While the pandemic has created many hardships for family togetherness, it has also brought out creativity in keeping in touch. No matter how busy life seems, taking a few moments to reach a loved one is always time well spent, whether together or apart.

Keeping in touch in current times can be difficult with restrictions, but the pandemic has also shown the importance of reaching out to your loved ones.
From the elderly living alone or in assisted living, college kids who aren’t able to easily travel home as often, and families missing their large holiday or annual gatherings, there are creative ways to stay in touch in new or old fashioned ways.
The answer is “technology.”
If it seemed like there was an app for everything before the pandemic, we now know it to be even more true.
While many apps and online services can make you scratch your head, there’s also some that are absolutely genius.
Digital picture frames have been around for quite a few years, but if you looked at or bought one a while ago, you may want to revisit as improvements have made them easier to use than ever.
With smartphone use so prominent, frames are now ideal for several family members to upload a photo and quick caption from their phones to compile easily all to one frame.
Frames are ideal for those not on social media but who would still love to see the sweet and silly pictures of their family’s day to day lives.
A bonus is that they don’t require much tech know-how or upkeep from the owner after being set up.
Another fun way to keep them up to date on photos, especially if they are not tech savvy or living on their own without tech help, are apps like Touchnote.
To use this app, you select a photo from your phone, type out a quick note and the app company prints and mails a postcard or card to whomever you want.
In an age where printing photos and keeping postage stamps on hand are nearly lost arts, this is a way to get those pictures out of phones and onto the refrigerator or picture frame.
For more in-depth connection, Storyworth is a program developed especially for an elderly family member.
When you enroll, the program sends out an e-mail prompt, usually of something you’d never think to ask, to your loved one.
Questions can be a variety of things, from funny moments to life shaping, such as “What was your favorite lunch to take to school?” to “If you could thank anyone, who would you thank and why?”
They simply type their answer in the e-mail and attach pictures if they want and at the end of the year, the program will put it all together in a hard bound book.
A great perk is that you can order multiple books at the end of the year so everyone can have a collection of stories to pass on.
Of course, phones still work as phones and hearing a loved one’s voice is irreplaceable — but sometimes before you know it, you’ve let a few weeks slip by before getting a call in.
To stay on track, try adding a time to call to your weekly schedule, before life’s surprises get in the way.
Look for times that your family is already together but not actively doing something else, like while driving to a team practice.
Ever hesitate to pick up the phone because you feel like you will run out of things to say?
Grab a deck of questions from a board game in the house or from a game company like TableTopics that ask fun, conversation-starting questions.
Make up your own game of “Would You Rather?” with a few internet searches to build a list of questions.
If you have elementary school kids, have your loved ones read a bedtime story to your children, and, as they progress, have the children read aloud to them.
Facetime, Zoom and other video services can enhance storytime, but a plain old phone call will work just fine.
Even with constant e-mail and social media delivering instant “news,” getting something in the physical mailbox is still exciting no matter the age.
Grab a book of stamps to keep near some envelopes and your address list and you’ll be set.
If your kids are constantly churning out drawings, artwork, or even writing assignments, rather than tossing them, drop a few in the mail to your loved ones.
Geographically-extended families have also hit a rough year for getting together.
For siblings and cousins who may have missed out on traditional holiday gatherings, try organizing a low-key new way to stay connected.
While it’s rare that every generation wants to watch the same movie, for a new release or a family tradition favorite, try a “Teleparty” viewing room, where different households all tune in for a movie or show at the same time with a group chat so everyone can “talk” during the movie.
Another way to make television interactive for a large family is to make it a competition!
Pick a television show everyone can watch, like “The Amazing Race” or “American Idol” and assign each family or family member a team and watch together in your own time to see who will win the season!
Make a small wager to up the ante.
Games can also be fun for those Zoom or video call inclined.
Think beyond the typical board games to things like Pictionary challenges drawn on the whiteboard feature of Zoom or “HeadsUp” where the person has to guess the word or picture on their head.
You could also designate a trustworthy host to lead a family-versus- family trivia game where each family holds up their written answer.
While the pandemic has created many hardships for family togetherness, it has also brought out creativity in keeping in touch.
No matter how busy life seems, taking a few moments to reach a loved one is always time well spent, whether together or apart.