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staying connected Gran (70) reveals how learning to use Zoom and WhatsApp helped ease isolation

I do go out to the shops but I would only go at a certain time and you’re very aware, even if you meet somebody, you don’t stand and talk. It’s really tough, you know."

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A Co Louth grandmother of five has revealed how learning to use Zoom and WhatsApp at 70 helped ease her isolation and stay connected with her beloved family.

Margaret Molloy decided to improve her technology skills so she could stay in touch with her son who lives in Galway with three of her grandchildren, her daughter, and her children and also play bridge online.

Louth County Council has just launched a new initiative called Superconnectors, which asks families to buy smart devices for older relatives and teach them how to use them.

The council’s Age-Friendly co-ordinator, Mary Deery explained: “We are asking children to use software such as TeamViewer to take control of their grandparents’ screens, set up accounts and teach them how to use apps in real-time.

“Most of us are used to Zoom and Teams meetings, but how many of us can say that they are simple for older people to set up?

“Older people need technology in their hands for practical things but also to combat the loneliness and isolation of Covid-19 – so giving them a helping hand on tech could be the ultimate gift this Christmas.”

It’s hoped Superconnectors will help people like Dundalk woman Margaret, who lives by herself and is limiting her social contacts due to health concerns, to stay in touch with their loved ones and friends.

Margaret told the Sunday World: “I had a little bit of knowledge. I went for training then, I found it great for myself. Now with the pandemic, I can’t meet family, my age, plus I’d be vulnerable, from a health point of view.”

“I have a son in Galway. He has three children, I haven’t seen them since last July. And then I have a daughter here in Dundalk, she also had health issues herself, she’s nervous now herself.

“She’s afraid I would get it because I have an ongoing health issue.”

Margaret revealed that she may not see her grandsons in Galway this Christmas, adding: “It is tough. It’s quite isolated.

“I do go out to the shops but I would only go at a certain time and you’re very aware, even if you meet somebody, you don’t stand and talk. It’s really tough, you know."

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Margaret’s son encouraged her to learn how to use Zoom and WhatsApp and after a few initial difficulties, she got the hang of things.

And, she now feels much more confident about using technology and is encouraging others to give it a go.

“It’s the fear of technology”, she said.

“I think it’s so important for our age group to be able to go on social media. You don’t feel so isolated then because you’re keeping up to date with what’s going on.”

Margaret also uses Zoom to join her weekly bridge class which helps pass the time and allows her to socialise from the safety of her home.

“It was great that we were able to go on, he (bridge teacher) told us exactly what to do. That alone even is great.

“I think this is the way forward because this is going to have a big impact on our lives. Even when we do get the vaccine, I think we’ll still have to be social distancing and all that. Maybe I’m wrong, I hope I am.”

Margaret added: “I’m sure there’s a lot of people who don’t have that contact. It must be desperate, it must be so isolating for them.”

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