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Coronavirus: How can we keep in digital contact with older relations?

A stock photo shows two older people on a tablet, calling a younger personImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Video calls could also be an vital approach of conserving in contact in coming weeks

As the federal government encourages “social distancing” within the battle towards coronavirus, older persons are going through the prospect of being instructed to remain at dwelling for weeks.

But what if a dad or mum or older individual in your life, would not have already got entry to video calling tech?

“You might want to consider getting a specialised device to make video calls to your loved ones,” says Kate Bevan, editor of computing at Which?, the buyer journal.

“Once they’re set up, they’re very simple to use but you do have to dig through settings in their apps to connect them and that’s not always as straightforward as it might be,” she says.

“Give yourself plenty of time to familiarise yourself with doing that so that you can help your relative through the process.”

Age UK, the charity for older individuals, provides that the selection of know-how needs to be as “user-friendly as possible” for these unaccustomed to controlling video-chat software program.

“Something integrated like a video call app on a smartphone, tablet or a laptop with a built-in camera, for example will often be more straightforward,” provides Caroline Abrahams, its charity director.

“Older people may also prefer physical interfaces like a mouse rather than a touchscreen or trackpad.

“To shield individuals’s privateness will probably be vital to make sure that any new units are safe and never prone to be hacked, and that anybody utilizing a brand new gadget has entry to ongoing assist to assist them learn to use it and take care of any points or issues.”

All-in-one hardware solutions

Integrated kit can be the easiest solution – and could be hundreds of pounds cheaper than buying a laptop, tablet, or a mid-range smartphone.

Amazon, Google, and Facebook all have smart devices with screens for video calls.

Amazon’s Echo Show range are some of the easiest to use. The devices have a feature that lets you start a call without the other person even having to answer. Called “drop in”, it can automatically start the call if you set it up with the right permissions. It works with the Alexa app on smartphones, too, so only one person needs the special device.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Amazon Echo Show, like its competitors, displays images when not on a call

Amazon also has some of the cheapest options, with the compact 5in model costing £50. It has a screen about the size of a smartphone’s but larger models are available. And it’s compatible with Skype, the veteran (and ubiquitous) video-calling app.

The Facebook Portal might be a better fit for some. One of its main selling points is the camera pans and zooms around the room, following the person you’re talking to. It starts at about £80, on special offer, for the photo-frame model.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Facebook’s portal mini has embraced the photo-frame aesthetic

It also integrates its video calls with Facebook-owned Whatsapp and the popular Facebook Messenger, so people who own a smartphone with those apps can easily call the Portal device.

Google’s Nest Hub series sells itself on the fact it functions as a security camera.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Google pitches it Nest Hub as a kitchen-counter device

Similar to Amazon’s “drop in”, family members with the right permissions can activate the security features and start watching the camera feed at any time. Some privacy-conscious people may not see that as a good thing. It costs at £119 for the smaller model.

Smartphone solutions

One problem with all these devices is their expense and another is their need to be on a stable, decent wi-fi connection at all times. Sometimes, a smartphone might be the better option.

“If your member of the family has a pill or smartphone, you may as well assist them get arrange with apps akin to Skype, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, all of which do video calls,” Bevan says. “Apple customers may also use FaceTime.”

Many of these apps are basically smartphone versions of the software on the smart displays – Google Duo, for example, is what Google’s Nest speakers use, while Messenger and Whatsapp integrate with Facebook’s Portal devices.

But a new smartphone, even a mid-range one, can be much more expensive. And Bevan warns against hand-me-downs past a certain age. Apart from lower camera quality, there can be security concerns.

“If you are contemplating passing outdated Android smartphones and tablets on to a relative, do watch out that it is nonetheless getting safety updates,” she says.

We recently found that there are more than a billion Android devices nonetheless in use which are in danger from malware and different threats.”

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