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Tech and other solutions for staying connected with older friends and family in the COVID-19 era

A list of bright ideas for staying connected. Made with thanks to our supporters.

 Patch into the new technology 

FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp, Google Hangouts and lots more. There are now many options to video call family and friends. You don’t have to be tech-savvy. You will need is a smart phone, tablet or computer. If setting up an account seems daunting, ask someone to talk you through it over the phone or send you step-by-step photos. One of our supporters, Rach, has this great advice, “I think the main thing is to keep it user-friendly. If everyone has a different app and expects grandma to download them all it becomes confronting. Be prepared to use the old school phone. Then ask if they know another platform, like Skype, FaceTime or Messenger. Fit your communication to them, don't expect them to fit to you.”

Resources to help set up

 Plan regular phone or video catch ups 

Lock in a regular date and arrange social occasions as ways of staying connected. Tracey suggests having regular FaceTime or Zoom coffee visits with parents or friends. Mal and her family order fish and chips for their grandma once a week, then set up a video call and have dinner together. These ‘dates’ do not have to be over video. June rings at least two people, family or friends, every day for a nice long chat.

 Play games together 

Barbara suggests playing Words with Friends. She plays regularly with her grandson, but warns you need to be prepared to be beaten! Clare agrees, “Words with Friends is another good platform that my Nanna was already using before the pandemic. There's a website called playingcards which can be used to play card games remotely with other people, though you need to be chatting on another app or on the telephone at the same time.”  Lara set her parents up on Zoom and now has regular dates on Saturday afternoon to do the weekend newspaper quiz together. They might not average more than about 14 out of 25 questions right but they enjoy it anyway!

 Celebrate together 

Lots of people are finding ways to celebrate special occasions they would normally spend together. From Zoom parties across the oceans to a quiet dinners for two. Some couples are going online to celebrate their weddings. Family and friends dress up in your own home, cook something special and open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. One grandma celebrating her birthday in the same week as her grandson had half the cake “dropped off with candles to light on their doorstep and then regrouped on FaceTime to blow out the candles and sing happy birthday together.”

 Old school 

These are all great ideas for the tech-savvy. But what if you are not tech connected? There is nothing quite like the joy of getting a long letter through the letterbox. Annette suggests sending letters, cards or dropping a postcard in the mail. Christine slips a small gift, puzzle sheet or note under the door of her 94-year-old father. These may be extraordinary times, but the tried and tested ways of staying in contact can often be the best.

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