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Keeping family connected

Family FaceTimes ‘Grammy’ into wedding

Created date

December 17th, 2014
woman holding up her iPad

“It’s funny. Sometimes the solution to a large problem is right in front of your face, literally,” says Joan Lehman.

For months, Joan, who lives at Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., agonized over how she would get to the wedding of her oldest grandchild, Alexandra, in Clear Lake, Calif.

“There were so many details to consider,” says Joan. “Clear Lake is beautiful but in a remote part of the state. What airport would I fly into? Would I go alone? How long would I stay? What would I take with me? I was feeling overwhelmed.

“Then, my daughter Lynn said, ‘What about FaceTime?’ And that changed everything.”

Technologically savvy

Less than a year before the big day, Joan’s 16-year old grandson Will, a student at nearby Stone Bridge High School, sold her his iPad.

“I can’t believe it, but I take the iPad out multiple times every day,” she says. “Most often, I use it to find out more information about something I see on the news or hear from a friend. Other times, I use it to play sudoku or check the weather.”

Joan never really paid attention to the iPad’s FaceTime application, a free two-way video telephone service, until she was having trouble with her personal computer. 

“I was on the phone with Lynn trying to figure out something on my computer,” she says. “I was describing what I was looking at on the screen, but she had a difficult time picturing what I was saying. Lynn said, ‘Let’s use FaceTime.’ I pointed the iPad camera at my computer screen, and we were able to figure out the problem quickly.”

Not long after that discussion, Lynn, who lives with her family in Chicago, suggested that Joan “attend” Alexandra’s wedding via FaceTime.

“It was like a breath of fresh air,” says Joan. “I’d been trying to work out the details for so long. I wondered, could this really be the solution?”

Wedding day preparations

“Since I would be at the wedding, I volunteered to connect to Mom from my iPad,” says Lynn. “I packed my mobile power supply to ensure that we had power throughout the day and called Verizon to make sure we would have WiFi access.”

In the days leading up to the wedding, Lynn and Joan made a few test calls to make sure everything was up and running for the big day.

“Alexandra was thrilled by our solution to have the ‘Grammy Cam,’ as she called it, at her wedding,” says Joan. “It was a big relief to me to know that she was happy with this solution.”

Early on the day of the wedding, Joan spoke with her oldest daughter, mother of the bride, Leslie, via FaceTime.

“We were all set to go and very excited,” says Joan. “Leslie reminded me that if I could see them, they could see me. I assured her that I was planning to change into something more formal, at least from the waist up!”

Wedding day

Before the ceremony began, Lynn connected with Joan and walked around introducing her mother to the groom and his family.

“It was a lovely wedding, and I was able to see it all,” says Joan. “I was delighted to see Alexandra walk down the aisle between her mother and brother.”

After the ceremony and before the reception, Lynn brought the iPad around so that her mom could continue to take part in the day’s events.

“We took breaks throughout the day but included mom on all the fun activities and important moments,” says Lynn. “We all had so much fun having mom with us for the wedding.”

Just the beginning

“We’ve upgraded a lot of our technology over the past year,” says Joan. “Even my husband Glen left behind his PC for a Mac and has his own Windows 8 tablet. I can’t believe it, but we have four different computers in our apartment: our Windows PC, a Windows 8 tablet, Glen’s Mac, and my iPad.”

The Lehman’s attraction to technology is part of a growing trend. According to the Pew Research Center, six in ten seniors ages 65 and older use the Internet, with 71% going online every day or almost every day.

In a November 2014 article, “Why I bought iPads for my retired parents,” on, Rick Broida explains his lightbulb moment when he realized that tablets such as the iPad would eliminate personal computer problems his parents constantly faced while allowing them access to what they use the most—a Web browser, email, Facebook, banking applications, and documents.

“I continue to find new ways to use the iPad,” says Joan. “Recently, I used the Google maps app to find the office building of a new doctor. Because Google maps provides real-life street views, I knew what the office building looked like before I got there. That was very helpful.”

Supportive neighbors

Like Joan, many of her Ashby Ponds neighbors continue to uncover the benefits of new technology.

Working with staff members at the local Ashburn library, community member Nanette (Nan) Krueger has instructed more than 50 Ashby Ponds residents in a class on tablet usage.

“I realized that many of my neighbors needed assistance in downloading free library books,” says Nan. “I volunteered to help residents individually, but that soon became an overwhelming task. We developed an iPad class for residents eager to learn common applications, downloading, and email. 

“These classes have really opened my eyes as to how our age group learns and the pleasure it gives us all to keep up. These little devices really help keep us connected to family, the larger community we live in, and the world.”

For Joan, keeping connected to the larger world meant a front-row seat to her granddaughter’s wedding. 

“I am thrilled that it all worked out so well,” she says. “I didn’t miss a moment, and for that I am so grateful.”

Looking forward, Joan hopes to connect with her daughter and their families via FaceTime whenever their busy schedules preclude in-person visits. 

“Lynn says a Smart TV is in my future,” says Joan. “You never know. Anything is possible.”