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How to Choose a Video Chat Device for Seniors

Looking for the best video calling devices for seniors? Learn more about the different devices and how you (or your loved one) can benefit from using one.

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Video Chat Devices for Seniors: Benefits, Popular Devices, & Factors to Consider When Choosing a Device

The font is too small to read. The screen just froze … again. The camera is hidden in a folder on the third homepage and no one knows where to find it. 

Finding a high-quality, easy-to-use video chat device for seniors is not a simple task.

Finding the information you need to make an informed decision is even harder. 

We have compiled all the details you need to decide what is best for your situation. 

Keep reading to find out why you should consider a video chat device for seniors as well as what devices you should look into.

Top 7 Things to Consider When Choosing a Video Chat Device for Seniors

As you look through your options, there are several things you should keep in mind when it comes to finding a video chat device for seniors.

#1: Ease of Use

With video calling devices for seniors, there are some important things to keep in mind

Just about anyone will tell you, they want a device that:

  • Is easy to use
  • Doesn’t have a lot of buttons
  • Doesn’t require multiple steps to operate
  • Is simple and logical

As you search for the best video calling device for elderly loved ones, think through the user-friendliness of the device you are considering. Just because it makes sense to you doesn’t mean it will make sense to an older friend with limited technological knowledge.

#2: Battery Capacity

Scrambling for a charger mid-call, right as the grandkids are about to perform their solo in the Christmas program is never ideal. 

While having to plug in the device all the time may not be a deal breaker, longer battery lives are optimal. 

One good way to make sure you get a device with a strong battery is to check the manufacturer’s information. When you look at a device description, it should tell you the average battery life between charges.

Another great feature that many devices have is a low battery warning. This will go off around the 20% or 10% mark, signaling that the user should find their charger soon.

#3: Initial Setup Requirements

You want a device with a simple setup. 

Some devices require that you:

  • Create an account
  • Set up personal preferences
  • Select settings
  • Add payment methods for subscriptions
  • Transfer data from other devices

Consider the amount of setup the new owner will want to do before you purchase the device.

#4: Subscription Requirements

Many devices require a subscription or, at the very least, an account. 

Almost every device will require Wi-Fi or a cellular data connection. 

Think through the connection you or your loved one has available and what the easiest type of device will be. 

If the intended user already has a specific account, it may be easier to purchase a compatible device so that the only thing they have to do is sign into their account. 

Although less common, you may come across devices that require paid subscriptions. 

This option is typically not ideal for several reasons:

  • You have to pay to use it
  • The subscription may be canceled if the payment fails
  • Getting support for various issues might be difficult

#5: Device Size

Many seniors don’t like to use a small device, like a smartphone, for video chatting. It can be hard to see details and they tend to get lost easier. 

But they might not want a giant device either.

Most also won’t want to add another device to their collection and might prefer something that can hook up to their TV or use on their tablet.

#6: Price

Tech can be pricey and video calling devices for seniors are no different. 

Considering the price point of possible devices is important. For some, the price tag on some devices is simply too high to fit into the budget. 

Especially for older loved ones, spending several hundred dollars on a single device is a difficult mental leap to make, even if the funds are available. 

For those who experienced financial hardship, tight budgeting often becomes a way of life and it can be hard to justify spending a large sum of money on something non-essential.

#7: Learning Curve

Video calling for elderly people can have a bit of a learning curve so you want to make sure that the device is easy to navigate.  

How easy — or difficult — is it for you or your loved one to learn how to use the device? 

If the video chat system has a larger learning curve, the user may need a good bit of support to get started.

The 4 Most Popular Video Chat Devices for Seniors

There are several popular devices among the senior community. These range from senior-friendly to specifically designed for elderly users.

#1: Amazon Echo Show

The Amazon Echo Show is a great option for seniors who want to keep connected to their families and friends. The Echo Show is best for slightly more tech-savvy seniors who are okay with a few extra bells and whistles. 

The Echo uses Amazon’s Alexa, meaning you get all of the pros of an Alexa device along with video chat capabilities.  

The great thing about video chatting with an Echo Show is that the device is voice-activated, meaning you can tell the device who to call and it will do it for you — no buttons or navigation required. 

The major pros of an Echo Show device include:

  • Voice activation for almost everything
  • Alexa technology
  • Compatible with apps such as Lively and other senior safety technologies
  • Additional features such as Netflix compatibility
  • Available in various sizes and feature options

Some of the Eco Show’s cons include:

  • Amazon account required
  • Access to multiple features can overwhelm and confuse some users
  • Relies on Wi-Fi
  • Some users are uncomfortable with Alexa technology
  • Users may find it frustrating if the device does not understand the command immediately and requires more than one attempt

#2: Meta Portal 

Previously known as Facebook Portal, the Meta Portal is another great video chat device for seniors who want a few more features available. 

