Connectedness: relationships and community
For many older people, the lockdown has changed how they connect with their families, friends and communities, and how they feel about these relationships. For some, lockdown was an opportunity to reconnect with loved ones, as they remembered the relationships that mattered most to them. For others, the restrictions caused conflict and tensions in existing relationships: through spending a lot more time together at home, increasingly depending on one other, or disagreeing about how to comply with new and changing rules.
Older people who were physically separated from families and friends during the lockdown often found that technology was essential to help them feel more connected to their loved ones. For example, grandparents used video calling platforms like Zoom and FaceTime to read their grandchildren bedtime stories, support them with their homework, take part in family or community quizzes or learn new skills through online classes. In these times, many felt grateful for technology and the possibilities it offers to connect beyond physical restrictions—not least because they remember the days before the internet.
However, during lockdown, older people also often experienced first-hand the ‘limits’ of virtual connection—the loneliness felt by the silence at the end of a call, or the sadness of not being able to hug grandchildren waving from across the garden fence. What many older people missed most during the lockdown was human touch, especially at important occasions like birthdays, weddings and funerals. Their experiences highlight just how vital and irreplaceable physical touch can be.
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