Friday, May 13, 2011

From the WSJ:
OMG! My Grandparents R My BFF!
Forget the Sunday night phone call. Grandparents and grandkids are connecting— and connected—as never before.


Certainly, it's nothing new that kids are plugging in and staying connected. But what is new is that it may be a grandparent on the other end of that virtual tin can—and that technology is bridging the vast age and distance gap that has long divided the generations. "A group of us was having dinner, and one woman had to tell her husband to put his iPod Touch away. He was emailing his grandchildren," says Mary Henderer, a Wilmington, Del., grandmother of four.

It's a perfect storm of demographics and technology.

As a group, grandparents and grandchildren have plenty in common. They have free time, disposable income for gadgets and gizmos, and a keen interest in staying in touch with people.

As for technology, smartphones, tablet computers and digital cameras have made sharing fun instead of frustrating. And the affordability and speed of broadband Internet have made possible activities like video-chatting and streaming home movies.

The new era is in stark contrast to what took place in recent decades.

"When the baby boomers went to college and moved away, we lost an entire generation of connection between grandparents and grandchildren. They saw each other once or twice a year, and there was a real disconnect," says Andrew Carle, professor and director of the Program in Senior Housing Administration at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

"Now with technology, we are regenerating those bonds. People say technology is so impersonal, but we are watching it being used to reconnect one of the most personal and important relationships of the species."

Prof. Carle adds, "I watch my own kids talking to their grandparents 1,000 miles away, and I love it," he says. "They may take it for granted, but I only saw my grandfather once a year. Nothing will replace a hug, but this is as close as it gets."

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