible with those in the family they wish to connect or with which they can use Skype or other communications application
- Be sure their device has all the apps they need installed, such as Facebook or Twitter, and setup for their use
- Set up an email account for them, if they don’t use email already, and train them to use it safely and securely
- Create a Facebook identify with the appropriate security settings for their use
- Show them how to use FaceTime and tell everyone to give them a call!
- Set up a private Facebook page for the family members so that the images and sharing will be better protected
- Designate one of the younger family members (grand- or great-grandchild) to be their troubleshooter when they need help; this provides additional closeness benefits for both
- Set up and show them how they can send text messages on their tablet, which they may find easier to manipulate than the smaller keyboard on a smartphone
- Upgrade their TV set to a smart TV (potential Mother’s or Father’s Day gift?) and set up their favorites on it then show them how to access all its connectivity features
Remember, this is not a ‘set it and forget it’ situation. You may want to continue checking in with your senior loved one periodically to ensure everything is working properly and they are comfortable using what you’ve set in place.
Of course, if everyone is using the technology to connect, the lines of communication should be wide open already.