4 October 2020
Tips for staying connected with older loved ones
To mark National Grandparents Day and Silver Sunday, both taking place on 4 October this year, Anchor has developed a set of tips to stay connected to older loved ones and celebrate the special bond between generations, during the pandemic.
Meaningful engagement is an essential part of living well; relationships, social connections and visits from family and friends play an important part in boosting mental wellbeing.
As England’s largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing to older people, Anchor recognises the considerable impact coronavirus is having on our ability to see our loved ones safely. With guidance on social gathering tightening in recent weeks, many families will be unable to see older loved ones so it’s more important than ever that we stay connected.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, there are plenty of ways you can adapt and stay in touch, while staying at a safe distance. From picking up the phone to playing online games, writing creative poems to embracing the power of social media, the organisation hopes the tips will help unite generations this National Grandparents Day.
Top tips for staying connected
1. Time to Talk
Picking up the telephone and talking to a loved one, can make all the difference. Reach out to those who might feel isolated and spend a few minutes chatting about your day.
Even where a relative appears not to understand verbal communication, a phone call from you, with your familiar voice, could still be beneficial and provide comfort during lonely periods.
At Anchor we have seen first-hand the benefit that regular calls can make to our older residents. During the height of the pandemic, our befriending service called ‘Be Supportive’ saw colleagues call our most vulnerable residents and provide them with emotional support. Residents have said that the calls have done wonders to cheer them up and make them feel less alone.
You might want to arrange a schedule of different family members and friends to call your loved one on specific days. A regular daily phone call can give them something to look forward to, and it will be nice to hear fresh voices!
2. Make the most of technology
Residents living in Anchor care homes have long benefited from the variety of technology we use, whether it’s been iPads, Tablets, the recent introduction of Facebook Portals, or virtual reality headsets.
Whilst technology isn’t a substitute for face-to-face visits, making use of Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, and WhatsApp allows you to see the person you are chatting to. It can make the distance more bearable and allows you to get your whole family together to catch-up.
You don’t have to miss out on any celebrations or special occasions. Instead, bring your family and friends together on a video call to sing Happy Birthday!
You can also make use of apps that are specially designed to help you stay in contact with family and friends. At our care homes, a new app – Rels app – is being used to give families and friends a simple and secure way to share messages, photos and videos with our residents.
John Ryan (age 88), who lives at Anchor’s Upton Grange care home in Wirral, has been using technology to stay connected to his four children during the pandemic. His son and grandchildren live in Australia, and they’ve decided to Skype every Friday to chat and stay up to date with each other’s lives.
John’s grandchildren tell him about what they’ve learnt at school throughout the week, and put on lively performances, such as dancing and playing the guitar. The calls lift John’s spirits, provide reassurance to his family and allow him to feel close to his loved ones from afar.
It’s brilliant to be able to speak to my family so regularly even though they live on the other side of the world. I love our catch ups and finding out what they’ve been up to each week. While they can’t be with me physically, I feel that our video calls give my family reassurance and peace of mind that I’m doing well!
3. Have fun doing Online activities together
During unprecedented times, it’s also great to have some fun and take part in shared activities. You can use technology to get creative. Try playing a board game, such as chess, monopoly or scrabble over Facetime, or put together a virtual quiz for the family.
Create a new bedtime routine for your children by arranging video calls with grandparents to read them stories.
Do a craft or partake in an art class together. Our care homes recently took part in National Day of Arts in Care Homes, with their pictures and artwork used to create an online gallery. You can also listen to music together, sharing memories and photos.
There are plenty of fun and creative ways to bond with grandchildren even when you are unable to be together.
4. Write letters, poems and send drawings
You can’t go far wrong with a good old-fashioned hand written letter, poem or card. Pick up a pen and send some post to your loved one. It will be sure to put a smile on their face and in some cases, a beautiful pen pal friendship could blossom out of it!
A picture is also worth a thousand words. Create and send a photo book with recent and past photos of what the family have been up to, and include captions identifying people and places. This will trigger fond memories, and will be a lovely keepsake for your loved one to treasure.
Our #BeKindToOneAnother is encouraging people during the pandemic to send letters, pictures and poems to care home residents.
Thelma, aged 88 who has been a resident of Bilton Court for the past two years, was delighted when she received letters and drawings from the children of Wellingborough.
“I would like to say Thank you to everyone sending in pictures, cards and letters, the response has been fantastic and myself, all of the residents and staff are so grateful and get so much joy reading them.
“It’s been really fun keeping in touch with the children sending us post. It just goes to show that just because we can’t meet face to face, it doesn’t mean we can’t make meaningful connections with one another!”
5. Social media
Social media is also a valuable tool to keep up to date with what loved ones are doing. Our hugely popular Summer of Sport 2020 activity, which saw care home residents across the country taking part in a range of sporting challenges in disciplines such as basketball, football and table tennis, was a huge hit on social media. It is a great way to share experiences and chat to loved ones.
Cath Holmes from Anchor, commented:
Older people across the country are being profoundly impacted by the pandemic. As restrictions on social gatherings tighten once again and many may not be able to see and visit their family and friends as they usually would, it’s vital that we continue to keep our communities connected.
Whilst nothing can replace a face to face conversation or a hug, we’ve seen first-hand how modern technology helps our residents stay connected in a meaningful way, bringing them joy and ensuring their mental wellbeing is protected.
There are so many ways in which we can ensure that the bond between generations stays strong during this time, from picking up the phone for a few minutes every day, to celebrating special occasions on a video call or playing a game online together.
Information about our care homes during coronavirus
We understand that you will have many questions about finding your loved one a care home during this time, and so we have created an easy to read brochure explaining how we are continuing to care through coronavirus.
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Residents would love to receive post. If you or your children would like to send letters, poems or drawings then our care homes would love to see them.