“Social distancing” is now a household term worldwide. That’s great if you and your family are all geared up with technology such as mobile phones, tablets, computers and WiFi to keep connected with the rest of the world. But what about the thousands of grandparents who are left isolated, confused and feeling quite vulnerable with the COVID-19 restrictions?
Social Isolation for seniors is not a new concept
We are living longer than ever before. Quite often a spouse has died years ago and the partner now lives alone. Those living alone frequently identify with being lonely – which can impact mental health and in turn exacerbate underlying health conditions.
In NSW, over 16.3% of the population is over 65 years old, while 7.2% are over 75 years old. It’s this 75+ age range which appears to be the most at-risk by developing complications from COVID-19, so during this pandemic, we need to check on our seniors and ensure that they are OK and dealing with the current situation as best they can.
Remember, social isolation can have a huge impact on the mental well-being of all of us, but couple this with fear of the unknown and the feeling of helplessness, our seniors could really be suffering.
Getting seniors to use technology
OK, I get it. Your grandparents can write a letter or pick up a telephone, but anything more than that will probably be a challenge for some. Especially when we are told that we shouldn’t visit them to teach them what they can do and how they can do it.
Just remember, they have probably dealt with and overcome all sorts of challenges in their long lives, this is just another thing they will get on top of – if they believe they can. Clear instructions and repetition is key.
Technology is getting simpler and more user intuitive. Nobody designs phones, tablets and apps designed to confuse, their mission is for their technology just ‘to work’! So always reassure your older parents, grandparents, friends, and relatives that once they are set up, it can be like second-nature to activate communication using this technology….and they get to speak to you more often!
Why Video Calls are better than a Phone Call
If you were lucky enough to have grandparents like mine, you will recall that they wanted to be around you at every opportunity they could – to see your smiling face, tell a story, or just to sit and watch and take it all in.
With mandatory self-distancing, seniors will be feeling more isolated than ever. Whilst a phone call is good, there is nothing like seeing the sight of a reassuring face, 2 way (or multi-way) communication and interaction. We can still include our elderly in our daily life – you may not realize how much of an impact it can make theirs. Why not just connect with them and let them watch you and your family play a board-game, or eat dinner? – it may just be background noise for both parties, but it is so comforting.
Don’t forget, our elders have a lot to share with us. If you can help unlock their life-stories you too will gain so much.
Video calling and seniors – can it really be that simple?
Well…yes! If they already have the technology needed and have some familiarity with how to operate it.
With just a mobile phone (with a builtin camera), and a messaging App like FaceTime, WhatsApp or Duo your loved one could be up and running simply by calling them. To start with, you may need to call them on the landline and explain what you are doing.
For others, it will seem complicated and intimidating. Let’s take a look at what will be required to ‘connect’ with our seniors.
‘Connection’ is the key
Video conferencing is not just for check-ins face-to-face conversations. Once they are comfortable with the concept it can open up many doors to some great resources. From connecting with long-lost friends to special interest groups (such as bridge clubs, book clubs, trivia, bingo, historical societies. The world (the on-line world at least) is their oyster.
There are many virtual events that they can attend. These events may have been out of reach to them before if they were hosted overseas, but all of a sudden they can attend from the comfort of their own loungerooms. For example, The Chelsea Garden Show, you can now attend a 3d Virtual Tour of this special garden spectacular, without all the airline tickets, queues and pollens!!
Take ANZAC day, for example, we all struggled with the isolation on a day that we should be shoulder-to-shoulder, but how wonderful for those of us that got to pay homage to the ANZACS from the comfort of our front doors with the use of technology to play The Last Post and keep in contact our loved ones via video screens.
Remember, we know it’s intimidating and stressful and they didn’t make the saying up, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” for no reason, but it IS possible. Keep calm, consistent and keep your cool. You’ve got this!
New technology, what could go wrong?
Keep everything simple. Don’t worry too much about forgotten passwords or trying to make existing technology work. Sometimes it’s easier to start from scratch.
One option could be to pre-install the videoconferencing application on a device (if not already installed) and send the device to your older loved one. Or create a step-by-step guide using screen grabs and clear, concise instructions of what to do to use the device, charge the device and how to access the video conferencing function.
Remember, your grandparent wants it to work so they can see your face. Make it clear that it’s nothing to be scared of, and if they follow the 3 simple steps then they will be able to see your face. You generally can’t break the device (apart from the obvious), the WiFi may be sketchy at times, but by following the 3 simple steps they should have success.
In the next instalment, we will talk about the technology behind Video Conferencing. What hardware you will need, what connection methods are available to you, and the applications that will connect you with the rest of the world.
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