Taking mom for a virtual autumn drive

Mom enjoys the fall foliage in the Metroparks from her home in Japan. Photo by Tak Sato

Last year, it started much later than normal. This year I even surveyed a week prior to make sure it hadn't peaked yet. I decided the following Wednesday to be the peak. Well, the following Monday was a gorgeous day – temps in the high 60s to low 70s – for late October. My wife said I shouldn't wait until midweek. After I dropped her off at work, I headed down to the Metroparks with my mom. In retrospect, if I stuck to my original plan, we would've missed the foliage as it rained on Wednesday and some trees were almost naked!

Although the winters can be a little milder, I love Cleveland for the four seasons because Yokohama, Japan, where I grew up, has four seasons. When I got off the boat more than three decades ago, my new friends introduced me to the Metroparks and it sure was a culture shock. Coming from a country where land is at premium, I marveled at how expansive the Metroparks system was, yet meticulously taken care of.

My mom has visited Cleveland before during different seasons but she hasn't been back for a while to enjoy the fall foliage or brave the frigid winter temps in-person. Thanks to technology, though, I can offer her the next best thing: put my phone in the smartphone holder suctioned onto the windshield, start FaceTime, set FaceTime to see out the phone's rear camera, and drive from Rocky River Marina to Berea Falls on the winding Valley Parkway. Video chat apps like Apple's FaceTime, Google's Meet, Zoom, and Meta's WhatsApp to name a few, are the next best thing when in-person is unattainable.

Distance is not the only challenge it overcomes either, as I was reminded this week. I started taking an ASL class at Tri-C last month because when I was deaf for 16 months, I made a promise to myself that I would learn sign language. My goal is to be able to start signing my classes and presentations in three years so I can help the deaf community discover digital literacy.

Once a week, in-between classes, I walk across the street to my friend's house to practice signing because my neighbor is also in the same ASL class. I'm probably not contagious but my two-week-old cold is still lingering in my lungs, making me cough incessantly. So this week we practiced in the digital world via Zoom … she's only across the street but why risk it?

I've written about the power of video chat in my column over the years and I've also written about how my wife and I video chat (FaceTime) with our moms every morning, feeling as if we are sitting in their kitchens talking about the weather. Borrowing my wife's words I recently read on her grant proposal, "They will not be isolated and lonely so they will be happier. Because they will be happier, they will be healthier. A happy senior is a healthy senior."

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation. Please visit EmpowerSeniors.Org for more information!

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Volume 14, Issue 21, Posted 10:11 AM, 11.01.2022