Reporting on the latest innovations impacting seniors

Videoconferencing Tech for Seniors

 Videoconferencing was once just a neat idea experienced only in science fiction movies. Now, it's a part of our everyday reality. Young people are especially prone to using this technology. They rarely make traditional phone calls anymore. With Skype and Face Time so prevalent, conventional phone calls are being tossed in to the relic bin, fading into the past alongside rotary dial telephones and cassette tapes. There are numerous advantages to making video calls, and our senior citizens are in a unique position to benefit from this technology. Here, we will examine how videoconferencing can positively impact the lives of elderly people. This is useful for aged people intending to "age in place" and for those in residential communities as well.  


 

Strengthen Social Bonds

The most obvious benefit to videoconferencing is the creation and fostering of social bonds. Grandparents can now not only speak with their grandchildren around the world, but they can actually see and interact with each other in real time. Maintaining relationships is a crucial part of helping elderly people remain happy and healthy. 


 

It’s difficult to overstate the depth of communication available when people can see one another and interact in real time. Imagine a grandmother on a video call with her grandchild after some major life event, like a graduation, for example. The grandson, wearing his cap and gown, waves excitedly, beaming a wide smile at his grandma. She sits in the conference room of her retirement community, laughing and telling him how proud she is while inviting her friends over to see how handsome her grandson has become. A traditional phone call simply cannot offer this type of connection and communication. 



 

Educational Programs 

Content providers from museums, zoos, and music conservatories offer live, interactive videoconferencing programs. The presenter interacts with the viewers, providing images, graphs, and other teaching materials. For residential communities, this is a great new way of providing activities. This technology allows seniors to experience the world in a more immersive way than ever before. They can virtually travel to amazing places all over the country without leaving the comfort of their community. They get to experience enriching distance-learning programs  while interacting with their friends and the educators presenting the material. 



 

Challenges 

Like any new technology, videoconferencing has its challenges for the elderly. 


 

Complicated technology

The biggest hurdle is the complex nature of videoconferencing technology. In a community setting, this is easily resolved by having one of the staff members supervise and set up the equipment. Once the initial configuration is in place, it's typically easy to teach a new user how to make and receive calls 


 

There are some devices that come ready to use, right out of the box. Products like the SeeSpeak, are specifically designed for seniors. This device is a tablet that boasts simplified videoconferencing. There are numerous items like this available today, offering easy access to video calls. 


 

Low vision or hearing 

Those suffering from low vision or hearing loss may struggle with some aspects of videoconferencing. It's difficult to communicate via video if you cannot see the screen clearly. Furthermore, it's nearly impossible to engage in a meaningful spoken conversation if you cannot hear what is being said. 


 

Hardware is available, specifically created to alleviate these problems. For example, systems exist, which allow you to stream  video calls directly into a large HDTV. Additionally, headphones are available with noise cancellation features and extremely loud volume levels. Accessibility hardware like this offers elderly people and those with disabilities an opportunity to experience video calls like everyone else. 


 

Software and Apps 

There is an overwhelming amount of software and applications available for making video calls. The one you select will likely be determined by your hardware and the features most important to you. Some popular options include: 

• Skype - It is probably the most widely used videoconferencing platform because it is easy to use and is available on almost every device. 

• Face Time - Although it can only be used on Apple products, this app is favored and often replaces traditional phone calls for iPhone users. 

• Google Duo - This is a fairly new application, not intended to replace Google hangouts, but rather an improvement on the previously popular app. It is also available on multiple devices. 

• Facebook Messenger - Most adults already have a Facebook profile, making messenger video calls a common videoconferencing choice. 

• GoToMeeting - Typically associated with business use, GoToMeeting is gaining popularity for personal communication purposes. 



 

Some people are reluctant to introduce new technology to seniors. However, when given the opportunity, elderly people often embrace technology. Remember, they are not strangers to change and innovation. You may be surprised at how well they adapt to high-tech gadgets. Videoconferencing provides a unique way to enrich and improve the lives of aged people.




Written by Senior Tech News editor Janet Skots 2018