Elderly Need Super-Simple, Phone-like Skype
By now many of you have probably seen, and chuckled about, this delightful video that went viral of a senior couple goofin’ around with their webcam. These two are trying to figure out how to use it (and having fun in the process) but the humor obscures the reality: Using a computer, using Skype, and making certain Skype’s audio/video inputs are set correctly is befuddling to most senior citizens!
Let me tell you a story that may mirror many of your own to illustrate why we need a brain-dead-simple Skype phone that is as cheap, super-simple to operate, and as powerful as a landline phone.
It’s a few years ago and I’m in my home office on a Saturday, facing the street and my neighbors house across it. I bear witness to my elderly neighbors — he a fairly tech-savvy retired Fortune 100 executive and she a loving mother and grandmother — saying a very emotional farewell to their son, daughter-in-law, and two toddler grandsons.
The son is an executive at a different Fortune 100 company and the family was headed to Europe for two years to open a new line of business. My elderly neighbors would have only one visit during that time and I immediately thought, “Oh geez…those two boys will grow up so fast and forget them” so I had to do something.
I sent my neighbor and email clearly laying out all of the power of Skype, that it was free, that if he and his son each had a webcam that they could see one another and talk often. The biggest reason to do it was to maintain (and continue to build) grandpa and grandma’s relationship with those two little boys.
Not hearing anything for two weeks, I feared that I’d stepped WAY out of bounds as a neighbor. But what happened next surprised even me.
At the end of two weeks I got a huge email from my former executive neighbor. Not only was he appreciative, he actually felt bad that it had been two weeks before he responded!
Turns out that same Saturday he went out and bought a webcam. He talked to his brother down South for an hour each Sunday and, that very next day, he convinced his brother to go buy one too.
“Steve, we’ve been talking every single day since for an hour!” he exclaimed in the email. “When I called my brother in Tennessee, after he had installed Skype (but didn’t yet have his webcam), of course he saw me on mine. He was so excited he called to his wife shouting “come look at this!!” He immediately went out and bought one.
After we bumped in to one another in our yards a few weeks later and talked for over an hour (my wife and I love these people) he told me how his wife was reading stories to the boys in London and they had such a great opportunity to be deeply connected to them. Months later, after their own holiday trip to the U.K. to see his son and family, he told me that using Skype for so many months, “really made us feel like we hadn’t been apart.”
Wow. So glad I took the risk to send him the original email evangelizing Skype to him.
SKYPE IS TOO HARD FOR MOST ELDERLY
Now that my Dad is 85 years old and my sisters and I all have Skype — and since he has a cable internet connection for the computer in the back bedroom he can’t get to anymore — I’ve been seeking ways we can leverage that internet connection he still pays for monthly. One way I’ve done so is that I purchased a cheap Wifi router for $20 (made by DLink for TMobile and they were blowing them out) so my sisters and I could use our laptops at his house when we need to be there for him or want to show him stuff online.
He’s always stunned when my wife is somewhere abroad (she travels extensively to Europe) and we Skype. She can say “hi” to him, he to her, but whenever we disconnect he looks at me and simply says, “It’s magic and is so very interesting.”
I’ve looked at all sorts of solutions for him but he needs push-button Skype. Asus makes a Skype, standalone videophone that retailed for $249 (as of this writing it’s available at Amazon in silver grey for $149). Though $99 would be a magic price point, in my opinion, the issue is one I’ve read about on several forums: The Skype software in this device is no longer supported but still works…so I’m highly reluctant to buy one for him.
I’ve explored using an iPod Touch (too small); docking an iPod Touch to his TV (too hard to deal with audio input so far away); a tablet with a camera in it running Skype (iPad is $499 and, even though an Android-based one could be had for under $240, they require serious geek-cred to make work and he’d be confused).
Netbooks are too challenging as well. He (and dozens of other seniors I know) simply need a brain-dead-simple, phone-like Skype device that they could make and accept video calls on.
My wife and I are at the tail end of the baby boom generation — those born between 1946 and 1964 — and over this decade the U.S. will end up with 70 million of us retired.
