5 Tips for Video Chatting with Your Aging Parents

A young girl helps her aging parents learn how to video chat.

Contributed by Dawn Allcot

Video chatting with your aging parents is a great way to stay in touch, permitting them to see their grandchildren and allowing you to forge a close connection from afar. But if your aging parents aren’t tech-savvy, trying to video chat can create a rift borne of frustration wider than any geographic distance.

Follow these five tips for video chatting with your parents and it will be smooth sailing as you communicate across the miles.


1. Make sure your parents have the right equipment.
If your parents don’t have the latest generation computer, make sure whatever they do have can handle video chat. They should have a fast, secure Internet connection and the right software installed, whether they’re using Skype or another program.

If you’re using iPhones for Apple Facetime, make sure they have enough memory on their phone and have updated to the latest iOS software. Your parents may blame themselves if that chat doesn’t work, when it could easily be the fault of the technology.


2. Do a practice chat while you’re in the same room together. 

Troubleshooting your parent’s systems can be frustrating. Troubleshooting systems remotely is virtually impossible for anyone without a degree in computer science and the patience of a saint. Show them how to use the chat program while you’re in the room and save yourself some stress.


3. Make sure you know the program yourself.

Likewise, before you try to teach anyone else how to use Skype or Facetime, make sure you’re proficient with the program. Not only does this make that first training session easier, but if a problem does arise during a real chat, when you’re miles away, knowing the software well makes it easier for you to instruct your parents in how to fix it.


4. Be patient.

Did we mention that video chatting with your aging parents may require patience? Remember, your parents weren’t born in an age of technology – this may all be new, unfamiliar and a little bit scary to them. You experienced a learning curve when you picked up an iPhone or an Android smartphone for the first time. Now imagine if you hadn’t taken those gradual steps from a regular cell phone to a Blackberry to this amazingly powerful computer in the palm of your hand. That’s what it may be like for your parents learning to video chat for the first time.


5. Remember the guidelines for successful video chatting – and share them with your parents.

Avoid wearing stripes or busy patterns on video. Don’t move around too much. Speak clearly, and remember there’s no reason to shout. Most of all, try to be natural on video chat. This will help put your parents at ease and create an enjoyable environment for your calls.


Benefits of Video Chats

Video chatting can help you stay closer to your parents, even if you live in different states. You may also be able to pick up on cues about their health and overall happiness by seeing them on a screen better than you may be able to during a voice call alone.

While nothing can replace face to face visits, as well as regular medical check-ups, video chats may help you spot weight loss, hair loss, poor hygiene, and other physical changes in your aging parents that could indicate a problem.

If all else fails to get your parents to enjoy video chatting, put the grandchildren on to sing a song, wave hello … do practically anything. Your parents will be hooked immediately and may even initiate the next video chat themselves.