7 Ways Seniors Can Improve Video Calls (Part 1)

seniors looking and video call

One of the greatest lessons we learned from 2020 was how to use technology to our advantage. Programs like Facetime and Zoom brought families and friends close together when distance and safety inhibited gatherings. While there is nothing better than physically being next to your loved ones, technology has proven it can help strengthen relationships from afar. However, programs like Facetime and Zoom can be a bit tricky to use. In the next two posts, we will cover 7 ways to improve your special moments with family and friends via Facetime and Zoom. Here are our first four tips to improve call quality:


Use a computer for your Facetime and Zoom calls

One of the best ways to improve your call quality is to use a computer for your Facetime and Zoom calls. When using Facetime and Zoom on a computer, the screen will remain stationary and the speaker on the computer will be conveniently targeted towards the person. Additionally, the screen is typically bigger on a computer, so it will be easier to see the loved one with whom you are speaking—which is what these calls are all about! Click here for step-by-step instructions.


Turning up the brightness on your phone

Turning up the brightness on your phone and moving to a well-lit area will help you see the people with whom you are speaking. These often overlooked and underappreciated adjustments for Facetime and Zoom calls will increase the quality of your call tremendously. There is a level of trust and familiarity that comes with being able to see the person with whom you are speaking.


Using a stand greatly improves Facetime and Zoom calls

In the event a computer is not available, being able to properly prop up your phone or tablet will help improve your calls.Many phone cases come with built-in stands, and tablet cases can be bought where the screen cover converts to a stand. Using a stand greatly improves Facetime and Zoom calls because it stabilizes the camera and lets the user speak more comfortably.


Having your phone or computer approximately two feet away from your face

As people are slowly making their way back to working in the office again, properly using Facetime and Zoom on the go is a must-have skill! It is common to see people holding their phones incredibly close to their face when on a Facetime and Zoom call. However, this is not the best way to have a call! Having your phone or computer approximately two feet away from your face allows for your entire face and torso to be in the frame. Likewise, when you have several people trying to talk to another person, having the phone or tablet extended out about two feet allows for everyone to be in the frame.


The last thing you want to experience when calling your loved one is a shaky and dark video. These four tips will greatly improve the call quality with your loved ones when used simultaneously. Make sure your next Facetime or Zoom call is spent saying “I love you” and not “Hold on… I can’t see you!” Spend less time dealing with technology issues and more time talking with your family.


The Best Podcasts for Seniors

While they have been around for several years, podcasts have recently become an overwhelmingly popular form of entertainment and information. According to The Podcast Consumer 2018 from Edison Research, 34% of 18- to 34-year-olds, and 36% of 35- to 54-year-olds are monthly listeners. Seniors 55-plus make up 19% of current listeners. A podcast is an online show, structured similarly to radio shows seniors might have grown up enjoying. Like radio, they are entirely audio – no video. They are available on the internet to download for free onto a smartphone or a computer using your web browser. They vary in length, with most running between 30 minutes and one hour. Podcasts cover a wide variety of topics; there is a show dedicated to almost any interest and demographic. Below are a few we recommend for seniors.



Each week, Stephen J. Dubner, co-author of the Freakonomics books, speaks with Nobel laureates, entrepreneurs, intellectuals, and others about socioeconomic issues for a general audience. With over 8 million downloads per month, it is one of the most popular podcasts on Apple Podcast. Topics range from tipping customs to Chinese folklore, to exercise, and in-home DNA testing kits. This podcast, like many others, doesn’t have a chronological order, so feel free to skip around, or pick a topic that interests you and enjoy.


This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show hosted by Ira Glass. Heard by 2.2 million people, with another 2.5 million people downloading it weekly. The show primarily focuses on journalistic nonfiction and essays, with each episode following a theme. Through interviews and first-person narratives, the diverse topics cover a broad span of moods and tone. The wide variety of these stories will entertain seniors, and inspire them to share them with others, as many reviewers of the podcast have done. In addition to sharing stories, the show also covers current events and how those events affect real people.



Criminal is a podcast about true crime and the people behind the cases. Every story is real. The interviewees are directly involved with the crime in some way or another. Stories of people on both sides of the law. Stories of people caught in the middle and the ones who solve the cases. What’s it like to make counterfeit money? Have you ever had your identity stolen? Who cleans up crime scenes? Each episode is a standalone story, so feel free to skip around and listen to the titles that catch your eye.


Stuff You Missed in History Class

Produced by the team at HowStuffWorks, this podcast is ideal for seniors with a keen interest in history. Skipping over well-known events of the past, Stuff You Learned in History class takes a deep dive into the stories left out of the history books. Highlighting social and cultural happenings and highlighting forgotten historical figures around the world, the podcast provides insight into moments of history long forgotten. Because the podcast covers so many historical topics, you can listen by theme or period of time.


