Dear Savvy Senior: Are there any senior-friendly devices that you can recommend for video calling? I live about a day’s drive from my 83-year-old father and would like to see him more often but he doesn’t use a computer, tablet or a smartphone. — Searching Susan
Dear Susan: Video chatting is a great way to stay connected and keep tabs on an elder parent when you can’t be there. Here are three devices:
>> ViewClix: A device that requires no input from your dad, is the ViewClix Smart Frame. This is a 15-inch digital picture frame with video-calling capabilities designed for seniors.
Ready to use right out of the box, this device lets family and friends make video calls and send photos (displayed as a slideshow) directly to your dad’s ViewClix Smart Frame from a smartphone, tablet or computer. To do this, you simply download the free ViewClix app to your devices.
All photos sent and video calls made to your dad’s ViewClix are received automatically. But, it is a receiving device only. Your dad cannot initiate video calls.
This device is available at ViewClix.com or 800-304-4281 for $299 (Wi-Fi is required), or you can purchase their 4G Broadband model that works with T-Mobile if Wi-Fi is not available for $299, plus a $20 monthly fee.
>> GrandPad: Another product that offers simple video calling is the grandPad. This is an 8-inch touchscreen tablet designed for seniors. It comes with a stylus, charging stand and Verizon 4G LTE built-in so it works anywhere within the Verizon network — home Wi-Fi is not necessary.
This tablet provides a simplified menu of big colorful icons and large text to essential features, giving your dad clutter-free, one-touch access to make and receive video calls and phone calls, view photos and videos, listen to music, check the weather and play games. It does not offer web browsing.
GrandPad also has a “Help” button that offers 24/7 phone/tablet remote assistance to help your dad with any facet of his tablet, and it provides damage and theft insurance so if your dad breaks or loses his tablet it will be replaced at no additional cost. Available at grandPad.net or call 800-704-9412, a grandPad leases for $66 per month, or $49/month if you pay one year in advance.
>> Echo Show: If you don’t think your dad would mind talking to a machine, the voice activated Amazon Echo Show is a senior-friendly device for video chatting (Wi-Fi is required).
Available at Amazon.com for $230, the Echo Show has a 7-inch color touchscreen that would let your dad make and receive video calls to those who have their own device, or who have the free Amazon Alexa app installed on their smartphone or tablet.
Once you set up his contacts, to make a call your dad would simply say, “Alexa, call Susan.” And when a call comes in, he would ask Alexa to answer or ignore the call.
The Echo Show also offers a bevy of other features your dad might enjoy like voice-activated access to news, weather, music and more.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.