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#stayconnected: Long-distance grandparenting

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I had been looking forward to visiting my grandma up north for weeks. We’d been exchanging texts and images, anticipating having a chat and a laugh, after not seeing each other for quite some time.

But in a matter of days, like everyone else, we saw the world change around us and our plans evaporated. Now we’re both self-quarantined, me with family, my grandma all on her own. The 700km between us are made smaller by technology. Since the physical isolation started, we’ve moved closer together through daily video calls, goofy chats, and the odd online game. You see, my grandma, who’s turning 90 this year, is an absolute tech-wiz. Lucky for me, I should say, because I really like talking to her in times of crisis. She typically meets my concerns with the same dry reassurance: “Life goes on.”

Her inspiring resilience and positive energy in these uncertain times got me thinking: Staying connected to those you love can make a world of difference right now and there’s an entire generation, for whom the word isolation will have a whole ‘nother meaning. While it’s true that we can’t travel to see our grandparents right now, whether that’s across the country or down the road, it doesn’t mean we’re out of options.

So who better to ask for some tech advice for all age groups on how to stay connected, than my grandma? (I’ve transcribed and paraphrased a solid hour’s worth of tech-talk from our last video chat).

 

“If you thought smartphones were only for the “digital natives,” think again!”

Hi, everyone in the Fairphone community and fellow tech-enthusiasts of all ages. Today, I’m coming to you live from the beautiful island of Sylt, which is pretty empty these days. I’m almost 90 and have had smartphones since they first appeared. That said, I don’t “live” on my phone as my millennial grandson does. I definitely don’t walk around with my head glued to a tiny screen. But If you thought smartphones were only for the “digital natives,” think again.

Us senior citizens are making our mark in the world of technology too. However, there is one little caveat – none of us are digital natives. So, along with all the tech comes some frustration; Some from the tech itself and some that are just related to the fact that we are using tech to keep in touch.

Not sure where to start? I’ve got a few tips you and your family can enjoy, starting with my favorite video chatting apps.

1. Go beyond a phone call

There are tons of video chat apps, but if you have a smartphone, the native apps are reliable options with all the features you need. For video chatting, I’ve used Skype, Google Duo, and WhatsApp, which are all perfectly capable of virtually including you during a family dinner or for some facetime with friends.

 

Starting out can be daunting, but there’s really nothing to it. Take Google Duo, for example. In four easy steps, you’ll be up and chatting:

  • Open the app, enter your phone number, then tap “Get verification code.”
  • Then open Google Duo again and enter the verification code.
  • In the app, choose “Video Call”.
  • Select a contact, and your phone will automatically start calling them.

Easy, right?

Bonus tip: Spend some quality time

The best part about video chatting apps is you can do just about anything together. Color or draw together, dance, read a story, or watch a movie together. The sky’s the limit!

2. Sharing all the little moments

I don’t like clutter on my phone, so an app that does it all is right up my alley. Now, I know WhatsApp is far from an insider’s tip, but it’s the app that I’m getting the most use out of in my day-to-day.

 

I’ve got a few fun chat groups, one with my family, one with a few friends from home, and these chats have become somewhat of a visual diary for all of us. We share the images we take, what we’re cooking, the music we listen to while we’re cooking it, and someone always finds something on the internet to make you smile. I’m sure there are other messenger apps out there that do the same, so I guess it’s just a matter of preference for you and your circle.

3. A bit of competition to spice things up

Little known fact, I’m an avid gamer. There are so many fun games to find on the Google Play store, a lot of which are entirely free to play. And the best ones are those, you can play with (or against) other players. So here are my top three favorite games for a bit of fun:

 

Words with Friends
This one is like Scrabble. There’s even a built-in messaging option, so if you play a game over several days, you can leave little notes for each other – or brag about winning.

Draw Something
This Pictionary-like game is my current favorite. Laugh at the hilarious drawings, you each come up with, in an attempt to describe anything from animals to movies to actions and objects. Pro tip: If you’re terrible at drawing, it’s even funnier.

Angry Birds
I know, this game is almost as old as me. But as long as I hold the high score over my grandson, I will always include in my top 3.

Of course, this is only scratching the surface, but it should get you set up and (re)connected to your friends and family. I know the distance can be tough, but with a little help from tech, you can enjoy time together even when you’re far away. When this all blows over, and I know it will, I’ll be back to share some tips and tricks about navigation apps and more. Until then, I wish you all the best in these tough times. Let’s #stayconnected.

Kind regards, Frauke Greite.

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