Portal has positioned itself as a senior-friendly option. Like the Echo Show, Meta Portal uses Alexa technology, meaning the world is just a voice command away. 

Some of Meta Portal’s greatest pros are:

  • A smart camera that automatically tracks the user’s movements so they don’t have to carry it around with them during a call
  • The ability to call any smartphone or tablet 
  • Easy security features
  • Augmented reality capabilities that allow users to engage more intimately with loved ones
  • Easy group calls
  • Watch together — a feature that allows you to watch movies and shows with your loved one, even if you are miles apart

Meta Portal cons include:

  • Some have concerns related to the data that Meta collects from the device
  • It has a lot of features and might be difficult for technologically challenged users
  • It requires a consistent internet connection

#3: The GrandPad

A somewhat lesser-known device, designed specifically for seniors, is the GrandPad. 

When it comes to video calling for seniors without Wi-Fi, there is a lot to love about this device. It is simple, senior-friendly, and affordable. 

One of GrandPad’s best attributes is its 4G LTE data connection, meaning it doesn’t need Wi-Fi and can be easily used wherever you are, just like a cell phone. 

Some of the GrandPad’s greatest features include:

  • Senior-friendly user interface designed to be simple and easy for non-tech-savvy people to navigate
  • A battery life ranging from one to three days
  • Easy wireless charging as well as wired charging options for on the go
  • Unlimited 4G LTE data 
  • Simple apps for things like:
    • Email
    • Camera
    • Weather
    • Internet
    • Games
    • Photos
  • A stylus that makes it easier for shaky hands to navigate the tablet

Despite its shiny exterior, the GrandPad does have a few cons:

  • It is subscription-based — you have to pay an annual or month-to-month fee 
  • No video streaming (such as Netflix) capabilities
  • Simple design and features — if the user uses computers and smartphones, they may feel that the limited capabilities of the GrandPad are too limiting

#4: FaceTime

Perhaps the most classic of all video chatting options is FaceTime. FaceTime has long been loved for its simplicity and flexible compatibility. 

Some of FaceTime’s most stellar features include:

  • Compatible with many different Apple devices:
    • iPhone
    • iPod Touch
    • Mac
    • iPad
  • No fees or paywalls
  • Group call capabilities
  • Easy setup

FaceTime does have a few drawbacks you should be aware of as you search for the best video calling device for seniors:

  • Requires an Apple ID
  • Set up can be tough for those with minimal experience with Apple devices
  • Requires steady Wi-Fi connection or high-speed data to work well
  • Only compatible with Apple devices on both ends of the call
  • Requires an iPhone or iPad

The Benefits of Video Chat Devices for Seniors

Video chat devices are incredibly beneficial for seniors and can even make a great gift

There are a variety of ways that having access to a video chat can help seniors.

Combat Feelings of Depression and Loneliness

Especially in a post-COVID world, many seniors fight loneliness and depression daily.

Well-founded fear of illness, coupled with general difficulty in getting around, has limited the social lives of many senior citizens, leading to social isolation and loneliness. These factors often lead to even greater health risks

While video chatting is not a full replacement for in-person socialization, it can go a long way in combating loneliness and depression in seniors since it offers them a way to connect with friends and loved ones.

Enhanced Communication With Loved Ones

Video chatting allows for more connection and communication with loved ones. Instead of just a text or phone call, seniors can now see their family’s faces and talk with them directly. 

They can read stories to the grandkids, watch school performances, and be present in more meaningful ways. 

Video chatting allows for a deeper connection than other forms of communication.

Relieves Feelings of Isolation

For elderly people who are limited on how much they can be out and about, video chatting is a great way to reduce feelings of isolation. 

Video chatting became especially popular among older demographics during the height of the pandemic and has been shown to have helped reduce feelings of isolation.

Senior Services of America: Enhancing Senior Living While Helping Seniors Stay Connected With Loved Ones

No matter how much you connect through video chatting, sometimes seniors need more companionship and care. 

If you or your loved one has noticed an increasing need for assistance in daily activities or simply wants to have someone around consistently, it might be time to look into assisted living options. 

Senior Services of America provides premier assisted living solutions. Caring for our residents is our top priority and we do all we can to make sure they remain connected to family and loved ones. 

Our communities provide a range of care options from independent living with only occasional needed assistance, to memory care with consistent care and meaningful activities

We are proud to offer specialty amenities — varying by location — such as:

  • Restaurant-style dining
  • Spacious accommodations
  • Activities and events
  • Spas and fitness centers

If you are considering assisted living, find your nearest Senior Services of America community to speak to an advisor today.