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Changing communications with COVID-19

Julia Pompa
Julia Pompa

You’ve texted (and occasionally even Face-timed) your friends, children and grandchildren countless times, and perhaps you have participated in an occasional Zoom event. But those modes of communication just don’t replace the face-to-face time and personal contacts that have been removed from our lives due to the pandemic.  But,  technology may still have an answer for an enhanced communication experience.

Best technology for each of us

“We need to figure out what part of technology speaks best to each of us,” and then make it ours, explained Lisa Cini, president and CEO of Mosaic Design Studio, a senior living design organization based in Columbus, Ohio.  As the author of BOOM: The Baby Boomers Guide to Leveraging Technology, so that you can Preserve Your Independent Lifestyle & Thrive, Lisa is an expert on aging in place and embracing living as we age.

Cini discovered the importance of the right technology as her grandmother struggled with Alzheimer’s / Dementia. As 4-generations of her family listened to music one evening, her grandmother enjoyed the audio by using earbuds. “We’ve not done a good job of communicating to older adults (about) the benefits of technology (for them,) individually,” she said. 

What’s the best online experience for each of us: ordering groceries, selecting library books, digital dates with our grandchildren, exercising, listening to podcasts? Once we determine the things that are important, we can eliminate some of the isolation we feel, she said.  Cini offers several ideas on how to beat the loneliness brought on by the seclusion necessitated by the pandemic.

Ask for help

If you don’t know how to set up video chat or to create an Instagram page, ask a family member to help you out! “Kids today are overconnected but underheard,” Cini said. They learn by experimenting, and teaching someone else helps them demonstrate their capabilities. Offer something in return – “you set up my Instagram page and I’ll teach you that recipe that you love” – and you both benefit.

As an alternative instructor, most senior centers around Northwest Ohio offer a variety of training programs in computer literacy, as well as phone, laptop and other training.  Although the Centers have been closed since March because of COVID-19,  Senior Centers are scheduled for re-opening on Sept. 21. Another resource to  answer questions about computers, phones, tablets, email and other topics is t he Toledo Lucas County Public Library which can provide those answers in three ways – call 419.259.5200 to ask a question, schedule a one-to-one virtual appointment; or email computers.media@toledolibrary.org to ask your question. The Library also offers a variety of online learning opportunities, visit www.toledolibrary.org/techhelp for information.

Look for technology to help. Smart speakers (such as Alexa, Siri and the like) can help older adults use technology. The newest tablets can combine features from television and phones, in a way that is easier for older adults to manage.

Keep a schedule

A  regularly scheduled family Zoom meeting, a podcast or a baking class on YouTube, keep a schedule for your activities – and stick to it. “Setting a time reduces stress and gives you something to look forward to,” Cini explained.  You can also use technology to set up reminders that you’ve got things to do and apps to set up.

Control your space

Exercise is always important, especially as we age. “If you’re not exercising and you are still in partial isolation, you’ll become even more lethargic and risk developing more cognitive issues,” Cini explains. Online exercise programs can help keep you functioning.

It’s also important for older adults to feel in control of their home spaces. “Set aside separate seating areas for visitors that are adjacent to your spaces, while also safely distant,” she said. Also, look for disinfecting systems (from sprays to purifying systems for your furnace) that will keep your living spaces clean.

Cini also recommends setting up a station near the door that can hold your shoes, bags and masks, air and hand sanitizers and everything else you might need when you arrive at home (or when others visit).

“Using the technology that’s all around us to our advantage is the best way to navigate today’s pandemic situation,” Cini said. It can be a source of communication with family and friends, a source of information and entertainment, a companion and a lifeline. It can help us all get through COVID-19.

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