Anyone who knows me, knows that the only way to stay young - is to surround yourself with young people! And who better than our own grandkids who keep me feeling young and switched on. And I'm not alone, apparently because, about a year ago, a retirement home development company called McCarthy & Stone ran a survey amongst grandchildren which found 65% of children think of their grandparents as 'cool' and can talk to their granny and granddad about anything.
The talking part of the relationship is, of course, the most important. Along with making sure there are cakes available at every visit, a decent amount of pocket money and the occasional 'naughty' treat - surely, that's what we're here for as grandparents isn't it?
To be really 'cool' grandparents, I do believe in embracing technology which should happen alongside all the usual things like playing card games and visiting the occasional museum. I say alongside because that's surely the way it should be - not one or the other but both.
My weekly radio show 'We've Got Mail' on the DAB station 'The Wireless' brings me hundreds of letter from older listeners. The majority, sadly, are about coping with loneliness - an all too prevalent problem where we might have lost partners or our families are spread far and wide. We all know that keeping the communication going between the generations is so important but not always easy. Especially now, when so many families live apart from each other - sometimes even whole continents apart. I absolutely love Skype and Facetime for this very reason, I can see family wherever they are, just at the touch of a button. I'm about to set off on one of my cruise ship lecture tours - and this technology is invaluable.
But there's more to keeping in touch than just messaging and calling each other. There are more and more ways to engage with our grandchildren in a way we can enjoy as much as they will do.
As you know I have my own website www.primetimelife.tv and my 'team' constantly make me learn new things from making my own videos, to experimenting with new technology. My latest 'trial by technology' is my iPad which at first, I didn't think I would use. Now, I'm addicted! The news, Youtube, health and fitness bloggers from around the world - it's utterly brilliant. Every so often I download one app or another to try something new, I read books, magazines and even add up my daily exercise quota (Myfitnesspal - brilliant!).
The latest I've found is an app especially created for grandparents to share with grandchildren. It's called Gingersnap (see http://www.gingersnapadventures.com/ for an introduction) because it's educational but with a fun twist on everything and bang up to date. This week, for example, they've just updated the app with an entire history of Rugby (to tie in with the rugby world cup), there's recently been a Battle of Britain adventure and they've worked with all sorts of museums to come up with songs, quizzes, stories - all sorts and you can add a photo in of yourself (I make a great Queen Elizabeth 1st!). Every week there's a new adventure you can send over to your grandchild, it schedules in a little bit of 'gran and me' time which is great fun.
But of course we have to be aware that the 'digital age' has its own issues - so what we all need is a checklist when trying any new app.
- Is it parent approved? Because all communications between our grandchildren and us should require the express approval of a parent.
- Can you make sure of your grandchild's privacy? With GingerSnap, for example, all communications are private because all our shared adventures, photos and messages are only visible to approved family members.
- And check your app doesn't have any pesky ads, pop-ups, in-app purchases or links.
I would love to hear from readers who have discovered their own ways to use technology to keep in touch with their extended family. Email me at email@example.com and I'll do a round up for my very next blog.
I also love an app called Kindoma (see Kindoma.com for a little video on how it works). It's a way to read to your grandchildren wherever you are in the world - your face appears in the corner of the screen whilst you read it out to the child on the ipad, it's genius! I love the way technology and the digital world isn't all about texting, tweeting and keeping track of life, generally. It can also just be downright good fun. Anyway, I'm off to try and work up my 'Popjam' score (another highly addictive game to play with grandchildren!).