Connecting with my grandma during the pandemic

When it comes to supporting the older generation, little gestures can go a long way

Isolation is difficult, so keeping in touch with family is important.
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My grandma cries every time my family goes on vacation.

She knows she’s getting old and there’s always a small chance she may never see us again. As my grandma approaches her 90th birthday quarantined in her retirement home, I cannot imagine the sadness and isolation she feels.

I spent a lot of time with my grandma growing up. I grew up on a heritage farm and my grandparents lived in the house adjacent to mine. My grandma woke up every single day of my grade school education to watch me get on the school bus from her window. On days my parents came home late from work, I would go to my grandma’s and she would defrost one of her homemade muffins for me. We’d talk and play Skip-Bo, Chinese checkers, or do a jigsaw puzzle.

At the beginning of the pandemic, my grandma’s retirement home allowed the residents to visit their loved ones by the fence in the yard. My grandma would sit on a lawn chair behind a string of caution tape to create a six-foot barrier between her and the fence where we came to visit.

The summer months weren’t ideal, but visits by the fence made it bearable. On one occasion, my dad brought her to our house for the afternoon to sit by the pool as if things were normal—except for the masks that had to stay on the whole time.

Thanksgiving passed and my family did a big Zoom call with all my cousins, aunts, uncles, and my grandma—or, more accurately, my grandma’s forehead. When I was home, my parents reminded me to check in with my grandma more often when I was away at school. Between school, extracurriculars, and my friends, calling my grandma sometimes ends up on the bottom of my to-do list.

These last months have been difficult because not only is she living in a retirement home, but we’re also unable to connect in the ways that we used to. The winter months have been especially hard with the anniversary of my grandfather’s death and the weather now being too cold to visit by the fence.

I remind myself to call my grandma more often, but phone calls can be challenging due to my grandma’s hearing aids. To make matters worse, my grandma has decided that she is done with Zoom because she still hasn’t figured out how to use it on her iPad.

In these cold winter months, small gestures can go a long way. My grandma likes the cinnamon-raisin bread from Farm Boy, so once my mom and I dropped off a loaf at the front desk of her home as a small gift.

Valentine’s Day is also coming up, which is another opportunity to connect with her. Although the day is often associated with romantic love, it’s important to tell your family members you love them, too. Especially if one of your grandparents has lost their spouse, a Valentine’s Day gift probably means a lot to them.

The older generation has experienced a great deal of isolation and loneliness over this past year. While communication during these times isn’t always easy, small, thoughtful gestures like an email or loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread can mean the world to them.

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