Tag Archives: Zoom

How we’re getting creative – and using tech – to stay in touch

Back in the 1960s when this writer was young, there were only a few channels available for staying in touch with the grandparents.

We’d pile into the car and drive down to Montreal to see dad’s parents, and Saint John to see mom’s parents, at least once or twice a year. During any holiday we’d line up around the family landline while mom placed a rare long-distance call so we could hear their voices. And we’d send cards and write letters.

These days, it’s not always easy or possible to visit. So what are people doing to stay in touch with family and distant friends during the pandemic?

At the Stream MD blog , a list of creative ways to keep in touch are presented. Video-streaming is now easily available from your phone and computer, and using Zoom or Teams or Facetime is an excellent and safe way to see family and friends, the article notes.

If you have Netflix or Prime Video, you can hold a “virtual watch party” and see a movie with your family and friends online, the blog advises. Other ideas from Stream MD include having shared music playlists and taking online courses together.

The Which? blog in the UK talks about holding virtual birthday parties for friends using Zoom.

“I went to a surprise party the other night: about 30 of us gathered to sing happy birthday to a friend and give him the birthday present we’d all clubbed together to buy him – some new DJ decks,” writes blogger Kate Bevan.

“But don’t worry – even though he only lives over the river from me in Clapham, I wasn’t actually there. And neither was anyone else, except for his flatmate,” all thanks to the use of Zoom, she reports.

In addition to Zoom, the article mentions the Google Duo phone app and Facebook Portal; the latter is “so simple to use that it’s worth considering if you have a family member who is unsure with tech.”

Tech is great, but there are other ways to achieve success, reports the Healthy Vix blog.

Get the kids to make “a handmade card” for the older folks, the article advises. “The children, especially, love to make a handmade card to send to their Nana or other family members. It’s really exciting for them to make a card and walk to the local letterbox to post it,” the blog explains.

Also, if the grandparents aren’t going to be able to figure out technology, or have no one to help them with it, go old-school, Healthy Vix advises. “There’s no need for elderly relatives to get their head around social media or confusing technology when a good old phone call will suffice. Keep things simple and call your loved ones for a good old chinwag when you can. Just hearing each other’s voices can help you feel in touch and connected, even when apart,” the blog suggests.

It’s been a strange year for visiting family who are in seniors’ apartments or nursing homes. At one visit we were greeted by a fully-PPE-protected (and friendly) staffer who took our temperatures and logged our contact details before we could have a one-hour, heavily sanitizer-ized visit with the wife’s mom. Our cousin had to visit her mom from behind a barrier, waving across a parking lot. Our neighbour talked to his elderly dad in London by driving down there and lying on the grass outside his nursing home window so he could yell hello through the window.

Whatever works should be given a try.

Did you know you can stay in touch with the Saskatchewan Pension Plan (SPP) from the comfort of your own living room? When you sign up for MySPP you can see a record of your contributions, your account balance, information on investment returns updated monthly, and can review your personal contact information. Let your fingers do the clicking and check out SPP today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Looking for ways to beat the pandemic blues

Let’s face it – the spring, summer and fall of 2020 have been quite a downer. We’ve been made to be holed up at home, are restricted in what we can do, where we can go and who we can see, and are continually worried about our jobs, our kids, and the bills.

The pandemic has hammered our mental health, reports Global News. “A survey done in conjunction with the Mental Health Commission of Canada found that a whopping 84 per cent of those surveyed felt their mental health had worsened since the onset of the pandemic,” the network reports.

“Similarly, an Ipsos survey done for Addictions and Mental Health Ontario found 45 per cent of Ontarians reported their mental health had suffered during the pandemic, with 67 per cent saying they expect those effects to be `serious and lasting,’” reports Global.

Save with SPP took a look around to see if there are any ideas out there on how to ward off these feelings of depression and anxiety.

According to Triathlon Magazine Canada, research from the Journal of the American Medical Association has found that “by being physically active, depressive symptoms decreased.” Even five minutes of activity did the trick, the magazine reports.

Other tips – develop, and stick to, a routine, the magazine suggests. Avoid the “western diet” of “processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and refined grains” as it is associated with increased risk of depression, the magazine advises. Their final suggestion is to try, even with the restrictions in place, to stay in touch with friends and family. “While tedious, Zoom calls are good for our mental health, but in person is far better,” say the folks at Triathlon Magazine Canada.

Over at Psychology Today magazine, Dr. Erin Leyba offers some additional tips.

Taking a warm bath at least twice a week “may help relieve symptoms of depression… even more than exercise does,” she writes.

Exercises like “jogging, cycling, walking, gardening and dancing” help increase your blood circulation, which in turn helps shift your brain’s reaction to stress. Doing nice things for friends and family will produce a “helper’s high” that makes our brains feel better, she writes. Examples are calling or face-timing an elderly relative, delivering groceries to someone, thanking front-line workers via cards or buying them lunches, or donating money to help those impacted by COVID-19.

