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Dear Savvy Senior
Can you recommend any easy-to-use products for video calling? I live in a different state from my mother, who’s now 78, and would like to see her more often. But mom doesn’t have a computer or a smartphone for video chatting and she’s intimidated with technology.
Video calling is a wonderful way to stay connected and get that important face-to-face time with your mom when you can’t be there. Here are some good video calling products to consider for technology-challenged seniors who don’t use a computer.
If you’re not familiar with them, home videophones are a nice option and very easy for seniors to use. Basically, they work like a regular telephone but come with a built-in camera and video screen that gives you the ability to see the person you’re talking to in real-time. All you need is a high speed (DSL or Cable) Internet connection and you’re ready to go.
While there are various types and styles of videophones on the market today, some possible options to consider are the Grandstream 3140 and VoSKY videophones that work with Skype (see skype.com) – a free software application that lets you make free video calls via the Internet.
Retailing anywhere between $150 and $250, the big advantage of using a Skype certified videophone is that after you purchase it, there are no monthly service fees to use it. Skype-to-Skype video calls are completely free, and you can use your personal computer (if you have a webcam), Android smartphone or tablet, iPhone, iPad or Mac to call your mom’s videophone (and vice versa), which means you don’t have to buy a second videophone to converse with her like you do with other services.
These videophones will also let your mom make unlimited calls to other landlines and mobile phones in the U.S. and Canada for only $3 per month. To learn more or to purchase these products visit amazon.com or shop.skype.com/phones.
Another good product to check out is WorldGate’s Ojo Vision Digital Videophone which you can buy through ACN (myacn.com/digital, 877-226-1010) as the IRIS 5000 Video Phone. With a bright 7-inch LCD screen and excellent audio and video capabilities, this videophone is a higher grade product than the Skype phones, but it’s more expensive. The cost: $179 for the phone with a two-year contract and a $30 monthly service fee for unlimited calling.
This phone will also only let you place video calls to other Ojo/IRIS videophones. That means that you and your mom will each have to buy your own phone in order to video chat with each other, which adds to your costs.
TV Video Calls
Another great option you need to know about are the new “TV compatible webcams” that have a built-in HD camera, speakers and microphones that will turn your mom’s TV into a videophone – no computer required.
She will, however, need a television set with an HDMI port (most HDTVs have them) and wireless Internet access installed in her home to uses one of these devices. If she has an older TV that doesn’t have an HDMI port, converter boxes can be purchased for around $50 to adapt most sets.
If you like this option, check out the Biscotti TV Phone (biscotti.com), a new product that costs $199 and, at the press of a button, will let your mom make and receive unlimited free video calls from her TV, to any computer, smartphone or tablet that uses Google video chat (google.com/chat/video), or to other Biscotti owners.
Or, if you’re a Skype user, consider the new telyHD webcam (tely.com). This device costs $250 and works similarly to the Biscotti, but provides its free video calling via Skype.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.