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Tips To Maintain A Healthy Contact With Elderly Relatives In An Era Of Digital Communication

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Tips To Maintain A Healthy Contact With Elderly Relatives In An Era Of Digital Communication

With the frenetic pace of life, particularly for families with children, it’s not uncommon to become disconnected from relatives. The observance of Loneliness Awareness Week prompted consideration for grandmothers and grandfathers who might be yearning for more frequent interactions with their grandchildren. Affection for our kin runs deep, yet remaining in contact can pose challenges, notably when relatives are geographically dispersed or when seniors face mobility restrictions.

Maintaining ties with aging grandparents is crucial, as they are more susceptible to feelings of solitude and exclusion—a reality that can impact their well-being significantly. Research indicates that children’s happiness is heightened when grandparents play an active role in their lives!

Let’s explore the significance of fostering these familial bonds for the benefit of both young and old, examine how ‘silver surfers’ stay up to date digitally, and consider methods for less tech-savvy elders to employ technology to increase their familial engagement.

Elderly Individuals and the Risk of Loneliness

It’s heart-wrenching to think of our elders feeling isolated, yet the NHS warns that elderly people are at a heightened risk of loneliness, which can profoundly affect their health. The reasons for social isolation can vary, including aging or weakening of the body, diminished roles within the family, retirement from work, the loss of spouses and friends, or health issues and disabilities. Age UK notes that in England, over two million individuals aged 75 or older live by themselves, with more than a million elders stating they go for over a month without conversing with a friend, neighbor, or family member.

Encouraging interactions between grandparents and grandchildren is thus pivotal. Staying in touch with grandparents can substantially influence their lives. The Independent reports that elderly individuals who regularly look after grandchildren are 60% less prone to loneliness compared to those who are not caregivers. This provides a compelling reason to involve grandparents in babysitting, provided they are in close proximity and physically capable.

Do Children Flourish More with Active Grandparental Involvement?

The benefit is not solely for the grandparents; children form a distinctive connection with their grandparents. The University of Oxford’s research, incorporating more than 1,500 children, discovered that strong grandparent-grandchild relationships enhance children’s ability to handle stressful events. Authored by Professor Ann Buchanan, the study revealed that in families where grandparents are intimately involved in guiding and caring for their grandchildren, incidents of behavior and emotional issues are lessened. Hence, for parents wishing for their offspring to mature into well-adjusted adolescents, fostering substantial interaction with grandparents is beneficial—even if that interaction is virtual.

Incorporating grandparents into your children’s lives from the outset can be impactful, as explained by Kimberly Agresta, a certified clinical social worker and co-founder of Englewood’s Agresta. She articulates that children can establish deep emotional connections with grandparents, viewing them as pillars of support. When children have numerous loving and caring adults in their lives, they tend to feel more confident and stable.

If you are anticipating the arrival of a new baby or recently welcomed a new family member, selecting sentimental tokens of celebration for grandparents can be a delightful gesture. This act celebrates their new role as grandparents, particularly if the child is your first, and allows distant relatives to foster bonds. In terms of digital connectivity, digital picture frames that family members can update via an application are fantastic tools, enabling grandparents to witness and partake in family milestones.

Embracing Digital Communication: Grandparents at a Distance

Your family’s grandparents may not be battling loneliness or isolation, but they can still struggle with connection if geographical distance or health issues limit their chances to interact with grandchildren. Age UK suggests that 1 in 3 grandparents do not have regular engagement with their grandchildren, with new studies showing that nearly a third (32%) of grandparents aged 65 and over in Great Britain only see their grandchildren monthly or less frequently.

Regardless of whether it’s due to vast distances, mobility constraints, or simply not enough time for meet-ups, it’s undeniable that grandchildren are enriched by relationships with their grandparents. In today’s world, digital communication is an increasingly favored means to maintain contact. Grandparents who don’t frequently see their grandchildren are using technology to diminish the divide.

Even though it may appear challenging for elders to stay current with technology, a significant number are adopting the internet and enhancing their digital literacy, easing their lives as they age.

Social media and video calling have become prevalent communications avenues, particularly after the arrival of Covid-19. Platforms such as Facebook and applications like Zoom and Skype have been crucial for families maintaining connections amid the pandemic, especially for elderly individuals who needed to be even more cautious. Linking Lives UK references a study by the London School of Economics that found these digital interactions help to solidify familial bonds. Additionally, voice-activated technologies like Alexa allow grandparents who are less adept with technology to communicate online without needing to navigate applications or websites; voice commands conveniently trigger the digital assistant to make calls on their behalf.

Online Activities to Strengthen Relationships with Grandchildren

Virtual interactions need not be brief or distant. A multitude of engaging online activities exist for grandparents to connect digitally with grandchildren and nurture those key relationships. For example, creative video applications can be employed for sharing bedtime tales with little ones, assisting young students with homework or discussing daily events with older kids. Engaging in online games as a family can also be a joyous activity, strengthening bonds through shared experiences and common interests.

Through cloud-based storage, families can archive and exchange unlimited photographs and video clips, which can be accessed through digital frames or family-specific apps for sharing memorable occasions. Social networks also provide a platform for grandparents to feel integrated into their family’s daily routine by viewing photos and videos. Age UK offers a user-friendly guide for elders interested in navigating social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (X).

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