Happy senior couple having fun while making video call over mobile phone at home.

Bridging the Distance, One Smile at a Time

The importance of meaningful relationships to our overall health and well-being can’t be underestimated. We have a fundamental need to connect with other humans and a desire to spend time with loved ones.

Yet, social distancing and isolation during long months of lockdown have limited our ability to enjoy the physical closeness we crave. And no one has felt the restrictions more than the elderly.

But on October 1, two commemorative days remind us that there’s more than one way to stay connected with family, friends, and neighbours.

World Smile Day®

World Smile Day® was the brainchild of Harvey Ball, creator of the smiley face.🙂 Ball hoped the Day would encourage acts of kindness to make people smile.

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness. ~ William Arthur Ward

Smiles come in all shapes and sizes — a bright, cheerful smile offered to a neighbour; a tender smile toward a loved one; a reassuring smile to calm an anxious friend. Each one is a simple act of kindness that feels as good to the giver as it does to the receiver.

When you smile, your body produces chemicals that improve your mood, like a natural antidepressant. And because smiles are contagious — we often mimic the facial expressions we see — your smile has the power to make a world of difference to someone in need of a boost.

These days, when our mouths are so often covered by a mask, it’s easy to question the point of a smile that can’t be seen. But a genuine smile lifts the corners of your mouth, triggering a chain reaction that raises your cheeks to crinkle the outside corners of your eyes. And it’s these crinkles or ‘laugh lines’ visible above your mask that tell others there’s a smile underneath.

International Day of Older Persons

This year’s theme is ‘Digital Equity for All Ages’. It recognises the importance of providing older persons with access and opportunity to participate in our digital world. It also seeks to tackle the stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination that often work to discourage them.

So, why is this important?

Well, there are many reasons why seniors might avoid technology and the internet. For example, poor eyesight, hearing loss, difficulties using a touch screen, lack of confidence, privacy concerns or a fear of being duped by online scammers.

But whether we like it or not, technology is changing the way we live and work. Think about home-schooling, remote working, online banking and shopping, medical care via telehealth, QR codes and contact tracing, government assistance, and social supports. The list goes on.

More importantly, technology is transforming how we relate to each other, making it easier to keep in touch with distant family and friends.

There are many avenues of communication available to us. Younger people favour online interaction via social media or messaging apps. On the other hand, you might prefer more traditional means — a hand-written card or letter or a verbal conversation.

But consider this — do the young’uns in your life communicate with you in the way you want as often as you’d like?

If the answer is no, let that be the motivation you need to dip your toe in the digital world. Learn how to connect with the younger brigade on their terms, and your contact with them might become more regular.

5 ways technology can help you make someone smile

So, today, why not take up the challenge to exercise your superpower — the ability to make someone smile — using technology?

  1. If you’re unsure but willing to learn, ask a friend or family member to talk you through the basics of using a smartphone, tablet or computer. It’ll be an act of kindness sure to put a smile on their face as well as yours.

  1. Make a video call to a loved one. Let them see your smile and enjoy looking at theirs while saying how much you miss them.

  1. Send someone an email or text message with a smiley face 🙂 to show you’re thinking of them. Younger people love emojis.

  1. Follow friends and family on social media and ‘like’ 👍 or comment on their posts. Positive affirmation makes us all smile from the inside.

  1. Use your device to access and enjoy your favourite kind of entertainment — streaming services delivering music, TV shows or movies, YouTube videos and online classes, eBooks and audiobooks. Put a smile on your own face.

Above all, be kind to yourself. Turn your frown upside down. Act the way you want to feel, and the whole world might just smile with you.

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