This Wikipedia article on the baby boom generation states in part, “Baby Boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets and more than 50% of discretionary spending power. They are responsible for more than half of all consumer spending, buy 77% of all prescription drugs, 61% of OTC medication and 80% of all leisure travel.”
So is this a market? Yep. Will Microsoft make a Skype phone now that they own them? Maybe, but it will probably have 57 buttons that bring up modal menus that change with the weather (kidding!). Let’s hope someone seizes this opportunity ASAP.
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About Steve Borsch
Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.
Connecting the Dots Podcast
Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.
I agree that there would be a great market for an easy stand alone device hopefully with a decent size screen that would be easy enough both for grandparents and for computer illiterates (and kids). Everyone interested would be buying at least 2, one for themselves and the other for a relative. Hope this sparks someone to create one.
To hear stories about the life enhancing power of this technology is what motivates me every single day. I can relate to your frustration Steve, as I too wanted to find a simple solution to allow seniors to easily make and receive video calls.
Well, after a lot of hard work and some failed attempts, I have developed the solution. I quit my job and started a company to dedicate every minute to bringing this to life. You can learn more about it here: http://www.EasyConnectHD.com
To see how much this improves the quality of life for those in senior living communities is something to behold. We are now developing solutions for people who are living in their homes too. It hasn’t been easy and we have a huge market to serve, but I’m up for the challenge!
I totally agree that it needs to be A LOT more simple than it is now. Though I’m usually the go-to-techie for family and friends, I still explore possibilities (like using Skype on an iPad or Android tablet) but even those are too techie for my Dad or many elderly.
This is the exact discussion I have been having with my husband as we try to keep in touch and check on the health of my parents who are 2000 miles away from us. Dominic echoes my description of the way the device needs to work – buttons with pictures or large lettering for emergency services or frequently called numbers. It would also be fantastic if the sound adjusted for elderly with hearing aids and / or closed caption was possible. I am continuing my search and hopefully something comes on the market soon.
Hi, I’m web developer and UI architect who is also trying to develop a dead-simple, touch-based Skype platform, which could be managed via remote desktop to handle issues arising from updates, as well as perform other troubleshooting issues for the consumer when they occur. This was the main problem for Asus, since their skype software became outdated very quickly.
If you. or someone you know has any development or networking experience and would like to contribute, please contact me through the contact form on my portfolio site (aaronrose.biz). Unfortunately I can’t list my email here due to spam bots, but I’ll be happy to work with anyone who may be interested.
I had a lot of good experience using Asus with my 85-year-old grandmother for a couple of years. It is extremely straightforward. Suddenly it stopped being able to make video calls.
Glad I read this forum. I have had some success with the Asus although it is glitchy and not as intuitive as is needed. My mom has muddled through the frustrations of the videophones glitches and those that require some troubleshooting which I have only been able to remotely work her through with a modicum, 60%, of success. Because of her low literacy in all things modern technology, it’s hard to explain to her that glitches with any technology are to be expected and are sometimes unexplainable. So, she gets more frustrated more with what she receives as personal incompetence rather than the inefficiency of the device. Nonetheless, we all agree its been worth it.
My family watches TV live with her at least once a week and she uses it at other times to show me any new gift, gadget, outfit or other random thingee she gets. Very cool. But inexplicably, as Helder indicates above, the ability to make video calls stopped working a couple of weeks ago. I assumed it was another one of those frustrating glitches but I have been befuddled by my unsuccessful, yet exhaustive, troubleshooting. Because of Helder’s comments, I realize it isn’t me or her, but its the device. I have been wanting to get another one for her for a while but just haven’t yet guess I am forced into action at this point.
Claris Companion seems to have all the features that the elderly need!! Plus as of the end of this month (November 2013) they say they will have video calls!
Yes, I was searching for a skype phone for my mom and it has to be almost like an intercom…just get the handset and it should call my android smartphone that’s all. It should have a 5 to 7″ screen and zero buttons… it should be like a direct red line as my mon is getting confused already even for pressing on and off in the cordless phone. She has caregivers but she wants to be independent and call me when she wants without depending of anyone. I can’t believe this does not exist… a simple ip phone configured with one skype account, wifi access and automatic call when the handset is lift from the craddle.
