How Tech Savvy Boomers Stay Connected

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By Thomas MacEntee
By Thomas MacEntee

While being a grandparent is much easier than being a parent, at least some would say, staying connected with children and grandchildren seems to be more difficult than ever. Why? Well our offspring are busy with activities, interests, jobs and more which seem to keep them occupied. And the tools being used to communicate seem to change at lightning speed.

Communication is key, but what happens when how you communicate is at odds with the ways that the younger generation is communicating? Frustration abounds as you feel you can’t keep up and they feel you can’t hear or see what they want to share.

A better understanding of the technology is being used these days by our younger family members paired with a willingness to learn a new trick or two, can help you become a tech savvy Boomer.

Ways Our Kids and Grandkids Like to Stay In Touch

It was much easier years ago to have a conversation with family: you either made a visit in person or picked up the phone or wrote a letter. Then along came the Internet and mobile devices and now it seems you can do everything except speak from a chip implanted in your brain (just wait, that’s next!). Here’s what our kids are using today:

  • Facebook: While current trends show that teenagers and twenty-somethings are leaving Facebook, it still rules when it comes to sharing the stuff that matters. Learn how to build your family network and safely share photos, family news and more.
  • Skype: Remember when video phones seemed like a far off dream? The ability to talk with and see a family member at the same time is now a reality with Skype. Learn how to use this free service to stay in touch with loved ones.
  • Invest in a smartphone. Today’s mobile phones are “smart” and have a variety of useful features. Start by learning some of the easier features like audio recording and record a family story. Search for apps that allow you to preserve family stories quickly and easily.
  • Twitter: Hate the idea of “texting,” but want a way to send brief messages? Check out Twitter and its unique method of having conversations online.
  • Social Media: Many other programs like Google+ and InstaGram offer more ways to connect with family and stay in touch between phone calls and visits.

More Seniors are Embracing Technology

Just as most of us become comfortable with using e-mail or surfing the Internet, we find that our kids and grandkids are using other means to communicate with each other. And we want “in” on the fun!

How You Can Keep Up and Remain Safe and Sane

Yes our children and grandchildren will always stop by for a visit or pick up the phone and call. But there are times when if we want more engagement, we have to do so on their terms. This means learning and using their preferred technologies! Here’s how:

  • Express an Interest in the Technology. Let your offspring know that you’re curious about texting or learning a new way to record family stories online. Ask them if they would give you a basic lesson so you can explore on your own. Also see if they would be your “tech buddy” and help you as you seek to learn anew app or one or two new programs.
  • Look for technology classes near you geared towards our generation. Visit your public library, call up a local college or perhaps your church or synagogue to see if they offers classes on the basics of Facebook, Skype and more.
  • Use online resources to educate yourself. Sometimes classes are not convenient or we may have access issues that keep us from these opportunities. Visit sites such as SeniorNet (http://www.seniornet.org) or AARP’s Personal Technology page (http://www.aarp.org/technology/how-to-guides/)
  • Be Curious but Be Cautious! There seems to be an increase in online crimes, mostly of a financial nature, involving seniors. Make sure you understand the technology you are using and feel comfortable asking for help from family members. One of the best resource sites is provided by the Attorney General’s Office for Washington State (http://www.atg.wa.gov/InternetSafety/seniors.aspx) which outlines tips and ways to stay safe online.

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A new twist on the old commercial is “Reach out and tech someone.” Learn what your family is using to stay in touch with each other and then make sure you know how to be part of the conversation!

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy author and educator and works with Saving Memories Forever, an easy way to share family memories “one story at a time,” to inspire others to record and preserve their own stories..

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