How technology can help you stay connected as a long-distance grandparent

Jan 28, 2020
Grandparents are using technology to stay connected to their grandkids. Source: Getty

Long-distance grandparents are making the most of technological advances to keep in contact with their grandkids.

While there is nothing better than face-to-face time with grandchildren, unfortunately for some, regular visits to the family is just not possible, whether it be distance or busy schedules.

According to an AARP survey, 52 per cent of families have a distance of more than 300 kilometres between grandparents and at least one grandchild. While a third of grandparents live more than 80 kilometres from their closest grandchild.

Years ago, this would be problematic, with phone calls via the landline or physical letters the only source of communication between grandparents and grandkids. But, nowadays families have numerous options to choose from, with thanks to advances in technology. From video chats and text messaging to social media, families are more connected than ever before.

Although today’s seniors haven’t spent their whole lives immersed in smart-tech devices, it hasn’t stopped them from getting on board the technology bandwagon. The AARP survey revealed 38 per cent of grandparents sometimes or often use video chat to communicate with their grandkids. Meanwhile, 45 per cent sometimes or often stay in touch by text, a third use email and 27 per cent use Facebook.

Although seeing the grandkids on a computer or phone screen isn’t the same as being there in person, it’s still worthwhile. Skype and FaceTime give you the opportunity to see each other’s expressions and surroundings, making you feel as if you’re there with them.

You can read your grandkids a story at night, sing songs, play games, or watch them score a goal in a soccer from hundreds of kilometres away. It works the other way too; you can show your grandkids around your home by giving them a real-time tour during a video call.

With older grandkids, you can communicate via Facebook Messenger, keep up-to-date by viewing and commenting on their Facebook posts, or even create a private group where you can share photos.

And if your grandkids are concerned you won’t know what you’re doing on social media, well you can prove them wrong, because the stereotype that older people aren’t interested in technology has been revealed as just that — a stereotype.

Far from not being confident with Facebook and Instagram, the Digital Paradox for Seniors report found that older Australians beat many other demographics in their enthusiasm to embrace technology. In fact, the only thing holding them back from doing more with technology is the lack of opportunity to learn how. So, with a little guidance from the grandkids, your skills will be just as good as theirs.

“The lack of confidence is a myth,” Richard Scenna, co-founder of study sponsor YourLink, said of the 600 seniors surveyed for the report “It’s actually about a lack of learning opportunities tailored to them and their context.

“When they are introduced to the technology, they are curious and engaged. They are also frustrated by the assumptions made about them and their readiness, or lack of, to participate.”

“The research shows that over 80 per cent of respondents rely on friends and family [to teach them],” Scenna added. “This support is often unavailable because of the time or distance and when [family members] are available, they are focused on ‘fixing’ not teaching. This doesn’t nurture the digital independence seniors value.”

According to the YourLink study, survey participants wanted to ensure they weren’t excluded from the digital wave and were keen to stay connected to society through technology. And they weren’t afraid to do so either, with the majority of research participants saying they were confident when using technology.

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