The Alton Browncast

Food Network’s Alton Brown chats with a wide array of food industry professionals. Featuring chefs and bartenders, authors, scientists, and everyone in-between, Alton Brown talks about food and how we eat throughout the podcast. It’s perfect for the senior interested in cooking and dining.


Better Health While Aging

Hosted by practicing geriatrics specialist, Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH, this is a podcast for older adults and family caregivers alike. Dr. Kernisan and her guests discuss common health problems that affect seniors, and what works for improving health and wellness while aging. She and her guests also address common concerns and dilemmas that come with caring for aging parents. Medication safety, memory and cognitive health, and managing cardiovascular risks are just a few of the topics covered in this highly informational podcast.


You Must Remember This

You Must Remember This is a critically acclaimed podcast exploring the forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Proclaimed as the best podcast of 2018 by Entertainment Weekly, the show is written and narrated by former film critic Karina Longworth; it is the ideal show for any senior interested in the golden age of cinema. A heavily-researched work of creative nonfiction, Karina sorts out what happened behind the scenes of the films, stars, and scandals of the 20th century.


If any of these shows appeal to you or someone you might know, or you want to go searching on your own, there are several options for accessing podcasts. If you have a smartphone, there are apps to help you listen and keep you updated on shows you enjoy. If you have an iPhone, there is a podcast app pre-installed. You can also download other apps for listening, like Stitcher. The Google Play Music and Spotify apps are great options for those who want to transition between music and shows.


One last great feature of podcasts is that they can be stopped and started and returned to at a later time. This feature makes them ideal for seniors who enjoy a busy lifestyle or want to enjoy their favorite shows with family and friends.

Technology for Seniors

Technology is such a large part of life these days. We are spoiled for choice, and often the noise of too many options can be overwhelming. The tech space is producing some real benefits for people of all ages.

Seniors now have access to devices and apps that improve social connections and cognitive function, as well as keeping them safe and giving a hand with little things that can sometimes be a challenge as we age.

Take a look at the list below, which has curated some beneficial technology options for seniors. While this list isn’t exhaustive, it can get you started navigating the world of tech and discovering for yourself the many ways it can improve your daily life.

Smartphone / Tablet

The features of the smartphone and tablet go way beyond phone calls and emails. There are endless apps that can be downloaded, many of which are free. There are also settings on these devices that allow you to set your text to a larger setting, as well as a voice-to-text feature that types what you speak if your hands are unsteady with the keyboard.

  • Magnifying Glass with Light – hover it over text and read the larger words on your screen. Perfect for restaurant menus with tiny text.
  • Pill Reminder by Medisafe – reminds you to take medication and sends alerts to caregivers if a dosage has been missed.
  • Kindle – download your favorite books on the screen. You can zoom in, highlight, and take notes as well.
  • GPS – the maps feature can help you find your way home if you’ve gotten lost taking the scenic route. You can also share your location with friends and family.
  • Words With Friends – Scrabble for the screen. Get your friends an family on the app as well and play each other.
  • Duolingo – learn one of many languages on offer and keep your brain sharp.
  • Memory games – there are endless options here, but these can help maintain and improve cognitive function.
  • Social Media – pick your poison here, popular ones to connect with family and friends are facebook and instagram.
  • Facetime – a call feature that allows you to video chat with loved ones. Great for feeling close when you’re far away.

Medical Alert Systems

A medical alert system is often a wearable necklace or bracelet that is connected to a cellular or home line. These systems give you the ability to alert a call center, 911, or family member in the case of an emergency with the click of a button. There are many offerings of this service depending on your lifestyle and needs.

Video Games

Video games are not just stationary any more: they can get you up and moving! Nintendo Wii, Dance Dance Revolution, and Guitar Hero are some of the more popular games that actually interact with your movements in the real world. Get up and exercise, dance, play a game of golf, or play the guitar solo of a popular song and see your results on the screen.


A Fitbit is a bracelet that will help you stay on top of your exercise goals. Some features of these activity trackers are counting steps taken, calories burned, and sleep quality. Smartwatches also have these features if you want a watch that can do even more.


The Roomba is a hands-free circular vacuum cleaner that cleans the floor all by itself. This is a great idea if your back gives you trouble when you bend over to do the vacuuming.


Ride-sharing apps allow you to call a ride to your exact location through it’s GPS services. It saves your payment details so there is no exchange of money at the end of the ride. You can read reviews on the drivers before you get in the car and share your moment-by-moment location with friends and family in transit. There are starting to be endless phone apps for ride-sharing, and it’s hard to know which is better. Uber and Lyft still seem to be the most popular, so it’s best to see which one has the most options in your town.

TV Ears

This technology is for seniors that have a hard time hearing the television. Think of these as personal headphones that allow you to hear the television at your own volume. You set the sound to the level that makes you comfortable without having to disrupt your family or neighbors with your television on too loud.


