Bridging the Communication Gap between Generations

By Pat Jurgens 

          The phone rings four times and the call is picked up by a recorder: “Hi, this is Jeff. Not home now. You know the drill.”

          Across the country Jeff’s retired mother Annette puts down the receiver in resignation. She was hoping to talk with her son about coming home for the holidays. She wonders if he’ll call back while airfares are still on sale. It could be days before she hears from him.  

          Seniors who are retired probably have more time than ever before. We have the chance to think about our lives and the people we love. And we may lose touch with loved ones if we don’t keep up with the rapidly changing world. 

          When was the last time you had a lengthy conversation with your son? Or received a newsy letter from your niece? Letters home are now a thing of the past; even thank-you notes are rare. The landline telephone is fast disappearing, and Smartphones have expanded functions with access to Internet, email and texting. Our grown children no longer need to be at home or in the office to conduct business, plan family outings or talk with friends. They can let all their friends and family know what they’re doing on Facebook with photos and chat. It may be less personal, but communication is instant in our children’s world. 

What to do?  

           If your grown children live in distant places it may be a matter of discovering what form of communication works best for them. After days of leaving messages on the telephone recorder, Annette finally begins to realize that whenever she emails her son she receives a reply rather quickly. It is her insistence on wanting to talk with him by phone that keeps her unconnected.  When she tries texting him a message, she immediately gets a return phone call. Bingo!

          The key is for us is to be willing to change our expectations and learn to be open to new ways of communicating.  

          In the workplace people keep up with the latest technology. Those of us no longer prodded by a work environment need to find other ways of keeping current: 

   Our best resources may be the people with whom we want to communicate, our kids. They can set us up with Internet access and email, and explain Skype where you can talk to and view the other person over the Web. They can also teach us about specific applications, such as how to manage photos, download music or use a GPS.

   A young neighbor may be willing to problem-solve computer issues in exchange for driving him to the airport or by thanking him with a homemade apple pie. 

   The public library has free Internet access if you don’t have it at home; they often provide classes in how to navigate the Internet and operate word processing. 

Instant Communication Devices

          If you’re on the go, an iPhone or iPod may be a convenient option for email, accessing your calendar, taking and sending photos or listening to music. Smaller than a laptop, the iPad may be just the thing to take on a trip, enabling you to get hotel reviews, find a route by GPS and download photos from your camera. The Kindle is a great new electronic format for reading ebooks. Be willing to explore the new options and ask questions. You don’t have to know about everything that’s out there. It’s about being interested in what’s here and now, the world in which the younger generations are living. 

          Since they grew up with computers and found electronic games in their Christmas stockings, younger folks seem to understand electronics with a quick, intuitive sense. We did not. Still, be assertive in communicating with your children and grandchildren. If they don’t respond, don’t give up. Keep a positive frame of mind and keep trying. Sooner or later they’ll “get the message.” 

          By being open, interested and willing to learn new skills, we’re providing role models for those who come after us. This may be the best gift you’ll ever give your loved ones. 




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