Video Chat for the Elderly - tips and tricks along with all the information you need

Video calling for the elderly

Posted by Liz Alderslade DEC 2020

Video calls have become the new norm when contacting people these days following the huge shift to online socialisation thanks to COVID-19 and its related restrictions.

A study from this year found that there was a huge uptake in video conferencing apps and programs in the first few months of COVID-19 with video calling increasing by 30 percent among research participants.

Family and friends found video calls a great way to keep in touch with their older loved ones so they don't feel too isolated from the outside world. Check out our selection of easy to use video call watches and safety devices here under Personal Technology.

Many older Australians have now developed the technical skills to utilise video calls from day to day, however, if you haven't got your head around things, we've gathered some helpful tips and tricks to put into practice the next time you start a Zoom call.

Ways to video calls

There are many different ways that you can connect via video calls to your older loved ones, whether that is through a phone, computer or tablet.

Most video call applications provide very similar services, but can differ by interface and options depending on which you choose. Some include:

  • FaceTime, created by Apple, this application is only accessible if both parties have an Apple product, like an iPhone or Apple computer. Up to 32 people can be included at once, but they do all have to have an Apple device.
  • Android phones can use Google Duo, which is available through the Google Play Store. Up to 32 people can be on a call at once. Google Duo can also be connected with the Google Nest Hub, making it easy to make last minute video calls to family. 
  • Android phones and Apple devices can both utilise WhatsApp video calls. The application is free and only requires an internet connection to use. If you have a large family, then hopefully the 256 person video call limit will be enough!
  • If the older person uses Facebook, they may have access to Facebook Messenger, which also has video call capabilities. Some new capabilities on this application include being able to watch a movie or TV show over the device while your friend is on a video call with you! Messenger can now host up to 50 people on one call.
  • Skype has a range of features, including HD video, screen sharing, and call recording and live subtitles. It can also hold up to 100 people on a call. 
  • Zoom is an alternative to Skype, providing similar accessibility and features, and can host 100 participants in a video call. However, if you upgrade to a paid account, you can have a large meeting account that hosts up to 1,000 people.

All these applications are free to use but you can buy extras to enhance your video call experience.

The applications can be used for any situation, it just depends on preference or what is easier for you and your family.

Voice assisted technology

You can hook up voice assisted technology to your phones, tablets and computers to help make a video call, making the whole process a lot easier.

These devices aim to make your home more connected to technology and simplify your everyday life with features such as managing your calendar, control home appliances such as alarms, lights and thermostats and also connect video or phone calls.

Some of these devices include:

  • Amazon Alexa and Echo
  • Google Nest and Hub
  • SofiHub

Depending on the device you have, simply saying, 'Alexa' or 'Hey Google' will turn on the device, and you can request to start a video call by saying, 'Video call - Mark'. 

Once these devices are set up with the appropriate electronic devices, you can start a video call easily and don't have to fiddle around with setting up a video call yourself.

A new way of communicating

The University of Sydney released their top recommendations on how to have successful family time using video calls. These include:

  • Schedule a time that best suits everyone
  • Agree upon the frequency and duration of video calls
  • Look at the camera and smile
  • Remove any background noise or distractions
  • Use gestures and facial expressions
  • Write down topics to talk about so you don't run out of things to say

How to make video calls more engaging

Some suggestions from the University of Sydney on how to keep the video calls engaging for everyone, including those in aged care, who often can't move around inside their nursing home as much as they usually would for COVID-19 safety reasons are:

  • Read a book together or have a mini book club
  • Eat together
  • Show off your talents
  • Play a game
  • Bring along your best jokes
  • Read a bedtime story to young (grand)children or get them to read part of their favourite book to you.

Teaching video calls

Be patient when teaching an older person how to use video call technology. Older Australians didn't grow up using technology from the get-go, it was something they had to learn later in life. 

It's harder to pick up new technology and technical skills as an older person, it can be foreign and confusing.

Provide a step by step worksheet for them afterwards so they have something to refer to after you have shown them the basics of how to start a video call.

The Federal Government Be Connected program can be a fantastic starting point for building your online skills. Alternatively, National Seniors has a Digital Assistance service which you can apply for. 

You can find a selection of easy to use video call smart watches and technology on DPS Shop under the Technology menu here.


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