Alencia Loredo and grandmother Anna Geronimo text to stay in touch. by Christine A. Holliday More and more adults over 50 are using their computers and cell phones to text, Instagram, and email their far-away families, giving a modern twist to “going to Grandma’s house.” Indeed, photos, videos, and instantaneous messages are showing up in Grandma’s and Grandpa’s inboxes almost immediately, keeping them in touch with the busy lives of their grandchildren at their soccer games, school plays, and summer vacations. Seniors are gaining confidence about using technology to stay connected to their families, and the result is improving the way kids and their grandparents communicate. Delaney Carroll and Henry Kookoothe are keeping in touch with their grandma Maureen Delaney with help from their parents. Delaney is just four months old, and her cousin is year old, perfect ages for grandma hugs, but neither lives in Toledo. Grandma visits them as often as she can, but not as often as she would like, and is grateful for technology that allows her to be visible to them. Ms. Delaney and her children use Facetime for video chatting, and the families at both ends use Facebook, Instagram, and Google chat. She looks forward to iMessages from her children, saying, “They send me videos of new adventures…Henry walking the first time with the help of the lawn mower I gave him, or Delaney trying to mimic her mom. The best videos are of them trying to talk. It is nothing but gibberish, but it is music to my ears! Seeing those little videos gives me such incredible joy while calming the yearning I have to be with them.” She counted on technology before the grandchildren were born, too, as both moms experienced problematic pregnancies. She explains, “Both Kelly and Lindsay had issues with their pregnancies. It is very difficult to be so far away from your daughter with a healthy pregnancy! When issues arise, it is heart wrenching! It was wonderful to be able to check in and see how they were feeling, looking, and acting. Lindsay had the benefit of her mother being close by. I am hoping Kelly found comfort in seeing me because it sure made me feel whole better seeing her.” Suzette Valiton Kramer and her family were also comforted by technology when grandson 2 ½-year-old Luke, living in San Diego, was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer. Cell phones kept family members around the country updated on the steps leading up to and including surgery. Her son Gary used his phone to record the physician consults so he could play back the overwhelming information and patch others in to listen live to the conversations. When she wasn’t able to visit in person, Kramer used Facetime from her desk at work, scheduling conferences around West Coast naptimes. “I could carry on my life, but I always had my phone available for talk or Facetime.” After Luke’s successful surgery, Kramer bought him an iPad, so he could watch his favorite programs listen to music, play games, and, most importantly, Facetime with his grandma Gigi. “I would send him videos from home just talking to him, take him on adventures around the yard and show him bugs and flowers,” she said. “I would record places like the zoo and his favorite animals and send them along to him. He liked to cook, so I would Facetime him and we would do some cooking together. We would dance together, make silly faces, and I would read to him. Technology was an invaluable tool that kept me sane and also allowed us to nurture and grow our relationship.” Technology also came to the rescue in helping the young family meet the staggering medical bills. Her son’s co-worker set up a charitable donation web page through indegogo so that friends and family could send monetary support if they wanted, and then she used the Web to organize a walk for Luke in San Diego to support the family emotionally and to give them an opportunity to say “Thank You” to all who assisted them in their time of need. Skype and Facetime keep Kramer in touch with her San Diego family now, and two grandsons in Toledo text her and her husband to know where to meet Grandma and Grandpa for ice cream and local events. “I thank God for technology every day,” she asserted. Of course, not all communication between grandparents and grandchildren is so serious. Anna Geronimo lives just blocks away from her ten grandchildren in South Toledo, and keeps in close touch with them daily. She texts the older ones, and takes plenty of photos of all of them to upload to her Facebook page. Just as often she finds that one of them has sent her photos or videos, keeping her aware of their school plays, football games, and weekend activities. They text her, too; ten-year-old grandson Ruben Angel admits, “I text grandma a lot. I tell her, ‘I love you.’” Granddaughter Alencia shares shopping excursion finds and selfies with her grandmother, and seven-year-old Vino made sure grandma received immediate pictures of the x-ray of his broken arm early this summer. “It’s fun,” Geronimo says, “and it does make our relationships stronger.” Marge Poole’s two grandsons live in Chicago. She is able to visit them often, but counts on FaceTime, Instagram and Facebook to keep in touch with young Grayson and Flynn. “We use Dropbox and Snapfish to share pictures from our events together, such as birthdays, holidays, christenings, and vacations, and technology helps so much for them to see us more than the times we are together. It is priceless to see 2-year-old Grayson’s reaction when he sees me on the screen. When he was younger, he would look behind the iPad to see if the rest of me was there. Now, he kisses the iPad! And it is so much fun to see pictures posted every day. It makes missing them a little easier.” Poole and her daughter Elizabeth appreciate the immediacy of technology, as well as the convenience. “It is hard to talk to her when she works, so texting is an amazing thing for quick questions and information. I don’t know how we raised our kids without it. It is certainly a way of life when your kids are out of town. We get to share even the smallest things that mean so much!” Chris Stein’s kids live in Perrysburg, and get to see his parents often. But they also keep in touch with their grandparents via Grandpa’s Facebook. Stein found a special benefit to technology when he and his wife and three children visited Washington, D. C. They were visiting the World War II memorial and decided to look up information in the Veterans Center about Chris’ grandfather’s brother-in-law, who had served in the war. “I typed in his name, and tons of information popped up,” Stein reported. “Using my phone, I took photos of everything I could find, and sent it immediately to my aunt, who was able to print it off and take it to my grandpa. He is a guy who still uses a rotary phone, but he was amazed to be able to see and read things that he never knew about his relative.” The Stein family keep in touch with their siblings, too, via what he calls “family spams.” Trips to the zoo or a sporting event or a school play involve videos or photos that are sent to all cousins and grandparents. It’s a way to let grandma and grandpa know what the kids are doing between visits and to share the fun with the whole family. “Yes,” he said, “we appreciate technology and how it makes us feel very connected all the time.” Grandparents wanting to learn more about how to use technology to keep in touch with their families might consider attending classes at the public library or local schools. Limited knowledge is required, but motivation makes the classes interesting and fun.
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Julie Malkin is the Director of Communications and Government Relations, Lucas County Children Services. Currently, a number of legislative changes are underway that are dramatically impacting child protection on both the state and federal levels. Federal support The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed on February 9, 2018 by President Trump. It reforms