Does anyone knows about one?
November 2014: Christmas is coming. Are there any new developments?
Another sound argument for this technology is related to the quarantines that are placed on retirement homes. When a resident becomes ill, NO visitations are permitted, not even a spouse, often for weeks!
What about contacting a market challenged company, such as Blackberry? Has anyone looked into Telikin or WOW computers?
“November 2014: Christmas is coming. Are there any new developments?”
Not with standalone devices or Skype phones because the focus of Microsoft with Skype is all mobile with phones and tablets. In fact, take a peek at this sweet story where this woman uses Skype since it’s illustrative of how simple it can be for the elderly to use Skype on a tablet: Happy 114th Birthday to Minnesota’s oldest resident.
Good point, too, about quarantines. Big need here but really, isolation is the biggest problem with the elderly and Skype could/would really help connect people with caregivers, loved ones and friends.
Don’t think the market-challenged companies see any viable opportunity since Microsoft owns Skype and the software is pretty ubiquitous on mobile devices already.
I am 85 and wonder if anyone who knows how to use Skype can tell seniors how in very simple words how to make and receive calls. It seems like simple instructions; what to do step by step never enters the mind of those supposedly telling us how to use
They start off rambling about how many wonderful things we can do but never get down to showing us what to do to use it. Like what buttons to click in a sequence to make or receive a call. It’s like they are selling the product rather than showing us how to use it. There used to be books what was called 3D pictures to show step by step what to do to use a computer to do any number of things.
It seems like the present generation has lost the art of how to write most any instructions to do anything. They have completely lost the ability to communicate just about anything. When reading a headline, I have learned to jump the first two paragraphs to get to anything that has to do with the headline and usually by then they have forgotten what the headline was about.
Hi Robert — I’m going to send you an email since my reply is clearly far too long for a comment and I hope you’ll find it useful. ~Steve
I so want to be able to connect with my Mom through video chat. Just admitted her to a memory care unit can’t handle a phone but something that caregivers could help her easily connect would be so awesome.
That would be great.
Skype works on tablets. I know the iPad can have a single app “locked” so that someone can’t inadvertently exit out of it. That makes it very “friendly” for seniors to use. There are tablet solutions for healthcare facilities which are in shock resistant cases that can be sanitized (critical for a healthcare facility of any kind).
You should call or sit down with your Mom’s caregivers at the facility and find out if they’ve done anything like that with memory care patients. Depending upon someone’s stage of dementia, they might not even understand what’s going on. Another reason to talk with your Mom’s facility folks.
Thanks we skype now with family out of town. Just looking for ease of use, innovative, etc
I work for Prelude Homes & Services (memory care community) that has a solution called EasyConnect HD. It’s extremely easy for all of our residents to connect with their families. The system has one simple button that our caregivers press and the residents get to see their family on the big screen in high definition! The service also helps all of the family members get set up and provides any technical support they need. It’s completely free for all residents and families.
That sounds very interesting. Do you know much about the technology? I would really like to know more.
I assume the solution that Prelude Homes & Services is using one of the HDTV-based cameras like these ones? I’d be curious about who set up the solution for your facility (or maybe you did it in-house) and, especially, how they streamlined its use so it is a “one button” solution.
Doh…just realized that EasyConnectHD is the solution which I just found here.
There has to be a fee somewhere. How does this all work?
A fee for which one, Linda? Skype or that EasyConnectHD?
The former is free for calls between users of Skype…all that is needed is an internet connection. That EasyConnectHD is obviously a full-on videoconferencing solution so there will be fees…typically for the hardware, the service, and so on.
Thanks for the info we will figure it out. Sounds like an awesome service for the right application and right resident population
Hello everyone! I don’t know the exact pricing but our senior community pays a subscription for EasyConnect HD just like we do for cable tv, only instead of installing a cable box (equipment) to get access to channels, we get a video conferencing system (equipment) to access the families of the residents. The combination of an easy-to-use system along with a service to get families set up with accounts and help with any technical questions they might have. It’s completely free for families and they just use their computer, smartphone or tablet.
