Video chatting for the “tech challenged”

Many older adults are embracing technology to stay connected with family and friends during the pandemic. Although some popular technologies—Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype—are relatively simple, they still require a computer, tablet, or smartphone. Plus some tech savvy.

Your loved one may be challenged to learn new skills because of memory issues. Or perhaps arthritis or vision or hearing problems.

Weigh the tech options for your family member against these criteria:

  • Very simple interface. Every feature adds complexity. Best is a large screen, large buttons, volume control, and limited choices. Look for a “senior tablet” or “senior smartphone.” Or consider a voice-activated device with a screen, such as Amazon Echo Show. “Alexa, call Sally” is pretty simple. Some people may still need a helper, though.
  • No setup required by the older adult. Ideally, you can send or bring the device preconfigured. Look for services that will set up a new device—including with contact lists for phone calls—and then send it to your loved one’s home essentially ready to plug and play.
  • Tech support available. There will be problems! Ideally, the device needs to be fixable remotely (by you or a technician not at the house).
  • Wi-Fi handled. Someone needs to get the device hooked up to Wi-Fi. Or, the device should come with its own built-in cellular connection.

Devices that respond to voice commands are understandably attractive. But consider privacy issues. Is the artificial intelligence assistant always listening? Where and how are the audio requests stored? Are your loved one’s data being sold to third parties? Are there protections against hackers?

Another option is using the phone plus a digital photo frame that you update remotely. It’s not nearly the same as video chatting, but your loved one can still keep abreast of growing grandchildren and family activities.