Call Grandma: Survey shows older adults want more family connection during pandemic

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Too wrapped up in your own chaotic life to regularly check in with mom and dad or grandma? A survey conducted by Medicare Advantage, a health insurance company, showed many grandparents wish their grown children and grandchildren would communicate more during the pandemic.

COVID-19 is the official name of the disease related to the coronavirus that first started to affect people at the end of 2019. 

The survey polled 479 Americans aged 55 or older on March 27. Nearly 60% of those who responded said they wish they had more communication with family. 

Communication stats

Grandparents have seen an uptick in communication but still want more.

While 40% said they have been communicating more often with grown children and grandchildren during the novel coronavirus pandemic, the same percentage wished they had more communication.

About a quarter said they would like richer and deeper conversations with loved ones. 

Fifty-seven percent of seniors communicate with their adult children at least once a day, with 41% saying they communicated by text or talking multiple times each day. Just 20% reported hearing from grandchildren daily.

How best to communicate with senior family members

Your preferred method of communication may not be the same as your parents’ or grandparents’.

According to the survey, most grandparents prefer to see grandchildren in person (65%), however, when not available, video chat is the next preferred method (21%).

One “interesting subtlety” emerged when asked about their preferred form of communicating with their adult children: 26% of older adults most prefer to speak to their children by phone, but only 13% prefer using video chat, the study said.

And while adult children often communicate by text (one-third said it was the most used method), only 8% of respondents said text was their preferred method for connecting with their children.

None of the respondents reported a preference for social media communication. “In fact, roughly 3 in 10 grandparents say they specifically dislike using social media as a means of communicating with their grandchildren.”

More: Coronavirus senior shopping: Which Vermont stores offer special hours?

Connecting in new ways

The outbreak has spurred many mature adults to try new forms of technology, proving you can teach an old grandma new tricks to communicate.

“64% of older adults reported using a new technology during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to communicate with grandchildren or adult children,” the survey said.

Technology older adults have tried for the first time include FaceTime (18%), text messaging (13%), internet phone calls (9%), Skype (6%), Facebook Live (5%), email (3%), Zoom (3%) and Houseparty (2%).

Protecting vulnerable loved ones

In addition to providing human connection to family members not able to meet in person, it is particularly important to check in with seniors who are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. 

In this way, you can aid in keeping the seniors in your life healthy and happy.

Contact April Barton at abarton@freepressmedia.com or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.

All coverage of the coronavirus is being provided for free to our readers. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Free Press.

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