If Skype visits are as close as you typically come to spending time with your loved ones, you're not alone. In our mobile society, few families can go over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for the holidays, let alone on a regular basis. That iconic Norman Rockwell painting of the grandparents serving up a bounteous Thanksgiving feast to several generations gathered around the table isn't a reality for many of us these days. For one thing, retirees tend to move to warmer and more affordable locales. For another, the kids and grandchildren often follow job offers to far-flung places. We end up with splintered families and we often feel hungry for more interaction with those we hold dear.
Not only that but for many families, remarriage and step-parenting have upped the odds that get-togethers will take some major orchestrating. As a result of all these factors, according to a recent survey commissioned by the National Council on Aging and Humana, Inc., a whopping 70% of Boomers responding said they wish they saw their families more throughout the year and 45% said that their families do not hold enough reunions.
Those statistics are especially important in light of the fact that the survey also revealed that 90% of those polled reported feeling revitalized when they do spend time with their families. What's so interesting is that one-third of the Boomer generation believe their role is to keep their families connected by encouraging communication, visits, and reunions. Also, 43% worry that younger generations won’t carry on their legacies and traditions. The survey additionally suggests that family reunions and relationships inspire Boomers to stay active, which in turn enhances their well-being.
With all of that in mind, why not make one of your top New Year's resolutions for 2012 that you'll take your "connector" role seriously? After all, as the elder and wiser members of the family, we know with increasing poignancy that life is too short to miss out on keeping up with those we love.
Here are some creative strategies to help you not only make the most of long-distance communication technology but also to increase the likelihood that you'll actually see your family more often:
Skype Appointments Especially if you and your far-flung progeny live in different time zones, don't leave Skype visits to spur-of-the-moment sessions. Email or call your daughter or daughter-in-law and set up a mutually convenient time when the kids are least likely to be cranky, hungry, or napping and when you won't be distracted by work or other obligations. Just as you probably wouldn't want your family to drop in unannounced in person, don't assume it's OK to drop in electronically without some advance planning.
Exchange videos With today's phones and digital cameras, making videos is really easy. You might tell stories, talk about family traditions, give your grandchildren a tour of your house and yard, let them see how cute your dog is when he's chasing a stick or how funny your cats are when they stage mock fights. In turn, have the younger generation show off gymnastic or dance prowess, read aloud to you, sing, or just tell you what they did at the zoo. You'll find that you'll all play these video treasures over again and again.
Facebook If you've resisted getting a Facebook page, break down and join the masses. Yes, the technology keeps changing and it can be confusing but seeing posts and photos of your long distance family members is nothing short of uplifting. Try it and see!
Record-a-Story books Several companies now make these clever books that let you record your voice as you read the story. One of the most popular in Hallmark's "The Night Before Christmas." In particular if you can't be with everyone over the holidays this year, let the little ones hear you read this all-time seasonal favorite.
Start a special savings account If the cost of airplane tickets and possibly even hotel stays seems prohibitive, get in the habit of socking away money little by little in an account you vow not to touch unless it's for going to see your family. You'll be much more likely to take the trips that will give you the kind of morale boost that only a real-time visit can bring. That's an investment in your long-term happiness and health that you can't afford to forego. Enjoy!