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Simple steps to help older relatives with video calls

As we are all following the guidelines for social distancing, older relatives may feel more isolated than usual. If they haven’t previously used video calling apps, then this is the time to help them start.


Do they own a smartphone or tablet?

If not, then you can still order and have one delivered, either to you or them. If they live close enough for you to be able to drop one round to them with other essentials, then you can set it up with just a simple selection of useful apps.

Your relative might have two concerns if you’re going to have to talk them through the set up: lack of skill and being intimidated by the technology. Help them by keeping your instructions simple. The motivation of seeing all of you helps too. Telling them if they just do the three things you ask then they’re going to see you might help them get over the intimidation.


Make sure the device is connected to the WiFi

You might know that video eats data, they might not. Start by talking them through how to check it’s on, and what to do if it isn’t.


Use screengrabs to show them what they are looking for

They may be used to getting photos from you in texts or emails, and many people find it easier to follow visual steps. We’ve got simple ones for you to use below.


FaceTime on iPads or iPhones

  1. Open the Contacts app
  2. Select the person you want to call
  3. In the FaceTime section, press the video camera button
  4. Press the red button to finish your call

Tell them not to panic if they can’t see the video camera for everyone in their Contacts, that this is only for other people with iPads or iPhones.


WhatsApp for any smartphone

  1. Open WhatsApp on the phone
  2. Click the Calls button at the bottom of the screen
  3. Press the icon of the phone with a + sign next to it
  4. Click the magnifying glass and type in the name of the person you want to call
  5. Click the video camera symbol near their name
  6. Press the red button to finish your call

Facebook Messenger on phone

We know many older people are already active on Facebook, so using Messenger might be the simplest approach for them.

  1. Open Messenger app on phone
  2. Click the pencil and paper image in the top right-hand corner
  3. Tap the magnifying glass and type in the name of the person you want to call
  4. Tap their photo, then tap the picture of the video camera in the top right-hand corner to start the call
  5. Press the red button to finish your call

We’re all using lots of different systems, so you might also want to get them onto Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Houseparty. It’s just worth remembering that if they’ve never used them before then taking it slowly and keeping it simple is probably a good approach. Once they’ve mastered one, they’ll tell you when they’re ready for more.

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