Can you think of anything you love more than getting a hug from a grandchild? The joy that comes from moments of play and being silly with them?
Unfortunately, we don’t get those hugs nearly as often as we’d like, but there are ways to strengthen and preserve that bond in between visits using modern technology.
Chris Blackerby of Regency Retirement Village of Birmingham said we have Wifi available throughout our buildings for the use of the residents and visitors. “We also have centrally located computers in each building for residents to use if they do not have their own set up,” he said.
Kids today are what’s referred to as “digital natives”, which means they easily pick up a device and can run with it almost immediately. Seniors, on the other hand, are often intimidated by the learning curve on high tech tools. As much as we prefer traditional modes of contact, it may be hard to keep up with kids any other way – especially when families live a great distance from Birmingham.
The technology of the Internet, cell and iPhones can seem like a foreign language, not to mention potential physical limitations or cognitive impairment, but for those with the means and a willingness to explore the new virtual world, the rewards can be great.
The New York Times did an article about this topic. Author Paula Span wrote, “Everyone exploring a new world needs a guide. (Those learning to use new devices) suffer from computer anxiety. But they’ve heard about Facebook; their grandchildren are on it, and they want to be a part of it. They want to learn how to get junk out of their houses and sell it on eBay. They want to be better able to function in today’s world.”
Asking your grandchildren to help you learn how to send text messages on a smartphone, upload photos to “the cloud” or use Skype for video-conferencing can actually be a mechanism for bonding. You tap into something wildly popular that interests them and they think it’s cool that you aren’t stuck in the 20th Century. You must be patient with one another.
Your grandchildren may be less than excited to receive your friend request on Facebook because their privacy is a key concern in the years when they seek independence from their parents. Most people are on their best behavior when they know their senior loved ones are listening. Knowing you are online may actually temper some of the outrageous behavior that might otherwise tarnish their public reputation, but you also need to limit your interactions to appropriate conversations so they don’t get teased by their friends.
Social-networking sites are changing the way we interact with one another, and with our kids and grandkids. Traditionally, “our cultural networks [are] age-related,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist for Pew Research. But the internet is changing that model. Today, different generations mix and mingle online in ways they never would in the public square: Sixty-somethings share Facebook “Wall” space with 16-year-olds; teens and tweens take responsibility for “tagging” photos of their grandparents’ anniversary party for the whole family to see.
With a little bit of learning, Birmingham seniors can open a whole new world of interactions with their families beyond limited face-to-face time spent together.
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