Reading, as well as calling or video-chatting with friends are also positive steps to ward off depression, she writes.

The advice from the federal government is similar. Let your doctor know if you think you are suffering from depression, the feds advise, as depression “is a serious but treatable illness.”

Avoid isolation, the federal website urges.

“One-on-one interactions, such as going to a movie or out for coffee with a friend are also good forms of social contact. Being around others provides support, companionship and has a good effect on your general health,” the site notes, agreeing that physical activity and a healthy diet are also pluses.

These are all good pieces of advice that we all should take note of as we watch the pandemic play out. A colleague of ours once said that every crisis has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It’s nice to imagine the end of this one.

If saving for retirement is one of your worries, a solution may be joining the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s great to have professionals running your investments (rather than trying to figure it out yourself), and the SPP grows your money at a very low fee. When it’s time to turn your savings into retirement income, SPP offers a variety of lifetime pension options via annuities. Check them out today!

Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

Taking a look back at some of the things we started doing more of during the pandemic

There’s no question that one day, when we are telling our future grandchildren about what the pandemic was like, we’ll be asked “so what did you do when you had to stay home?”

Now that we are beginning to see the end of some of the daunting restrictions that have closed restaurants, stores, gyms, the Legion, hockey rinks, golf courses and other key parts of our lives, it’s worth remembering what people got up to while stuck at home.

According to a story in Patch magazine, many of us have desperately been trying to buy more yeast and flour.

“For so many who’ve been holed up in quarantine, cooking — and especially baking — has meant either a return to the comforting recipes of childhood or a foray into a whole new world of culinary creativity. Baking bread from scratch, a long-ago tradition, is suddenly a focus, along with Zoom cocktail parties, Netflix binges, and morning gatherings around the TV to listen to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo discuss coronavirus strategies, and yes, the meatballs and sauce of his childhood Sundays,” the story notes.

While various Internet-based teleconferencing apps, and drive-by birthday celebrations are a big deal, there are more basic ways to stay in touch with others, reports the CBC.

In the suburbs of Winnipeg, a group of seniors at a retirement home wondered how they would handle having to miss their usual weekly get-together in the facility’s restaurant.

“Every Sunday, dozens of people go onto their balconies or stand physically distanced in the courtyard at L’Accueil Colombien to bang on pots, ring bells and sing O Canada for about 15 minutes,” the CBC reports. And according to one of the founders of this new tradition, the goal is to stay in touch.

“I just thought of it because I had heard that somewhere, I think it was in France, at 6 o’clock they would come on their balcony and they would sing,” St. Vincent tells the CBC. “I’m not a singer, so I said, ‘Well, we can ring [bells], we can make noise.'”

Those of us who could continue working at home did, and for some it was quite an eye-opener, reports Global TV.

“A recent survey from Statistics Canada found that approximately 4.7 million Canadians who do not usually work from home did so during the week of March 22 to 28,” the network reports.

“I think this has been a revolution. It was something that was thrown at us, but we have found that working from home has really been working quite well,” consultant Barbara Bowes tells the network.

“I think that from an employer’s perspective, they can save so much money from rental spaces; they will seriously take a look at how they can balance how much time and who is in the office through technology. It is going to change the way we work altogether,” she says in the interview.

Another unexpected fringe benefit to the pandemic – a time when few are driving anywhere, since there is essentially nothing to do but shop for groceries, hit the drug store, or refresh your beer supply – is cleaner air, reports the Toronto Star.

“When you clean up the air, you see a reduction in mortality,” Stanford Professor Marshall Burke tells the newspaper. “It highlights the things we may want to change when we don’t have an epidemic.”

Finally, one last thing some of us are finding is that we aren’t spending as much money.

“If you add it all up, the average family is saving $1,700 a month when you factor in commuting costs, childcare costs, the amount of money folks are saving by not going out to eat, especially not going to the bars,” researcher Nick Johnson tells Milwaukee’s WISN.

It’s certainly been a strange time that none of us will ever forget, a once-in-a-lifetime thing – hopefully.

If you are among the fortunate few who have been able to keep working and have a few extra dollars left over, don’t forget to tend to your retirement savings. Those savings need a little care and occasional watering to grow, so any extra bits of cash you can spare today could be directed to your Saskatchewan Pension Plan account. You’ll be able to harvest those dollars, which will be professionally invested and grown, when you reach retirement age. Your future self-will, no doubt, thank you.

Written by Martin Biefer
Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock. He and his wife live with their Shelties, Duncan and Phoebe, and cat, Toobins. You can follow him on Twitter – his handle is @AveryKerr22