The art of the chinwag: Retirement village residents' top tips on keeping in touch during lockdown

grandparents on a video call with grandchildren during lockdown
If you feel like you haven't spoken to loved ones in weeks, it's time to step up your phone game. Photo credit: Getty Images.

As Auckland enters its seventh week of lockdown, many of us are missing spending time with our loved ones. 

It's the little daily chats over coffee with coworkers, catching up with friends over a glass of wine, or cooking dinners for family that I miss the most in lockdown. 

While it's easy to see days go by without contact with the outside world, we should all make an effort to keep up those relationships, even without being physically present. 

In fact, making the effort to keep up conversations and chats in lockdown has been proven to help improve mental health. 

But in the age of a quick text message, emoji or Instagram DM, it can feel like technology has left our communications pretty surface level. 

We turned to several experts in the art of a good chinwag: Senior residents at NZ retirement village Metlifecare, for their tips on making your communication count. 

It's all about that face to face-time

Video calls are one of the best ways to keep in touch these days. You can get so much more out of seeing someone as you speak to them rather than staring down the end of a telephone line, or through text.

While a quick message checking in is appreciated, it's those engaging, thoughtful conversations that matter most.

Metlifecare resident Michael White told Newshub that when he was younger, most people kept in touch through writing letters. "We certainly didn't have cell phones back then, and it's amazing to me that young people can see each other's faces from across the world these days," he said. 

"When I was younger, if you did long distance, you could go years without looking your partner in the eyes – so I'd tell young people to make the most of the technology they've got!" 

Short isn't always sweet

While a quick text is great for an update or checking in, schedule time for longer conversations to really find out what's going on in the lives of friends and loved ones. 

Village resident Barb Foord, says that when she calls her friends, it's never a quick conversation. 

"We could talk to each other on the phone for hours on end – that's when you really get down to business with problem-solving together, brainstorming for the future with one another – and truly become lifelong friends," she said. 

Turn your catch up into an activity

Pop your headphones on and take your conversation with a friend on a walk, or Zoom them while you're making dinner.

Boyd Squires, from retirement village The Poynton, says that his family links up over a video call for a Friday happy hour. "It's nice to catch up and relax with everyone over Zoom – we often end up chatting on the call for hours as we enjoy the evening," he said.

"It's a great way to make an activity that we'd all be doing anyway – Friday drinks – into a social opportunity."

A picture says a thousand words

Since we can't catch up with loved ones outside of our bubble at the moment, one fun way to keep in touch is to send photos of the best moment of your day. 

Show off your latest baking creation, the highlight of your neighbourhood walk, or something that makes you smile.

The simple act of being able to share pictures is something that most aged care facility residents agree they would've loved to do in their youth, to show loved ones they're thinking of them.