Whatever the solution, it has to be simple for both sides. Easy for the resident and easy for the families. The solution we have is only available to senior communities, and not available to individuals who live in their own homes. Unfortunately I am not aware of any solutions for that type of situation.
Thanks this is the info I was needing. Guess I will put my old laptop in her room and use when I come in, to talk to other family members. Thanks
I invite you to look at http://www.aetonix.com. A very easy to use device. 1 simple touch on a picture to make a video call. Perfect for seniors. No password, no keyboard, no login. 1 tap to call or 1 tap to answer. Nothing else. and it comes with reminders support, family app for any device that you may have. Check this out at aetonix.com
There’s also this:
It’s a standard Android tablet, customized to run only their app, which connects transparently through Skype.
I haven’t seen any other Android-based solution like it. The problem is, as I already told them, that they’ve chosen a particular tablet (Acer) with less than optimal settings (0.3MP front-facing camera). I would’ve preferred that they sold it as a software-only solution in the Android store, so that one can install it on any tablet. To which they replied that they had to do it like this, because they intervene at a lower level in the OS, maybe disabling automatic updates, etc.
All that being said, I am more and more inclined to buy a cheap Windows tablet with a decent front-facing camera, and install TeamViewer on it, so that if my parents have any technical issues I can solve them myself remotely. It’s far from optimal, and not for non-tech-savvy people, but there’s still no solution like the Asus SV1T.
Which brings me to the point that some people raised here, that “it stopped showing video”. I bought 2 such devices a few years ago for my parents and my sister, all living in separate continents. They have been working fine, and they still work between themselves after all these years. Video has stopped working with the updated versions of Skype since Microsoft bought it and decided to stop supporting old codecs. If you are on Windows 7 (like me), you can downgrade to the last version known to work and it will work fine, I’ve been doing this for the last year at least. You can read more details about it here:
Looks very interesting. I’ve actually seen quite a few Android-based concepts like this one. They’re actually selling it (though they desperately need marketing help) and this video at least shows the user interface after you slog through most of it:
Have a look at the aTouchAway product. A Free version is available on google play or apple store. It allows you to set the display as you wish to enable the tablet of your choice for your parents. If this is still too complex, the aTouchAway product will be perfect. No password, no login, no app to worry about. It is always power on! I strongly suggest that you download the free version, register, and try. Don’t hesitate to call Aetonix for help or to visit the support website at http://www.supportaetonix.com.
A lot of seniors that are challenged with technology or have memory impairment like dementia or Alzheimer, are using the aTouchAway product. You could see some very interesting testimonial from the website from family members.
The product also allow you to remote manage the user account. No need for teamviewer. Very easy to manage remotely to accept or decline contacts, to change information, or to upload a picture. The product support English, French, Chinese simplified, and Chinese traditional
The solution also allow a family member to manage activity reminders or medication reminders. Reminders will show up on the display of the aTouchAway product enabling the user to accept the reminder.
The aTouchAway product also integrated with a fall detection bracelet which on a free fall will trigger an emergency video call.
If you want more information, please email email@example.com and I am sure they will be happy to help you.
You could visit http://www.aetonix.com or follow them on:
facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Aetonix
I am sorry Michel, I can see that your product may have a use case in retirement homes or with disabled old people, but it’s not what I’m looking for. My parents may have trouble with technology but thank God they’re well enough to take care of themselves and use some simple devices. The service has to be free (i.e. free video calls) and ubiquitous, like Skype. Your service is proprietary and expensive, at least for me. If I can buy a Windows tablet for less than $200, set Skype to auto-start and with a little training for my parents, I can have free video calls for at least the next few years. And with TeamViewer I can solve most of their technical issues remotely.
I invite you to install our free app which allow you to run it on a tablet or pc or mobile and achieve what you are looking to do. It will enable you to remote manage them very easily within our application. You could find information about our free application at the following location:
It will be my pleasure to answer any questions that you may have or to assist you with installation questions that you may have.
@Michel I installed the app and it looks quite interesting, but there are few bugs and no way to report them, as there’s no obvious way to login onto the support site.
