Eldery man and women sitting on couch using laptop

Tech Tips to Connect Seniors With Loved Ones From Afar

More older adults are embracing technology in everyday life. It is a great way to promote personal safety and stay connected with loved ones. That has perhaps never been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic. As face-to-face gatherings have ground to a halt, more families are gathering online or through social media.

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BetaNYC is all about using technology to empower people and improve their lives. To that end, these five tips can help to ensure that older family members feel included in your next online family gathering!

1. Use Technology You Are Comfortable With

While new phone models, computers and tablets seem to arrive every month, a new device might be more than you need to stay connected to family and friends. It is often advisable to stick with technology you are comfortable using, so long as it’s updated and secure. That could mean an outdated desktop and webcam to the latest iPad, or anything in between.

For seniors who are novice users, a tablet might be a sound investment. There are many options available that can be added to a cellular plan so that you can connect even without internet service. The GrandPad, for instance, is a specially designed tablet that is simple to use and perfect for a senior just getting comfortable with technology.

2. Practice Internet Safety

You can never be too safe online. According to the FBI, there is a growing number of scams specifically targeting older adults. One of the most common scams offers tech support for a locked computer. Unfortunately, the device is only locked because hackers have accessed it. Once you pay for “assistance,” the hackers can access all of your files and information. That can lead to identity theft, which is a serious problem among seniors.

Knowing what happens to data and keeping it private is a hallmark of internet safety. Provide seniors with the information necessary to stay safe online. Use a security program to scan websites for dangers and notify you of any potential threats to your information, follow password protocols, and ensure seniors know how to identify emails with red flags.

3. Connect Through Video Conferencing

By now, pretty much everyone has at least heard of video conferencing tools like Zoom, Webex and Google Meet. These apps allow you to create virtual get together with anyone who has an internet or data connection. They all have a free version, although you will have more functionality with an upgraded product.

Social media sites are employing more tools, like messaging and video conferencing capabilities, to keep people connected in real-time. There is a potential downside to social media in that it can bring an almost endless stream of negative posts into your home.

Connection and computer speed will contribute to how smoothly chat sessions run. Beyond lagging and pixelated images, you can use several tricks for optimizing lighting and sound to make family videos look terrific.

4. Get Help From Voice Assistants

Voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Home can offer seniors help with basic tasks. They can do everything from placing a video call to opening a Zoom meeting, all just by speaking. Getting them set up can be a little tricky, but there are plenty of tutorials you can watch to get help.

5. Learn Text Etiquette

Sometimes a quick text is enough to let loved ones know you are thinking about them, and younger family members might be more likely to respond quickly to one. It is important that you know how to properly use text messaging to share information and send greetings in those instances.

Reader’s Digest offers sound advice on texting manners, including what type of information should and shouldn’t be sent, appropriate responses, and a reminder to never text and drive. Be sure to check with phone service providers about text limits and overage charges, and consider switching to an unlimited plan if you haven’t already.

Technology offers myriad ways to help you stay connected with family and friends, even during stay-at-home orders. It can be made easier and safer if you find a comfortable device, use care with what information you share and who you share it with, and learn proper etiquette for using popular communication platforms.