Video Chat for Seniors

July 23, 2019

In our last posting, “Seniors and Technology,” we encouraged our readers to consider using FaceTime or similar technologies to connect with family or friends.  FaceTime and similar phone applications (app) allow the callers to see each other, in real-time, during the call. As we mentioned, using a FaceTime app allows a senior to see how the grandkids have grown, while the other party can check on the condition of the grand-parent and their surroundings.  

To help those uncomfortable with some of the newer technologies, we were asked to provide instructions on how to get started with these applications.

Setting up FaceTime on iPhone

The FaceTime app ‘button’ is probably already on the front screen of your phone.  Look for a bright green button with a white logo that looks a bit like an old movie camera. If you don’t see that, go to the Apple “App Store” (a sky-blue button with a stylized “A” in white.)  Type facetime in the search bar and the app will open. Click the “OPEN” button, and you should go to FaceTime.  

To register for FaceTime, open your ‘settings’ button (looks like a grey sprocket). Scroll down to FaceTime, and click that. On that page, the very top line will have an “on/off/ button to the right.  If it isn’t green, click it once and it will turn green and turn on FaceTime. If you are on an iPhone, your phone number should be automatically registered on the first line, but enter it if not. In the next line, enter your Apple ID (unless it is already there). The next lines simply tell the system how you want to be accessed. Your phone number should be or can be, listed for each and be checked. You can add email addresses too. Once complete, close that page, and click on the green FaceTime button on your home page.

Making a FaceTime Call

To make a FaceTime call, in the app, type the person’s phone number or email address at the + sign.  Tap what you just typed, and then choose either “Audio” (sound only) or “Video” (live video between you and the person you called.) Even easier, when you open your list of contacts, find the person you want to call and tap that line. The person’s contact information will open, and if they have a FaceTime account, you will see a button at the top that says “FaceTime.”  Just tap that button and when you call, you will be live with video.  

For those without an iPhone, there are options. The most popular is an app that works on a computer and on the phone, Skype or Skype Mobile. Open your phone or computer’s web browser, and enter Skype. When the site opens, scroll down and click on “Skype for Mobile.”  The app for your phone should pop up. Click the ‘install’ button, and follow the directions. Note that you will likely need a Google Account to make this work, and there is a link to login or create one on that page. Google Accounts are free, and safe to have. The person you want to communicate with will also need a Skype account. 

Staying on Screen

Now that you have the application, make that call to a friend or family member via the FaceTime or Skype. The system will automatically turn on your camera, so when they answer, they will see and hear you ‘live’ just as you see them live. If you have the phone on speaker and walk away from the phone, they will see what the camera is pointed at… so, if you lay it down on the counter, for example, they are going to either see the ceiling or a black screen, if facing down.  

Be creative with your new application though. For example, you can walk around the kitchen and show them what you are cooking, or how you rearrange your pictures.  You can ask them to let you say hello to the grand-kids, or others in their room. Most people who use these apps find that they get the ‘hang of it’ very quickly, but if it takes you a little longer, don’t get discouraged. Keep trying. The joy of seeing, in addition to hearing, family and friends is worth the effort.