If you live a distance away from your parents or an elderly relative, video calling is a great way of staying in touch. It can feel more personal than a phone call, and seeing them in-situ has the added benefit of being able to keep a subtle check on their health and environment.
The Covid-19 pandemic led to video calling becoming a far more popular way of communicating. You can video call on smartphones, tablets and laptops using apps such as Zoom, Skype, Facetime and Whatsapp. One of the positives to come out of the pandemic is that tech and internet usage amongst the older generation has increased. However, getting to grips with video calling using the latest phones and laptops can still be problematic — particularly for older people with dementia or impaired capacity.
As a result, we’ve witnessed the development of simple video calling devices designed to help those with limited tech knowledge and especially helpful for engaging with older relatives. Keep reading as we’ve picked our favourite three video calling devices for the elderly in the UK.
For the less tech-savvy amongst us, even smart phones and tablets can be confusing.
Video calling devices for the elderly are dedicated pieces of equipment for simple video communication. These make video calling easier for older people than using apps or software on smartphones, tablets or laptops.
The CallGenie video calling device was invented specifically for older people and therefore is the easiest to use. CallGenie uses the Skype video calling system to make calls which are displayed on the elderly user’s TV screen. They don’t even have to remember how to answer or end a call, it all happens automatically. Only calls from known contacts are answered.
The CallGenie software connects to the television through a mini-PC and a webcam placed at the top of the TV set. By using a TV display, you are guaranteed the picture is big enough for most elderly users to see and the sound is loud enough for them to hear.
When you make a call to your elderly relative, their viewing will be suspended and your faces will automatically appear on their TV screen. Perhaps even more importantly, when you end the call, the TV will go back to what they were watching before. Even if they are not watching TV, it is able to turn the TV on for the call and back to off again afterwards. The automatic answering and ending is particularly helpful for older living with dementia, or who have some other form of impaired capacity.
You just need to plug the CallGenie equipment into the HDMI port of your relative’s TV — and their support team are on hand to provide remote guidance on the installation process.
These well-planned features make the CallGenie the simplest video calling device for the elderly on the market in the UK. It is ideal for older people who might struggle with or who are suspicious of new technology.
- Answers and ends calls automatically
- Only calls from known Skype contacts are answered
- Uses the TV for visual and audio
- Uses Skype
- Remote installation support
The CallGenie with HD Webcam costs £479.99 including VAT. This includes a 12 month warranty.
2. Facebook Portal
The Facebook Portal was not specifically intended as a video calling device for the elderly, but it is one of the most popular on the market in the UK for older people.
With the Facebook Portal, a user can start and receive calls using voice-automation: “Alexa, start a video call with Peter”.
The Facebook Portal video calling device supports video calls via either Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. This means your relative will need a Facebook or WhatsApp account in order to use the Facebook Portal for video calling. In order to have WhatsApp, they will need a smart phone. This extra level of technical involvement might be too complicated or too overwhelming for some older people.
The Portal has a webcam built-in, and can be plugged in anywhere in the home. Helpfully, the camera pans automatically to keep the user in-focus even if they move around the room. The elderly user will see the people that they are calling on the Portal’s 10-inch screen.
It is possible to set up the Facebook Portal to display on your relative’s TV, but it cannot be programmed to answer automatically, which can make it difficult for some elderly users.
The Portal supports Spotify, allowing your relative to listen to music and podcasts. Fortunately, the Facebook Portal is not overloaded with features that may be confusing for seniors. However, the lack of automatic answering is a drawback.
- Voice automation
- Uses Facebook Messenger & Whatsapp
The Facebook Portal costs £169.
3. Amazon Echo Show
Amazon has also branched into the market of simple video calling devices. Powered by Alexa, the Amazon Echo Show allows your elderly relative to start a video call using only their voice, which is helpful for those who struggle to use a touch screen.
The Amazon Echo Show comes in a range of screen sizes (5inch to 10 inch) — we would recommend the largest screen for older users.
You can only receive calls from friends and family who also have an Echo device with a screen, or the Alexa app on their phone.
The Amazon Echo Show has a greater range of functions than the other video calling devices on this list. Using the technology from Alexa, the Amazon Echo Show can tell your relative about the latest news, play TV shows and films, and answer questions like a traditional Alexa.
Because of the multi function use, this video calling device might be better suited for elderly relatives that are a bit more tech-savvy. Introducing this technology to a more technology-sceptical relative might be a challenge.
- Voice automation
- Only compatible with other Amazon devices or Alexa app
The Amazon Echo Show 10 (10.1″ screen) costs £239.99.
Which Video Calling Device is best for my relative?
Which video calling device is best for your relative will depend on their needs.
If your relative struggles with technology, then we think the best option is the CallGenie. It is the only device designed for automatic answering, and it requires no technological input from your relative in order to have successful video calls. It is also better suited for people living with dementia.
Frequently Asked Questions about Video Calling for the Elderly
Can you video call without Wifi?
All of the video calling devices listed on this page require Wifi in order to make calls. They are easy to connect to your relative's existing Wifi set-up.
Do I need to buy a webcam for my elderly relative?
The Facebook Portal and Amazon Echo Show devices both come with a webcam built-in to the device.
The CallGenie is available with 2 webcam options. These are an HD webcam, and a Full HD Webcam.
Are video calling devices for the elderly easier than video calling on phones?
Simple devices for video calling for the elderly are usually easier than video calling on smartphones. This is because smartphones tend to have a greater number of features, and require more technical knowledge.
Video calling devices built specifically for the elderly, like the Callgenie, are built with simplicity in mind.
The screen size on a smart phone, might also make it more difficult for an older person to see.
Do video calling devices for the elderly record the calls?
Video calling devices for the elderly do not record the calls. Video calls on most of the major video calling services are encrypted (can't be monitored by anyone) for additional privacy.
Are video calling devices easy to set up?
Video calling devices are easy for most people to set up.
However, you might want to install the device together, to make sure everyone understands how it works and do a couple of test runs.
What is the best video calling device for somebody with dementia?
A video calling device for someone living with dementia should be easy-to-use, and not dependent on learning how a new device works.
We think that the CallGenie is the best video calling device for someone with dementia because it answers automatically, and uses the TV (a piece of technology that people with dementia tend to be familiar with).
What makes a good video calling device for the elderly?
A good video calling device for an older person should be extremely easy-to-answer, require limited technical knowledge day-to-day, and always be available to use without much preparation.