The words will define our era for the rest of our lives: “social distancing” and “self-isolating.” As grandparents raising grandchildren, you may feel as though you already have more than enough experience with this, for instance when your old friends lost touch as you started parenting the second time. And now we live with explicit advice to avoid too much contact with family and friends.

Physical isolation! Not social isolation.

Here are three things you and your grandchildren might try to stay connected to people outside your home. You will probably need to make time to try these before they pay off. Could you trade 30 minutes of news viewing to dedicate to making friendly calls by phone or FaceTime? Are you willing to try to master unfamiliar technology? (Or, if you’re already tech wizard, could you help a friend learn Zoom?)

Join a Facebook group

The Ties that Bind group is moderated get together spot for Oregonian grandparents raising grandchildren. You are welcome. See the link on this page. Or find your own group. Hey, start a group!

Master a new, free technology

The video conferencing software Zoom has turned out to be the most used platform for online play dates and virtual parties. A free version of Zoom allows three people to gather virtually for 40 minutes at a time. For details of how to set up Zoom calls, go here.

New to this? Even though Zoom seems to be the easiest software to learn, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure there are no hammers within reach as you start. The helpless feelings of trying to learn something new from an impersonal bot or machine will drive the smartest person crazy. Be kind to yourself. Take it step by step. Resist the urge to shortcut or skip ahead in the instructions. Maybe give yourself a week as your learning curve. A tip: remember Zoom is designed for business use; it’s not very warm and fuzzy. Another thing: Zoom tends to “hide” features that can be seen only when you move your cursor around the page, especially the bottom and upper right corner.

One reason your children will love Zoom is that it will allows them freedom of movement since they don’t have to hold a phone– for example, on Zoom they can dance together. They can also share screens for games or learning activities.

Create a Circle of Care

A Circle of Care is a do-it-yourself way to check in on your neighbors and have them check in on you. The goal is to connect the needs of people to local community helpers and services. A Circle of Care can be any size—an individual, or a group. If you are starting yourself, a circle of 3-5 people is a good size.

Circles of Care are not being set up in a uniform way. Do what works best for you and your community.

You can help others whether you are fit and able to run errands or you are staying at home. If you are an organizer, you can help with coordination of a local group while other people are out doing the physical activities. You can start with a simple note you leave in a mailbox: “Hello, my name is _____________ and I live at ___________ . Is there anything you need? Just want to chat? Call or text me at ____________ .”

Our sponsoring organization, AGE+, has more information to get you started here.

In the end, maybe, Ma Bell is still best

Do you remember the AT&T slogan, “Reach Out and Touch Someone?” Text messages lack that warmth and timbre of a voice. They are easily misunderstood. And you are not an emoji.

In the early days of the pandemic, Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York, had a daughter in self quarantine. “To tell you the truth, I had some of the best conversations with her that I’ve ever had,” Mr. Cuomo told reporters. “We talked about things in depth that we didn’t have time to talk about in the past or we didn’t have the courage or strength to talk about in the past–feelings I had, about mistakes I had made along the way that I wanted to express my regret and talk through with her.”

Your relationships with other family members or your birth children may make this seem impossible. But these are new times. You could make a call.