It’s something you probably do regularly in your business or personal life (either with colleagues, friends, or both), and yet you’ve likely never even considered making it a part of your ongoing routine with your aging parents. The “it” I’m referring to here is virtual communication, such as FaceTime, Skype, Google +, and various social media apps (though you may need to ask your teenage children for help with those).
Just as speaking “face to face” through the magic of today’s technology helps to make business and personal conversations clearer and interactions more meaningful, why not bring these same feelings to your conversations with your mom and dad? Most of our parents own tablets and/or Smartphones, and even if not, they are certainly computer-literate enough to download software to a computer and plug in an earpiece/mic. (If not, you can talk them through the process.)
Here are some benefits I see to conversing with your folks via virtual chat:
- If you have kids of your own, you are opening up a world as vast as their imaginations can take them in terms of all new ways to engage with their grandparents. Now your aging parents will be able to read bedtime stories, play games, help with homework, or simply be available to to talk at the press of a widget. Whether you live across the country or across town from your folks, you are allowing your kids and your parents to forge an entirely new bond for themselves.
- See above, but think of yourself, and even your spouse. While you may be too old for bedtime stories, perhaps closing out an evening or two weekly with a (virtual) face-to-face goodnight or recap of your day will bring a renewed closeness with Mom or Dad. Nobody enjoys hearing from you as much as your parents do. They want to hear from your spouse or partner, too.
- If your parents have trouble with their mobility, or if you are separated by miles, imagine being able to spend a few moments of your holidays together, virtually: opening birthday or Christmas gifts and getting to enjoy real-time reactions, lighting Hanukkah candles, and more. I know of a family who FaceTimed their elderly parents into their Passover Seder last year. It was a resounding success for all involved and brought the family members on both ends much joy.
- You and I know that these software applications are fairly user-friendly, and yet people of our parents’ generation may not have had reason to have engaged in the use of many online tools for communication, other than email. This boost of knowledge (and confidence) is valuable to the elderly in so many ways.
- With a renewed ability to reach out and engage with family members, your parents will likely feel how loved and needed they are. Depression is such a problem for the elderly population. Simply having a need to shower and dress daily improves anyone’s mood.
So get in touch with Mom or Dad today and figure out which software download will work for your family. You may be in for a few minutes of frustration while you get both sides set up, but I assure you, the end results are well worth any potential (and very minimal) aggravation.
As always, I am here to help you and your family navigate the waters of communication during the challenging time of parental aging.
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2017.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.