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From the Neighborhood Press

Connecting With Seniors: long distance

It was a lazy Saturday morning. But Ruby Martinez was excited. Today was the day she would get to facetime with her grandchildren. Ages 5 and 8, her grandsons Colby and Liam always made her week so much brighter. In former years, Ruby’s daughter and son-in-law would pick her up and they would go on weekend outings. Always lunch. But for the past year, Covid-19 made in-person visitation much more difficult. And then, Ruby’s family made the long move from Oklahoma to New Jersey. But they already had a way to keep connected – facetime. The nursing home staff helped Ruby sit at a laptop and positioned her in front of the camera. Moments later, Ruby’s face lit up as she saw her family. The chatted about the week. The boys were taking swimming lessons and were so excited to tell their grandmother about their exciting summer days.

Life is so busy we sometimes forget about our senior family members who live far away. But for them, a weekly visit even by facetime can mean the world. Some simple steps can help you ensure that they are set up to use technology for those precious “visits”. Here are some ideas to help keep your senior family members feeling secure and connected.

Facetime. Grandma Ruby had no idea that facetime even existed. But once she was set up with a laptop by family and nursing home staff, she loved it. IPads or laptops are a great tool to use for long distance “visits”. Phone calls are also great, but the added visual helps make it seem more like a visit than just a conversation. For many seniors, hearing can become an issue, making phone calls strenuous. But with the added visual when using facetime or similar apps such as Skype or Zoom, it can be easier for an older person to follow a conversation. It’s also more exciting. Children can show their grandparents their latest activities. Seeing family members in their surroundings can also give seniors a better sense of experiencing a world outside their own. This can be exciting to them. Almost like a real outing. If you set up regular “visits” it can give them something to look forward to. If your senior family member lives in a nursing home or assisted living community, reach out to staff and inquire about any assistance they can offer in setting them up with required technology and helping them navigate throughout the “visit”.

Inspiration: connecting while social distancing

Covid-19 has caused seniors in nursing homes or assisted living situations to see their families less especially when social distancing is recommended. During these times, you can still make a world of difference to help an elderly family member by continuing to connect with them from a distance.

Mail. Many seniors still remember the days when it was exciting to get real, old-fashioned mail. Take some time to write little messages, cards or postcards to send them. Printed pictures are also worth a lot to many seniors. Select a few good photos you took during that birthday party or vacation and have them printed to send along with your letters. This is also a great way to involve kids in remembering their grandparents or elderly relatives and sharing their lives. Of course, sending a package with souvenirs from your latest trip or other goodies such as baked goods once in a while would go a long way in bringing some fun and surprise into their life. Just remember to touch base with your loved one’s health care providers or dietitians to make sure any food items you send are acceptable on their diet! Sometimes foods that are hard to chew or can get stuck easily in teeth, such as peanut brittle, are best left out of the package.

Videos or Recordings. Seniors love videos and can replay them over and over. Take some time to make a video of everyone singing happy birthday to grandma. Or capture happy family moments with everyone taking a moment to say hi to their grandparents. Connect with your senior family member’s nursing home staff or caregivers and make sure they are available to help your open emails or text messages. Discuss an easy way to send messages to your loved one frequently. This way they won’t miss out on important milestones in their family’s lives. That high school graduation. Or great-grandbaby’s first steps.

It’s amazing how much joy you can bring elderly relatives or friends with just simple gestures of love. They’ll know you remembered them. It’s important to make sure seniors are set up with the proper technology in the first place. And then ensure someone locally, such as nursing home staff, are there to assist them. Most importantly, the key is to connect with them regularly. Soon, they’ll be looking forward to the weekly “visits”, cards and pictures showing up in the mail, and whatever other fun surprises you have planned for them. It will make their whole day brighter.

5 responses to “Connecting With Seniors: long distance

  1. I’ve worked at Sommerset Neighborhood for almost 11 years now. I enjoy visiting with our residents and their families. Sommerset is a great community. Come see us!

  2. One of our favorite things to do is sit down and color cards or letters for grandpa. He has them all over his room and it’s a nice surprise for him when they arrive in the mail. Great tip!

    1. That’s so wonderful to hear, Mindy! Your grandpa is fortunate to have such a loving family. We are happy you enjoyed our article!

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