By Deborah Anderson

From virtual Saturday night dinners, cocktails hours, and reading bedtime stories to grandchildren, the older generation have embraced new ways to keep in touch with their families during lockdown.

Until restrictions were put in place, which meant over-70s were among the groups urged to isolate for 12 weeks, grandparents were more used to face-to-face visits and catch-ups with their families. But now they are having to make do with virtual hugs until such times when restrictions are eased and they can be reunited with loved ones.

Before lockdown the online meeting service Zoom may have been used by some, but it has become one of the buzz words over the past few weeks as people try to connect and engage with families virtually.

With day centres and activity centres closed during lockdown, some groups have been trying to keep members in touch through Zoom sessions. At one centre run by the Erskine veterans' charity pensioners in their 90s have been getting to grips with Zoom meetings.

Debra Dickson, manager of Erskine Reid Macewen Activities Centre, said: “We have established an online Zoom community where our members can meet and continue to socialise with those who met on a regular basis at the centre. The community includes some much-needed banter, relevant updates and ends with a wonderful mindfulness journey of relaxation and positive thinking with our therapist. For those who require technical support our IT tutor is available.”

Feedback from families has been extremely positive and it's felt the online meetings are helping to keep spirits up

Mrs Dickson added: “We have had lovely message from families. One lady said her dad had really enjoyed the session and that it perked him up after being a bit low.”

Grandmother of five Jenny Mollison, 74, from Musselburgh, usually sees her grandchildren, aged between 22 months and 11 years, several times a week, but has been using video calls to stay in touch during the lockdown.

Mrs Mollison said: “Keeping in touch with Zoom is making such a difference to those of us grandparents who are locked down. I’ve been used to regular contact with all the family and it’s hard to get used to them being so close yet out of reach.

“Meeting up by Zoom has added a welcome dimension to our strange new existence and the possibilities are still developing. We celebrated my birthday with all the children and grandchildren singing and blowing out candles on cakes in their own houses. The downside was that I couldn’t taste their magnificent baking efforts.”

Mrs Mollison has been thinking of new ways to entertain the children on Zoom including reading bedtime stories.

She added: “Reading stories to the younger grandchildren isn’t the same as cuddling up on the sofa with them but a good second best. Taking the libraries’ Bookbug sessions as my role model, I’ve chosen stories with strong pictures and not too many words. But better than this has been listening to my five-year-old grandson, Theo, reading his school stories to me. If parents want half an hour of peace and quiet to get on with something else, it’s no hardship to sign me up for a session with one of the grandchildren.

“As a gardening enthusiast, I’ve got used to being asked horticultural questions in person. These days, we can examine pot plants, sow seeds, try to identify emerging seedlings and even take the laptop into the garden. I sent Theo some seeds and beans to plant and he enjoys showing me how they’re growing.

“The younger generations are much more computer savvy than I am and talking to a screen image comes as second nature to even the youngest."