Living Grand: Marcella Ahlers

When Halie Meyer gave birth to her daughter last year, she needed a way to share the news with her great-grandmother Marcella.

However, Marcella Ahlers, who will turn 103 in October, was on lockdown in her Wabasha, MN healthcare center, so an in-person visit was out of the question. Fortunately, Marcella had received a GrandPad for her 99th birthday, so Halie was able to connect to her with a video call.

For Halie and the rest of her extended family, GrandPad has been a blessing. Though Marcella was skeptical about her ability to use the tablet when she first received it, she took to the device quickly and found that it was an effective way to connect with far-flung family and friends.

She used the GrandPad to see photos of her growing family of great-great-grandchildren, and video chat with Halie’s uncle and his family who live 90 minutes away in the Twin Cities and don’t get to visit as much as they’d like.

One incident in particular stands out. In February of 2018, Halie was talking with her great-grandmother on a video call. Marcella had a bad cold, which cut the conversation short, but Halie cautioned Marcella to look after her health. The next day, Halie’s mother called to say Marcella was being transported to the hospital.

“My whole drive to the hospital, I had that conversation with Grandma in the back of my mind,” Halie said. “I wondered if that was my last conversation.”

Thankfully, it wasn’t. Marcella recovered, and one of the first things she asked about when as she started to feel better was whether someone could bring her GrandPad, which she calls her GrannyPad.

At nearly 103 years old, Marcella doesn’t navigate the GrandPad as adroitly as she once did, but Halie’s mother visits regularly to show her photos and videos. And Marcella loves playing games on her GrandPad.

For relatives like Halie, who mostly keeps her distance because she doesn’t want to bring a 1-year-old’s germs into the health care center, it’s good to be able to have a video connection to Marcella. Seeing her great-grandmother just feels more personal than a phone call.

“Obviously, the nursing home was on lockdown for a year, but Marcella likes to be able to video call. I still can’t get up there a ton with Graycen, but my mom will video call us with Grandma. I’ll be able to tell Graycen someday that was the world we lived in. ‘Your great-great-grandma got to meet you through the GrandPad.’”