Would you mind suggesting a way to send you such questions?
@bbossola The best way to contact support is at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1 855 561-4591. @bbossola and Aetonix have discussed since Nov 22 and actions were taken. A new release addressing some issues have been release. Thank you to @bbossola for his comments. We believe that @bbossola was satisfied with the answer and support provided.
Thanks for the info. I am the IT Director for a large seniors living community in Canada and we are also looking for an easy to use solution for residents in their suites. I haven’t been able to find anything that is easy to use and does not cost a fortune. Our resident suites will have WIFI access. The SpeakEasy solution by far looks like the most easy to use. Are there any other suggestions?
Hey Chad — I’ve never heard of SpeakEasy. Do you have a link?
Almost all the standalone Skype devices—or even Skype for TV—have been either removed from sale or are no longer being developed. I would recommend buying and testing a few Android-based tablets since you can easily find people who could create a “distro” (an Android distribution to be copied to all tablets you deploy). They have built-in Wifi, front and rear facing cameras in most cases, and you could either download the Skype app on them or use other methods for live streaming (e.g., Google Hangouts).
At least Android and tablets aren’t going away and I’ve seen some care homes who are now actively testing 8GB Android tablets that cost $28 – $60. You’d definitely want to test them as some are really cheap crap, but I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good some are. Also budget for a good case that would withstand a drop and you could probably get one for under $40. As some examples of good, cheap tablets, I just did a Google search for “best tablets under $100” and found a few articles including this one here.
Good luck and report back on what you do.
Has anyone looked into the Bloomcloser system? http://www.bloomcloser.com
Hey Steve! Thanks for the reply. For some reason I wasn’t notified that you replied back to me. Good thing I came back to check. This is what I was referring too. http://www.seespeak.co.uk/index.html#body
Don’t hesitate to go see http://www.aetonix.com . The solution works on any tablets and trial is free. Download the app on your smart phone, get the app on a tablet to use with the senior and your set.
The Bloom is not a final product that you can order/buy yet. The Aetonix system is targeting mostly care homes, not families. The SeeSpeak is not an app, it forces you to buy an outdated tablet with a custom Android firmware that is not guaranteed to be up to date (if a big company like Asus cannot update their SV1T device, how can a small start-up guarantee that?).
Personally, I’ve resorted to buying a cheap Windows 10 tablet (less than $200), not an Android one, because Microsoft now owns Skype and they can do whatever they want with it, including crippling all non-native Windows versions. Plus, on a Windows tablet I can install apps like TeamViewer, which allow me to connect remotely and solve whatever technical problems my parents may have (but of course, this is for people with some technical knowledge).
I have not seen Bloomcloser before Rosalba. Looks interesting and I’ll dig in to it some more.
asgoodasiget: Great points about the three products and are ones that anyone needs to consider carefully when buying one.
Wondering about something on the Windows 10 tablet front though: Can you easily lock down the interface? I ask because care homes, and some of us who help our elders with their technology usage, want to set a tablet up so that there are just one, two or a handful of access points in the user interface (UI). Otherwise it can get confusing for older folks to figure out what to do.
That is something one can do with an iPad (but likely too expensive) as well as a modified Android UI. I just don’t know what’s available (or possible) with Windows 10 tablet editions.
Aetonix has also a lot of family members. Don’t load the app on you Win 10 tablet from Aetonix.com and on your cell phone through Apple store or Android store and you will be able trial you Win 10 tablet as a tablet dedicated for elderly if you want. Here is the instruction to try:
a) register your own account after you downloaded on your phone or PC
b) After you are in the application, click on your profile picture top left, and go to the bottom and select Trial
c) Proceed through the wizard to get a key code for trial version
d) when done, download the app on the target tablet (Win 10, or Android, or Ipad) and enter the key code provided on your phone.
e) Your tablet is now setup like the aTouchAway to be used by the senior. Your phone is now running the app and have as contact the user of the aTouchAway.
f) If you want to lock the tablet to only the aTouchAway, you could pin the application on Android or email us and we will provide you the “launcher version” to be lock on tablet.
