Best Hardware for Video Calling for Seniors During COVID–19
Published on May 21, 2020
To stay as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, many are following Public Health’s recommendation to stay home, and practice social distancing whenever possible. However, being socially distant doesn’t mean being socially disconnected! Yes, we might not be able to see loved ones in person, but fortunately, there are many technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, available to help us stay connected to our loved ones. Given these devices can be somewhat intimidating for individuals who aren’t familiar with this technology, we’re providing some helpful tips on selecting the right technology tools to make connecting with loved ones easier than ever.
When you’re done reading about the different hardware options and how to choose what’s right for you, be sure to check out our article on software for seniors here.
What is hardware?
When it comes to technology, hardware refers to the physical device itself. Examples include smartphones, desktop or laptops computers, tablets, computer mice, and web-cameras. Here are three types of hardware to consider when wanting to connect with loved ones online.
Laptop Computers (Laptops)
Laptop computers are a good option for older adults, because they are lighter and easy to move around compared to desktop computers. Furthermore, they have an integrated screen, camera and microphone – all necessary features when one is looking to have video calls with loved ones online. When selecting a laptop, it is best to consider what the primary use will be. For seniors looking to use their laptop for video calling, screen size, camera quality are important factors. You might also want to consider a laptop’s weight, durability, and if its operating system (the software that runs on the laptop) offers accessibility options for the vision and hearing impaired. If you think that a laptop might be right for you, check out this list of the best-reviewed laptops for seniors here.
Tablets are a great alternative to laptops for a variety of reasons. They can be more affordable and weigh less than laptops while having larger, easier-to-read screens compared to smartphones (described below). The touchscreen surface of a tablet is particularly accessible for those with mobility issues, where a keyboards and computer mouse might be a challenge. When selecting a tablet, always consider sound quality and battery-life, which are important for video calls with friends, family and healthcare providers. As with laptops, many tablets have an operating system, such as Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android, which include options for the vision and hearing impaired, making tablets even more accessible! Recently, a new type of tablet has been released which only offers the ability to video call using voice-activation, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, without any other features. Facebook’s Portal is an example of this. For those who don’t want the complexity of a fully-equipped tablet, these more focused devices offer a simpler, easier to use video calling experience. For a list of great tablets for seniors, please click here.
Another cost-effective option is to purchase a stand-alone web-camera (webcam) to connect to your existing television, desktop computer, or laptop computer. This is particularly useful if you have an older computer that doe not have a built-in camera and microphone, or if the built-in camera and microphone have poor video and sound quality. Given that most new laptops and computers come with built-in cameras and microphones, only a few manufacturers are still producing webcams. If a webcam is your preference, important criteria to consider are video quality, microphone quality, and a sturdy clip or stand. Some webcams require additional software that must be downloaded and then installed to work. If you are not comfortable with installing software, then make sure the webcam you choose is plug-and-play ready. You can find a few options for webcams here.
Easily the most portable of the hardware options, the smartphone is a mainstay in today’s world of technology. When deciding on a smartphone, consideration should be given to larger screens, which are easier on the eyes, and harder to misplace. The display should be simple, and easy to read, with large text and icons, while the range of volume should be considered too. For those with arthritis or dexterity issues, a smartphone should be comfortable and easy to hold, and buttons to power a smartphone on or off, along with volume controls, should be easy to press. Finally, many smartphones can connect to personal medical and healthcare devices with Bluetooth. This can be something to consider depending on your comfort-level with technology. You can find some senior-friendly smartphones here.
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