Grandparents take new skills into their golden years post pandemic

An Edmonton author, wellness counsellor and grandmother says many Canadian grandparents are coming out of the pandemic stronger and more grounded.

For seniors, missing out on more than a year of milestones and family celebrations forced them to learn technology and other ways to connect with family.

Read more: Many seniors struggle with loneliness. The pandemic has only made it worse

“I think when we use the word ‘recovery,’ we think that we can go back to the way it was, said Aukje Kapteyn, a grandmother of seven. “But recovery isn’t about that.

“It’s a new adaptive way of going forward.”

Kapteyn, 72, released her first non-fiction book called Grounded Grandmothers, a self-help book Aukje said will “reach an aging population who struggles with purpose and meaning navigating limitation, losses and the challenges of a very quickly changing world.”

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She said feeling that “things are beyond our control” can force grandparents to feel helpless, but knowing they made it through the pandemic has shown them “we can learn to take charge of the little things.”

Author and grandmother, Aukje Kapteyn with her non-fiction book, Grounded Grandmothers. Supplied

Kapteyn said the first step is to let go of the feeling of fear they’ve had over the past year and a half.

“I think when we feel isolated and lonely, we tend to kind of spiral downwards and that’s not helpful,” said Kapteyn.

“When we find that inner wisdom and we ground ourselves and centre ourselves, I think we can cope much better.”

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Kapteyn reflected on her own time in isolation and said she worked harder on her relationships with her three children.

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“So, I had more real conversations. We didn’t do this nonsense stuff, right? We were being real. We worked through stuff and now I’m looking forward to reaping the benefits of that.”

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Dorothy McVey, a grandmother and great-grandmother in Edmonton said she’s always been open and close with her family, but the conversations have changed.

The most difficult part of the pandemic was not seeing the little ones.

“I have seven little great-grandbabies,” said McVey, “I had not seen them since the pandemic started.”

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McVey reflected on the past 14 months and said part of her “golden years” were full of ups and downs.

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“We’ve kind of found that they’re not as golden as we thought they might be.”

But, McVey considers herself fortunate. She said despite being away from family, who wanted to protect her from potentially contracting COVID-19, she was able to visit with other residents at her Cantebury seniors home and stressed the staff were wonderful.

“It’s not been all that bad.”

Read more: Alberta seniors hopeful for future as COVID-19 vaccines open to those 75 and older

McVey learned how to use Zoom and other social media.

“I was computer illiterate, to a point. I’m addicted to Facebook on my iPad and spent much too much time on that,” smirked McVey and said it helped pass the time when visitors were restricted.

With her newfound “freedom,” McVey can’t wait to return to farmers’ markets and go shopping. Most of all, she is looking forward to seeing all of her extended family.

Kapteyn, too, is looking forward to one thing more than anything.

“Oh I really look forward to my hugs with my grandkids. I think that’s really very precious to me and the freedom to just go out for a coffee with a friend.”

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