Give a try! No limit on trial for the moment/// All family members are free. So no fees to trial and used. Just provide us with comments.
@Steve Borsch I haven’t tried locking down the UI yet, but as I said above, in my case, with a bit of training for my parents and my remote technical assistance, my solution covers my needs much better. In addition to all the reasons I already mentioned, I don’t have to pay any additional subscription costs, as Skype calls are free. Also, I can upload videos and photos remotely, and play them for my parents (again, remotely, with TeamViewer). Granted, the UI experience is not as seamless and intuitive as the Bloom, but as I said above, I haven’t seen a final product (and reviews) yet. And I would bet I can find an app for Windows to lock down the UI if I needed to, much easier than in Android or iOS. Just my 2c. I will get back with updates on my experience when my parents will have used it for a while.
@Michel Paquet – I just checked out the AETONIX and this is along the lines of what were looking for. It needs to be easy and simple for the residents, signing up for Skype and managing windows devices is out of the question. Our experience with a number of residents in our seniors homes tells us that if we can not produce something within a few clicks they are unlikely to keep using it.
The issue I noticed though is that on their site, they are marketing their product to care and or care teams (care circles) yet the video at the very bottom of the page markts the product to families. So I’m a little confused where I would get more information on the family part of the product. We would not be using this for care teams or circles but rather to allow families to communicate with mom or dad. Thoughts?
@Chad – The company helps care providers and family members. I suggest that you connect with Aetonix using the chat line or email@example.com or call at 1 855 561-4591. The following link give you product description: http://aetonix.com/our-product/how-it-works/. The great thing is you are getting family connection but also have the possibility to add a bracelet for life line support if you required. You could configure to have the family or friends to be the emergency respondent or call request, fall, or wandering. Pretty easy to add and setup. Perfect for someone alone at home or in group home. Give you also the ability in the future to extend to care circle if you need. Very flexible solution. Very cheap per month specially if you already have tablets (less than $20 cnd per month). Aetonix also have partnership with suppliers and could help you with getting the proper tablets and help for deployment if you are targeting group homes. If it is only a family use, pretty easy. You could get setup in no time! Check Aetonix facebook for the testimonials/comments from the users! Check the following blog – an Adult care center for people with disabilities use the product. They use it for security but also to enables the resident to connect with family members.http://aetonix.com/success-story-supportive-housing-agency-just-used-wander-alert-keep-one-residents-safe/
Thanks for posting your article.
I think we have what you’re describing — the ViewClix Smart Frame. Family and friends can use a smart phone, tablet or notebook to share pictures and make video calls.
check it out at https://www.viewclix.com
The ViewClix Smart Frame will go on sale next month.
Hey there Steve,
I have found this amazing product called the Konnekt Videophone. They use Skype technology to connect people face-to-face however the user doesn’t have any log in options (so theres no need to remember login ID or password), it is a touch screen, on a 15inch screen (HUGE), it is kept on all the time, is loud and the buttons are clear. The Konnekt team does all the installation and configures all of the buttons remotely.
This videophone is far bigger than a couple of the previous ideas mentioned which means that elderly people with eye sight problems and arthritis have no trouble pressing buttons or seeing the screen clearly. If you want to find out more here is the link: https://www.konnekt.com.au
I can not recommend it enough.
As everyone knows, technology changes almost on a daily basis. Since this article was written quite a few years ago, I wanted to share a great communication tool that is now available to seniors and their family members.
My wife and I did quite a bit of research and just got her parents a grandPad tablet (www.grandpad.net). The tablet was designed just for seniors, primarily for them to be able to connect with their loved ones safely and it has changed my in-laws lives almost overnight. It is a remarkable service that comes with 24 hour support and is very simple to use. They don’t have to worry about passwords or many different fees from different providers. It’s a one stop package deal.
The day their tablet arrived, my father-in-law was able to do a video chat with his son in Europe and it was the 1st time he had seen him “live” in over 4 years! Neither of my in-laws are very tech savvy, so the grandPad is a perfect way for them to email people, listen to music, do memory games, etc. We can all communicate with them frequently and send them real-time photos of what is happening in our lives.
