By Irene Kushner
Support Services Coordinator
Service Coordination, Jewish Community Services
Last year, the nation marked the 65th birthday of the first Baby Boomers. The rate at which this age group has adapted to technology is understandably lagging behind the generations who have come after them. But the rate at which their children and grandchildren are using technology is climbing very fast.
Today, millions of American families are separated by distances that are too wide to make day-to-day grand-parenting possible. Just look around. How many of your friends, colleagues or neighbors live in families with three generations present? How many grandparents live near their children and grandchildren?
The more family trees branch off — as children head out of state to college, Boomers relocate for work, and grandparents move to warmer areas — the harder it is to stay in touch. Geographical distances strain the real life, face-to-face relationships that we value. It’s very easy to take important relationships and slide them to the side if they are not in front of you as often as those on your computer or phone.
Many grandparents will tell you they’ll do everything they possibly can to communicate with their grandkids. Most Boomers understand they must jump on the Facebook/Skype/texting bandwagon, or be left permanently out of the loop. Grandparents are using their own ingenuity to keep their grandchildren emotionally close, and more and more are embracing the new technology. They reap enormous emotional benefits through online communication with family and friends. The Internet uplifts their spirits and creates new life for them, making them feel young again. Video conferencing is the most satisfying experience that enables seniors to see and talk with their loved ones in real time.
Here’s what seniors are saying:
“I’ve got 2 grandkids. If I send them a text, they will respond 10 times quicker than they’ll respond to a voice mail.”
“I can log on to Facebook to see what my grandkids are doing through their posts. I love seeing pictures of their activities and travels.”
“You can write messages any time to your grandchildren without disturbing them.”
“I get a thrill out of impressing my granddaughter with my technical know-how.”
We grew up with lined paper and the heft of a fine writing instrument. But now there is an entire generation of kids growing up who have never experienced what life was like before social networking sites. There are a million arguments for completely ignoring Facebook and other social media:
“Why can’t they just…?”
“What was wrong with…?”
“Hand-written this or that…”
And nobody under the age of 40 cares about any of it. None of it matters anymore. We are old dogs who must betray the saying and learn new tricks. We must commit to keeping up with the way that communication happens today, or else it will be happening among all the people we care about, without us.
Do you think it’s the adult children’s responsibility to make sure seniors or grandparents don’t feel they are left behind, to set up the various communication lines and make it happen? Sure, it takes time and a little patience to do this. But isn’t it also one way of showing that we value and care for our elders, and that we want our children to enjoy special relationships with their grandparents?
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