Staying connected in a shrinking world

When a black bear came calling

staying connected in a shrinking worldIn a shrinking world, no-one, not even faraway family is too far away. And thanks to modern technologies, what was once unimaginable is possible today.

For instance, a few days ago, when a black bear came calling late at night at my older son’s house, my husband and I were in a huddle with him and my daughter-in-law about this unexpected visit … in minutes.

a black bear came callingSo what’s unusual about this? Two things. My husband and I were in our house in Navi Mumbai, India; my son was in his own house more than 12,000 kms away in the US. And secondly, as we launched into an animated chat, and my son pointed to where he had seen the enormous black face outside his window and even showed us the muddy mess the bear had made on their door mat, it felt like we were in the same room.

It happened like this. It being a Friday night, my son and daughter-in-law had stayed up a little longer than usual and were watching TV in their living room. A sudden loud noise outside made my son go over to the window and roll up the blind. It was dark outside but he could make out a large, black shape close to the window glass.

when a black bear came callingWhen he turned on the porch light, he and my daughter-in-law were startled to see what looked like a giant teddy bear gazing back at them with dark, beady eyes, within hand-shaking distance, but thankfully on the other side of the window. They were looking at the huge head and upper torso of a black bear – a Mama bear, as they came to know later. The animal had been caught in the act of trying to get at their sugar-water bird feeder suspended from the eaves barely two feet from the window.

After giving them the fright of their lives, the bear lumbered across their front yard and disappeared into the darkness of the night. Without wasting any time, my son immediately darted outside and brought the bird feeder in.

Then remembering that their cat Gizmo was out in the carport, possibly fast asleep in the bed they had made for him on a table there, my daughter-in-law and he went outside to check on him. The smart feline had taken cover under my son’s Subaru.

Sharing experiences as they happen

gizmoNo sooner Gizmo was safely back indoors than all four of us were confabulating over a Skype video chat. And even as my husband and I listened wide-eyed to the story of the nocturnal visitor, we could see an agitated Gizmo pacing repeatedly towards the front door and clawing at it like he usually did when he wanted to be let out. But obviously, for his own good, though black bears are not considered to be dangerous, he had to spend that night indoors.

As we continued chatting, my son noticed a light come on in the house next door, and excusing himself, went across to tell the neighbours about the black bear prowling around in the neighbourhood. Minutes later he was back on our iPad screen. The neighbours had told him there had been recent sightings of a Mama bear and her two cubs foraging for food.

Due to the abnormally higher temperatures in eastern parts of the US, the bears were out of hibernation earlier than usual, and were catching a lot of people unawares. Generally, in the summer time, people took their bird feeders indoors once it got dark lest the bears get at them.

Soon my younger son who also lives in the US joined us on a group video call following a What’sApp message from my older son about the surprise bear encounter. Finally, we wished them goodnight and logged out.

But it was not all over yet. Around ten minutes later, we were on a Skype video chat again. The bear, who had still been loitering around, had returned to have a second go at the bird feeder. That’s when we realised why Gizmo had been pacing around like crazy. He could sense the bear was outside.

My son said this time when they turned on the porch light and saw the large headed bear looking straight back at them, Gizmo started behaving like a dog! He bared his teeth, and put on his fiercest “Get lost!” look as he tried to stare down the intruder. And that’s how, thanks to Skype, my husband and I got to be a part of the action that night (day in our part of the world) as it unfolded.

Life as a senior is more exciting today

Around a decade ago, when my late mother was visiting my sisters in the US, her reaction to being able to see me on a computer screen as she chatted with me from across the miles was “Ojap! (The word for ‘miracle’ in my mother tongue Konkani.) How is this possible?”

Yes, fascinating new technologies are not only making the world a smaller place, they’re adding a touch of magic to our lives. And thanks to such digital innovations, those of us who are retirees today are living fuller lives than our grandparents did.

Now we can make our lives as fruitful, and as zestful as we want to. Tech-savvy seniors are harnessing the benefits of technology to lead active lives even in their eighties (in some cases, till their nineties).

With social networking (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and Apps like WhatsApp, even those who have restrictive health problems or find it difficult to travel can easily stay connected with their loved ones. Life as a senior today no longer means being socially isolated.

With Skype, those who have siblings, parents, children, grandchildren, or friends living far away from them, whether on the other side of town or the globe, can enjoy face-to-face visits with them electronically, and as often as they want to. That too, without burning a hole in their pockets or retirement savings, which would have been the case if they had to make expensive long distance phone calls.

Get Skype and get a life!

So if you’re a senior and have not yet experienced the benefits of Skype, the faster you download this priceless but free App (or get someone to do it for you) the better. It’s not for nothing that an increasing number of older people are learning to use technological devices today.

Moreover, technology is more user-friendly today than ever before and once people make technological conveniences a part of their life, they wonder how they had got along without them till now.

But if you’re young and able, and know of a senior who needs help with staying connected to loved ones, do them a favour and help them to start Skyping.

benefits of skypeSome might make excuses like “I’m too old for this” or “I don’t need anything like this” or blurt a nervous “I’m not sure I’ll be able to learn this”, and it might take more patience to teach an aging parent or grandparent to use Facebook and Skype than it would take to teach an old dog new tricks, but don’t give up. Once they get the hang of things they’ll bless you abundantly.

Staying connected in a shrinking world is convenient and easily manageable. Today, there’s no reason for anyone young or old to lead a lonely life. And don’t ever feel your family or loved ones are far away from you. They’re not. They’re just a Skype chat away!

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2 Responses to Staying connected in a shrinking world

  1. Cynthia says:

    Wow, what an exciting story! These kinds of encounters with nature are so rare. I wonder if 20 years from now, such an encounter could be possible in that neighbourhood. Let’s hope yes!

    • Veena Patwardhan says:

      Yes Cynthia. I hope so too. If in the name of ‘progress’ man doesn’t further encroach into spaces meant for wild life, things will remain the way they are in these parts – with man and beast living as friendly neighbours!

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