When we are traveling or find something we think they would like (old trains, unique fashions, etc.) we snap a picture and send it to them. If we are not available to visit them, we can have a video call and it’s like being right in the same room. We can’t say enough great things about this product!
Nice try @gegblog18. Good luck finding people willing to pay $65.50/month ($786/year!) for a service that Skype and any $100 Android tablet is giving for free. My parents are old, but not *that* old.
This might be a little late for you but here’s something that might work: Nucleus Anywhere Intercom
Thanks for that link Doug. I actually tried it out but couldn’t get it to work. Kind of a confusing interface and I’m a geek so can usually figure out just about any user interface. They tried to help, but a test set up wouldn’t work.
I thought I’d share that since recently Microsoft finally pulled the plug on the Asus SV1T (I had managed to make it work up until a month ago), I was forced to find a solution for my parents. And I got them a $150 Android tablet, bought from a physical store close to them, where they can ask the employees for help if they run into trouble, since I’m in another country and I can’t help them myself. And I’m glad to report that so far it has worked fine with plain ol’ (and FREE!) Skype. I realize that this may not be a good solution for many people, especially if your elderly are incapacitated, but then maybe you should consider some of the more expensive options mentioned in the comments above.
A possible work around would be to use a remote control application like Teamviewer installed on both your and your father’s laptop in combination with Skype. You may then place a call through Skype to your father’s laptop and answer the phone on his behalf using Teamviewer. That would also be a great way to remotely teach your father simple operations like answering/hanging up a skype call etc .
Hi Marco and all, I invite you to download aTouchAway from Aetonix for free and to try. It is designed to help seniors to connect with family. There is a free trial. Works on Android and IOS tablets. Free for Family members. Just go on google store or apple store and search for aTouchAway from Aetonix. Very simple to try and free. Download the app on a phone and on a tablet or PC with camera. Signup on your phone, go to your account menu, go at the bottom and click on Trial account. An account will be created with instruction. Enter the key on the tablet or PC and you will get the looking feel that the seniors will have. There is a wearable available that detect falls and wandering that can be added to the tablet assuming LE Bluetooth. A cheap samsung TAB E can do the truck. Anyway if you need help, just go on the chat line of http://www.aetonix.com. They will help you.
Konnekt just won the prestigious Award “Best Consumer-Friendly Product in Aged Care” at ITAC-2017 for its Skype-based Videophone, designed specifically for 80-99 year-olds who are beyond fiddly multi-functional tablets, and need some independence back by being able to operate a device with a gloved/bandaged/wobbly hand and poor hearing/sight, without the need for an IT-savvy grandson to Team-view in to fix pop-ups every 3 months. You can buy, rent or even trial it. https://www.konnekt.com.au/konnekt-wins-best-consumer-product/
Hi John. No question you company has truly optimized the calling experience and have addressed so many issues (e.g., accessibility with colors, fonts, etc.).
The only problem, as I see it, is that it is very expensive. To buy this device is AU$990 which equals roughly US$745 and to rent it is AU$20 per week which equals US$15. I’ve seen prototype software running on Android-based tablets which opens up a much wider range of possibilities.
Unless Australia is signficantly different than when I was there a few years ago — or rural area broadband is really bad — I do not understand your “optimized internet” you offer. Seems to me that adds to the cost and is unnecessary.
Is your primary market success with institutions? That I could see as a marketplace that would adopt a “no muss, no fuss” approach to connecting seniors with loved ones. But almost all of the seniors I know (and I’m pretty dang close myself) do A LOT more than just talk to loved ones. They watch videos, shop, manipulate photos and upload them, get on Facebook, send and receive emails, and much more…and these are people in their 70s and 80s.
Yes, they sometimes are flummoxed with technology, but once their processes are nailed down (and they develop “muscle-memory” on using those processes) then they know what to do. If your market is seniors that don’t know anything at all (and the less-tech-savvy seniors are dwindling by the day) then it will be even harder for you to sell into a smaller market segment.
Good luck and nice work on the device. I think your business model needs some work though.
I want to say thanks.
