Zoom Zzzzz
April 26, 2020 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I have been having weekly Zoom sessions with my older parents/aunts, etc. Problem is, after a few minutes of chit-chat about life in quarantine we run out of things to say. These folks are in their 70s, and aren't particularly talkative (without prompting). What are some questions or conversation starters I could ask to liven up the chat?
posted by Ike_Arumba to Human Relations (18 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Are they receptive to talking about their childhoods or young adulthood? You can ask them to talk about memories of their own relatives, of their daily lives growing up, that sort of thing. Those stories are nice to have from older relatives anyway, and it can be a good distraction from the present situation.
posted by eponym at 8:07 AM on April 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

Are there activities you can do? Quizzes like kahoot might work, or even play cards online. Both require a certain amount of tech saviness but not too much
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:12 AM on April 26, 2020

Do they (or you) have pets? Or have had them in the past? That's a great topic of conversation.
posted by JD Sockinger at 8:12 AM on April 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

My mom loves to help me do crossword puzzles over the phone!
posted by cooker girl at 8:25 AM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: maybe scroll through this list of journal writing prompts and use them as conversation topics? tons of lists like this out there
posted by wowenthusiast at 8:34 AM on April 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Do you or any of them have family photos that you could look at together? My family Zoom calls are getting a whole lot of mileage out of this (and I've actually learned a lot of family history I hadn't known before!).
posted by DingoMutt at 8:38 AM on April 26, 2020 [6 favorites]

So uh, this will depend on your relationship with these folks, but I've been having a lot of success with summarizing stories from Am I The Asshole or r/relationships (via twitter, because idk how to use Reddit) and then we share our feelings about who is the asshole and why. It's pretty hilarious. I don't share the sex ones with family, but "should I agree to be an adult flower girl" and "should I cc the CEO of my 10k-employee company on every email" got a lot of conversation going.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 8:52 AM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

My family video chat got two separate half-hour phone calls out of an old picture of a neighborhood gathering. "Is that Bob, or is that Bill? Look at the Velcro shoes on that girl! Hey, is that the old factory in the background?"
posted by praemunire at 9:23 AM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

For heavens' sake, if you get these relatives talking about old times or family memories, RECORD IT.
Hell, record it anyway. Someday, you'll wish you had those best moments to replay.
posted by stormyteal at 9:30 AM on April 26, 2020 [8 favorites]

Try and write a collaborative family biography!
posted by srboisvert at 9:46 AM on April 26, 2020

This is your chance to learn the family stories. What was your Mom like when you were growing up. How was school for you? Tell me about the house you grew up in. I learned the most about my Mom sitting in a hospital corridor while my brother had tests. Take notes.
posted by theora55 at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I just set up a Memory Feast zoom for my extended family. Everyone cooks a dish (or a few dishes, or a meal) that reminds them of a memory, then we'll all get on zoom and eat together, talk about the meal and the memories that inspired them.
posted by Mchelly at 10:35 AM on April 26, 2020 [7 favorites]

How about asking them to teach them something they know how to do well? This would help if your family members are reticent about family stories or even just to mix things up. The questions might just follow naturally. As an example, my gran was both an excellent cook and an excellent crocheter (among many other things she was excellent at) and there would have been plenty of hourly sessions over Zoom of her teaching me how to cook one of her time-honoured dishes etc. I also find that doing an activity together helps my family to open up, so perhaps it would work for yours?
posted by mkdirusername at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2020

One of my friends hosts a weekly Zoom where everyone has to come with a question for the group. Some questions we've had have been: Assuming everything is perfectly safe, what's the first thing you would do post-quarantine (other than hugging your loved ones)? What's the best book you've read this year? What's the best thing you cooked this week? What's the weirdest comfort food you've eaten during lock down? What has been an unexpected silver lining that's come from all this?

Obviously your questions may be different depending on audience, and you could make it family history oriented like others suggest above and ask about specific memories or events. I do find though that it relieves a lot of the pressure of continuing the conversation though because as soon as you run dry on general updates you just can move on to everyone's question of the week. The answers also usually bring up a million different rabbit holes you can go down too.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2020

I find Zoom calls can be enjoyable, but they can also be quite draining (sometimes both simultaneously). Have you considered whether you might be pushing for these calls to go on longer than your relatives actually want them to? Sometimes keeping it short and sweet, and signing off before anybody gets too tired of the call, may be the way to go.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:08 PM on April 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

What do you know about who these people are and what interests them? I ask because, as a 74 year old, I am interested in all sorts of things and I'd like to think your relatives are as well. Maybe you could ask other family members who knew them longer.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:53 PM on April 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

I skim the online headlines of their local newspapers before I call my parents and if the conversation stalls I just ask them for details about local events.

I now know more about the fire at the downtown feed and seed store than anyone living 3,000 miles away ever should.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:25 PM on April 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

What if you had two-to-four fifteen-minute calls a week?
posted by bendy at 3:05 PM on April 27, 2020

« Older The (actual) Bike Shed Problem   |   Computer games that players can control from their... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.