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Lockdown hasn’t been easy for anyone, and many of the nation’s grandparents have had to endure additional challenges.
Before the pandemic, many grandparents enjoyed having a hands-on role in their grandkids’ lives, picking them up from school and hearing all about their daily lives and latest interests.
But then, everything changed, and many active, sociable members from the older generation were forced to shield away from their loved ones, without the catch-ups and daytrips and all the everyday joys that make life fun.
Sadly, loneliness among older people is on the rise, with figures from Age UK showing that one million people will go more than one month without speaking with anyone at all. Coronavirus has, of course, heightened this sense of isolation.
For many of us, this has been a time of restrictions and loneliness, birthday parties reduced to Zoom quizzes, a flurry of WhatsApp messages where there had once been face-to-face coffees and cocktails.
It’s perhaps not surprising, therefore, that given to need to adapt, more and and more young people are using gaming as a tool for socialising and keeping up with friends.
But for older people who may not always be as up-to-date with the latest technology, maintaining this important sense of human connection has proven particularly difficult.
Vandra, from Elmsbridge, Essex, is in her early seventies and the proud gran to three grandchildren: Grace, 14; Ella, 10; and Lewis, seven.
Before the pandemic, Vandra had been ‘very hands on’ with the children, having ‘always been there for them’. Sadly, like so many families up and down the country, lockdown was ‘very hard’ for them all.
Vandra told UNILAD:
I found it devastating, depressing and just sad. We knew what we had to do, but we had no control over anything so it left us just really out of touch.
Lewis, my youngest grandchild, couldn’t really understand what was going on and was getting really upset, which in turn made me even more upset.
However, there was one ‘real positive’ to come out of it all: Vandra finally decided to take a leap and ’embrace technology’.
Vandra, who worked as a senior logistics clerk for C&A Clothing before her retirement, never regarded herself as being particularly good with technology. Although her kids would try and teach her a few bits, Vandra would sometimes find it ‘went over my head a little’.
According to Vandra:
To be totally honest, I’m more of a snakes and ladders gal, but with three grandchildren, between iPads and consoles and flossing (the dance), they keep me in touch with the modern world.
And so it was that, during lockdown, Vandra learned how to become a gamer, all thanks to a brilliant Beyond Generations initiative launched by Retirement Villages Group and Xbox with the purpose of encouraging ‘the older generations to connect with their grandchildren in a completely new and exciting way’.
Vandra told UNILAD that, although she found gaming to be a ‘little daunting to begin with’, she ultimately found it to be ‘more interesting than tricky’.
The fact I was able to talk to my grandchildren and get encouragement, it made me forget about the daunting aspect.
Before I knew it, I was playing a racing game and beating them! I thought the controller was a steering wheel at first so I was tilting it left to right but I eventually got the hang of it. To be honest, I was more interested in just chatting than the actual game, but it was a great way to do it!
Vandra was thankfully never too lonely, having found an ‘amazing community’ within her retirement village. However, she did find that there was ‘a hole that only my family could fill’.
Getting to grips with gaming really helped her fill this gap, with gaming being an activity she regards as ‘just another way that we can spend time and bond’, just as they would have done under normal circumstances.
Considering what she would say to any other grandmas and grandads thinking of picking up a console, Vandra advised just to ‘go for it’, remarking that she would ‘definitely’ continue being a gamer now restrictions are lifting.
It’s quite ironic that we’re always trying to get the youngsters away from screens and yet, here we are trying to get us oldies in front of the screens…
Of course, Vandra is far from the only grandma who has had to struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation in recent times.
Hopefully her story might encourage others to give their grandparents a tutorial in Halo or Red Dead Redemption. Who knows, they may well end up running rings around you.
You can find out more about the Beyond Generations initiative here.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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