Customers are reading your (well-written) article and it is prompting them to search for a more modern and simpler Skype videophone for seniors — not for themselves but for their elderly parent / grandparent who is usually beyond being able to use a tablet with menus, icons, charging connectors and tiny text.
As you say, there are different types of customers and needs!
John @ Konnekt videophone for seniors http://www.konnekt.com.au
This thread really strikes a chord.
We bought an Asus AI-Guru Skype phone for my elderly Mother-in-Law who lives 8,000 miles away, and it was great until Microsoft bought up Skype and changed the program. For a while we could still use it with the old Skype program, which we hunted down to reload on our computers, but then MS pulled support for it altogether, Asus refused to update their software (even though it is Linux-based and could easily be reprogrammed), and we had a very expensive doorstop.
Next we bought something called a See-Speak, which was a much simpler idea based on a small and cheap Acer tablet which had been modified to work only with Skype. It was great too, though we had to devise a vertical stand and a horn speaker-enhancer to make it useable.
Now Microsoft has changed Skype yet again, and the See-Speak doesn’t work any more. And it’s not even heavy enough to use as a doorstop…
I don’t know what the solution is. With so many VoIP providers like WhatsApp, Viber and TeamViewer getting in on the act it sounds easy. But the programs change so quickly that another dedicated machine seems a non-starter – and using an ordinary machine makes things far too complicated for the target population.
I’m happy to consider the Konnekt, which certainly looks good. But is it future-proofed in a way which gets around this problem?
Regards to all, Richard
This is been one of the biggest issues for me with Skype. Microsoft seems to be changing it every few weeks and it’s a mess.
The good news is they finally realized that people are stopping their use of Skype. I know I rarely use Skype anymore because the user interface is modified frequently — and it’s different on each platform — so it’s very hard to help others use it too. Sad.
I finally gave up and bought my parents a regular Android 10″ tablet with Skype. I taught my father how to use it and it works well most of the time, apart from the regular Microsoft f$”£$ps with the UI which are of course very confusing for my 80+ years old father. As noted above, custom solutions will only work for a couple of years max before MS releases a breaking change again. Ditto for custom solutions that don’t rely on Skype, usually these companies (like SeeSpeak) are too smal to guarantee business continuation for years to come.
Oh, and my father still misses the simplicity of the Asus. Such a shame.
Videophone helped save a life this week. I was in tears. Makes me love what we do.
I’ll answer the questions about Konnekt and video phones later… great questions… busy today with editors’ calls, Christmas special orders, and UK NHS evaluation for acquired brain injury patients. Oh, Special thanks to iconnectdots, the longest running video phone blog. — John from Konnekt.
Hi Richard and asgoodasiget,
Thanks for your questions. Konnekt has been going since 2013. Our users had continuity through the Microsoft purchase of Skype and total redevelopment of all apps and the server upgrade. Our user interface hides all changes, conplexity, popups, etc. 75-80% of our users have memory loss, mild cognitive impairment, dementia or an acquired brain injury. The rest come to us when they, or their adult children, realize that tablets and Smartphones are no longer an option.
Konnekt is a service, not just a product.
For the younger elderly, get them an iPad but be prepared to be the IT Guy as they age and as they start to find the popups, changing icons and updates intimidating.
One last thing: Portability is a double-edged sword. Wi-Fi quality is EXTREMELY important for interactive video because huge buffers and packet retransmission cannot be used. Once a video packet is lost or there is some packet jitter, the moment for that packet to be used has passed and you might lose a pixel or entire frame. Our first prototype was a tablet and we found that seniors were misplacing, dropping, breaking them, walking away from the best Wi-Fi zones in the home, having trouble holding it, having difficulty with icons and tiny buttons and tiny text… not to mention failing to hear it ring.
iPads and tablets are fantastic for the younger seniors, so if they can still learn one and cope with the above issues for the forseeable future, and they need other apps such as email, then give it a try.
Regardless of which solution you try next, visit this link to learn how to optimize Skype quality:
Merry Christmas and Best Regards from team Konnekt, and many thanks again to iconnectdots for the longest-running discussion about Skype for seniors.