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This Grandparents Day, Let Technology Bring You Closer
By Mark Hollis, AARP Texas

AUSTIN, Texas -- Ollie Besteiro’s face lights up and she gushes praise when conversation comes to the topic of her only grandson.

“He looks to me for advice and I also give him unsolicited advice,” she says. “He is the sweetest, kindest kid. He’s warm. He’s loving. He’s never met a stranger. He has friends everywhere.”

Besteiro, a retired teachers’ association leader in Austin and the current state president of AARP Texas, knows she is not unlike other grandparents: overwhelmed with affection for their grandchildren and proud role models to a younger generation.

Sunday, September 7, is Grandparents Day, an opportunity to reflect on the essential role grandparents play in the lives of families.

“There’s just a special relationship when you have a grandchild,” said Besteiro. “Having a grandchild is just unconditional love.”

The topic of grandparent-grandchild relationships is so important that AARP has conducted extensive research on the issue. An AARP telephone survey of more than 2,800 grandparents age 50 and up found that the economy and generational differences have shifted more responsibilities, especially financial ones, to grandparents. It also found that more than 80 percent of grandparents report speaking to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month. And they are often chatting about heady stuff: morals and values, religion and spirituality, peer pressure, and bullying. They’re also conversing about illegal drugs, alcohol use, dating and sex.

“My grandson will ask for my opinion and discuss issues with me that he probably wouldn’t with anyone else,” said Besteiro. “On the other hand, I’ll ask his advice about using computers, my iPad and cell phone.”

Despite access to technology, many grandparents don’t use gadgets to communicate with their grandkids, the AARP survey found. But some experts believe that’s changing. “Technology has been a great gift to the long-distance grandparent, offering new ways to connect and build relationships,” said Amy Goyer, AARP’s family expert. “It’s all about building a relationship through shared experiences. And if you can’t be together in person, then video chat, such as Skype, FaceTime, Tango, is the next best way to do that.”

Joe Sánchez of San Antonio, an associate state director of outreach and advocacy at AARP Texas, said he has witnessed hundreds of age-50-plus Texans graduate in recent months from two-hour personalized technology training seminars hosted by AARP TEK, which stands for technology, education, knowledge.

At the AARP TEK workshops, which are free to attend, participants learn how to use all aspects of smart phone devices, like cameras and social media applications. Classes have already taken place in San Antonio and more will soon be held in Austin, Brownsville and Houston, said Sánchez.

“I can’t begin to tell you how many participants arrive at the training saying they have a new smart phone and they don’t know how to use it or they have an iPad still in the box because they don’t know how to turn it on,” said Sánchez. “But they come out of the workshop realizing that this one little device has so much potential power in it. They come away with an understanding of how they can use this to better talk to their kids or grandchildren.”

To learn more about the technology workshops, visit the AARP TEK Technology Education Center website: http://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/tek/

 

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Mark Hollis an associate state director of communications and outreach at AARP Texas. He can be reached at mhollis@aarp.org or 512-480-2429.

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