Real Life

"It's the most natural thing in the world to hug someone, now that's changed": The painful reality of being a grandparent during COVID-19

A generation we need to talk about.

By Jess Pullar
There's absolutely no side-stepping around the fact that the COVID-19 health pandemic has single-handedly thrown all of our lives into a once-in-a-lifetime kind of disarray.
Carefully planned holidays, milestone celebrations and dream weddings have been thrown to the wayside as people across the world are forced to stay indoors in various states of lockdown.
And for what, we constantly ponder? Well, the answer seems relatively simple - isolate now, stop the spread of the virus, and save lives.
Of course, it's no secret that the virus is non-discriminatory, and given its worrying knack for hitting the vulnerable the hardest, we've seen a constant stream of media highlighting the need to protect our elderly.
On the other side of the spectrum are millennials, already prone to generating media attention (which is often tantalising, might we add - $20 avocado toast anyone?).
What with sensational finger pointing at "those young people" packing out beaches and irresponsible partying catalysing COVID clusters, the younger generation have also dominated headlines.
But there's one generation that hasn't been covered quite as intently. One generation that, perhaps of all of us, are feeling the psychological impacts of the virus the most - Baby Boomers.
Grandparents are facing an entirely different situation when it comes to isolation. (Getty)
Now aged between 56 and 74 years, the Baby Boomers, who came after the silent generation and snuck in just before Generation X, are at an age where human interaction is more important to them than ever, especially given many of them have beloved grandchildren.
The tough thing is, they're largely being told to isolate away from their children and other loved ones amidst the pandemic.
Sally Molineaux, 61, is experiencing the keen effects of the pandemic first-hand.
Caring for her 10-month-old granddaughter Edie was a highlight during Sally's regular week, but a fortnight ago, everything changed.
"It's very difficult," she told Australian Women's Weekly.
"A part of you wants to be very close and the other part wants to be responsible about other people. It's just a very difficult situation."
Out of everything, Sally said she misses the regular face-to-face contact, along with the most special part of that - hugs.
"I've found it really hard not to hug and touch, especially the baby," she said.
"It's the most natural thing in the world to hug someone, so it's very very odd."
Sally misses the simple act of hugging - especially her 10-month-old granddaughter Edie. (Supplied)
Kerri Rooney, 65, is also experiencing the tough realities of isolation.
A mother to three adult children, and grandmother to three more, she's been trying to focus on the positives despite being separated from her family.
"I absolutely adore [my family]," she told Australian Women's Weekly.
"The only way I get to see them is through FaceTime calls. There's no physical contact."
She added that because of her asthma, her children are very wary of getting too close to her knowing that her respiratory condition could lead to a more severe experience with the virus.
"The kids are really tough on that - what I have found is that now I'm like their teenager to them, but I was never this strict on them!" She laughed.
Kerri's similar-aged friends are experiencing the same thing.
"A lot of our friends have said the shifts that have changed and that our children are the ones that are being very protective of us," she said.
"Us baby boomers, we have grown up with a very safe environment... it's been very difficult to grasp."
Kerri, with her grandson Harvey, admits the situation has been difficult to grasp as she's unable to see her grandchildren. (Supplied)
The sentiment rings true across the board for those of the Baby Boomer generation. Women's Weekly asked Instagram users who were grandparents how they were feeling about the current situation - and one thing stood out above all else.
"I miss hugs," said one.
"Cuddles and time with my grandchildren," said another.
"I haven't been able to cuddle or see my grandchild born 12 days ago," on grandparent mused.
Speaking about how the crisis has impacted them compared to other events in their lives, many also noted that they've never experienced anything quite like this.
"It's the worst [I've experienced]," one woman commented.
"Previously, I've always been able to see my family," said another.
"It is hard," mused a grandparent, before adding: "The days are very long."
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While the outlook is undeniably tough to grasp, it's important to remember that this strange new normal we've all had to adapt to as the COVID-19 pandemic continues will not last forever.
And for some, that's all they need to hear to remain positive.
For others, positivity is found in the little things.
"I'm getting much fitter and focussing on cooking great meals," Kerri told us.
Sally has also kept a positive mindset along with some simple practices to keep her spirits up.
"I look at the practical side of it, everybody is in the same boat," she said.
"I think it's important to do some form of exercise every day. Eat really well, and keep up our immune systems, just trying to do all of the right things."
"Listening to the news is good, but not all day," she added.
"It's about trusting that we're all going to come out the other end."
For us, no truer words have been spoken. Here's to staying positive and keeping ourselves - and others - safe in the interim.

Have a look at the links below for more ideas on what to do in isolation

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