How high tech can make the holidays great for grandparents

An expert on wellbeing for older people is urging people to think how they can use technology to make Christmas and the New Year special.

From Skyping on Christmas morning to karaoke festive sing-alongs, Jason Axford, one of Care UK’s lead experts on older people’s care, believes that the increase in technology in all our households provides lots of opportunities for families to help older members keep in touch and to access the things they love.

He said: “Music, songs and films are wonderful ways for families to connect and for memories to be re-awakened. The festive season gives us some great ways to have fun that can establish patterns of re-connecting for the coming year.”

For many older people, the world has become a much smaller place in their lifetime due to communications technology and travel. Christmas is a time to really benefit from the opportunities this brings.

Jason’s five ways to use technology to support older people – including those living with dementia

  1. Make the most of smart TVs, whether your relative has one or whether they are visiting you and you are seeking ways to keep them entertained. YouTube can unleash a treasure trove of much-loved songs, many with lyrics, so the whole family can enjoy a sing-along.
  2. Episodes of classic 1970s comedies such as Bless This House, Father Dear Father, And Mother Makes Three and many others are all available on YouTube and can be viewed on the TV or on a tablet or computer. Alternatively, there are box sets available from streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Netflix, as well as actual box sets of DVDs.
  3. Shazam it! Music is a wonderful way to connect with people and to trigger memories and conversations. Sometimes people can remember a tune but can’t remember the name – and younger members of the family might struggle to help. Younger members can join in by helping grandparents to find songs using music recognition apps such as Shazam. This not only makes children feel helpful and valued, but also they get to hear stories from their grandparents about when they were young and out listening to bands.
  4. For those looking for presents, Jason suggests an MP3 player. He said: “There is a wonderful website called Playlist for Life. It is a charity, founded by writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson, in memory of her mother who lived with dementia. A personal playlist can help to enhance memories, restore a sense of self and create new memories with friends and family. The website has guidance for people to make their own playlists and to help people who may be creating a playlist for a loved one.
  5. Teach your loved one to use video-calling apps such as FaceTime or Skype to stay in touch on Christmas Day and throughout the year. Skyping is wonderful for keeping in touch with relatives who live far away and it can also be used throughout the year to just stay in touch, to show grandparents works of art created at school and cups won on the football field.

Jason said: “I recently taught my father to use FaceTime and I was amazed when he used it the next week to contact me at a conference. It was wonderful, mum chipping in in the background, popping into view like a Jack-in-a-box. I could see they were well and we felt more connected than if we had made a phone call.”