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Crossing the generational digital divide

Joan Hatem-Roy, Chief Executive Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many of us into necessary contact with new forms of technology. Many adults work from home, using video conferencing such as Zoom, Teams or Skype, while much of education has moved online.

All of us are using these applications to “visit” friends and family now that in-person contact is being discouraged.

At present, people of all ages are yearning for the spark and spontaneity of face-to-face social interaction. As one meme currently circulating on Facebook remarks, “I’m starting to miss people I don’t even like!”

So, of course, your grandchildren missed gathering with you during the holidays. But you can use this stretch of social distancing to forge fresh, creative virtual bonds.

You can help your grandchildren with their homework from school while they sharpen your skills with technology. It’s 2021 bartering at its best.

Perhaps you’ve had a grandchild help you learn how to position your camera for a Zoom call, but you haven’t used the chat function or screen sharing. Your grandchildren can act as your star tech team for these tips and much more.

You, in turn, can offer a great deal as an empathic and informed presence, without the pressure to be graded or to impress. You can provide the very best kind of mentoring.

Read a work of fiction your grandchild is assigned and then discuss it in an informal, freewheeling way. Share perspectives about the characters, setting, believability of the plot, and how well it might translate into a film or a video game.

Discuss an event your grandchild’s class is studying. If it happened during your lifetime, recall your reactions to it and those of your siblings and neighbors. If it took place during the last 130 years, you might search together to see if it is on YouTube (Your grandchild is probably a YouTube expert.)

Or perhaps, together, browse through eBay to look at relics that date from the period studied or commemorate some milestone event.

Make your talks as spontaneous as possible. Let them wander; communication is the key. These discussions open opportunities to share personal histories and insights, including how to survive challenging times, the importance of reaching out, asking for help.

It helps all of us teach as well as learn.

The best teachers want to learn from their students. As the Roman philosopher Seneca believed, “While we teach, we learn.” Do both with your grandchildren today.

Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email ageinfo@esmv.org. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.