This is a digital photo frame that is connected to a smartphone app. It allows you to send photos from your phone to the frame. The frame, which you can set up anywhere in your house, rotates through the photos. You can also have friends share photos to your Nixplay device. If you aren’t savvy with smartphones, have a friend or family member set up an account on your behalf. This can be a great way for the family to send photo updates to you through a picture frame in your own home.

If reading this has inspired you to infuse a little more tech into your life, be sure you do some homework in picking out the right product and service. And if you are new to the tech world, please read through our tips to avoid senior scams. Technology is full of possibilities, and being informed helps you enjoy your tech safely.

Protect Yourself From Senior Scams

It’s estimated that senior citizens are robbed of nearly $3 billion a year in financial scams. This crime is often considered “the crime of the 21st Century.” So we’d like to shed light on this horrible fraud that is affecting an estimated 10,000 seniors a day.

Why do scammers target seniors?

According to the FBI, there are a few reasons:

  1. Most seniors have a cushy “nest egg” they’ve saved for retirement. They are also most likely to own their home and have excellent credit.
  2. People who grew up in the 1930s–1950s were generally raised to be polite and trusting. Scammers exploit these traits — they know it can be difficult for this generation to say “no” or just hang up the telephone.
  3. Older Americans are less likely to report a fraud. They don’t know how to report it, are too ashamed at being scammed, or they don’t know that they’ve been scammed.

These crimes are devastating to many older adults and can leave them in a very vulnerable position both emotionally and financially with little time to recoup their losses. Here are two popular scams that specifically target seniors, and how you can combat them:


The Grandparent Scam (also known as the Emergency Scam)

A senior will receive a call from someone who addresses them as “Grandma” or “Grandpa,” and they’ll say they need money immediately because of an extreme circumstance. Occasionally, the scammer will know personal information about their grandchild like their name, the name of their siblings, and their city of residence. Other times, they don’t know much information about the grandkids and will refer to him or herself as “your favorite grandchild.”

The reason they need money can differ. Maybe they were in an accident and need money to pay for the medical bills. In that common scenario, the scammers will hand the phone to a “doctor” who will confirm the medical bill. Sometimes scammers will act like they’ve just been arrested and need bail money. Like the former example, they’ll hand the phone to a “sheriff” or “lawyer” who will confirm the urgent need for cash. During these scamming phone calls, keep this in mind: the scammer will always have a desperate need for money. They will be willing to do whatever it takes to gain your personal information.

How to Protect Yourself

The Grandparent Scam is a pretty scary phone call to receive. It plays on your fear and emotions so you often overlook any doubt about the situation. Beware that this scam is going around and call your family if you ever receive a call from one of your grandchildren saying they are in need of some emergency situation.

Decide on a personal question you could ask your grandchild on the phone that could catch a scammer in the act. You could ask about their favorite baseball team, current address, favorite color, or pet’s name. Be sure to choose something that only family members know.


Medicare, Social Security, and Health Insurance Scams

These scams are common because every U.S. citizen over 65 years old qualifies for Medicare. Medicare and Social Security beneficiaries will receive calls from scam operators who claim to represent Medicare, Social Security or an insurance company. They claim that new Medicare, Social Security or supplemental insurance benefits cards are being issued or that the senior’s file must be updated. Then the scammer asks the citizen to verify by providing their personal banking information, which will be used to commit theft.

The callers are often extremely aggressive and will call constantly to wear down the potential victim. They will say anything to gain a person’s trust. In some cases, they may have already obtained limited personal information such as a name, address or even Social Security number.

How to Protect Yourself

Know this: the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Social Security Administration will not call you to update information or issue a new card. If you have disclosed personal information to an unknown party, you could be at risk of identity theft. Call one of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) and place a fraud alert on your credit report. This makes it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. With a fraud alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit and use the contact information from the credit reporting companies. You can also place a freeze on your credit reports, which requires written authorization before releasing any information from your credit report.


Other ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim, according to the AARP:

  • Put your address on opt-out lists with the Direct Marketing Association. Once done, national vendors won’t send junk mail and you will know that what arrives is likely from scammers. If you do receive a postal scam, report it to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by clicking here or calling 1-877-876-2455 (press option 4).
  • Check your credit reports at AnnualCreditReport.com to ensure that fraudulent new accounts haven’t been opened in your name.
  • If you need assistance, AARP Foundation volunteers can help. You can call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline at 1-877-908-3360 toll-free. The volunteers at AARP can talk to you about possible scams and may be able to help you report a crime.



FBI: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/seniors

Grandparents Scam: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2016/how-to-beat-grandparent-scam.html

AARP: http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2017/protect-parents-from-scams.html

MetLife: https://www.metlife.com/assets/cao/mmi/publications/studies/2011/mmi-elder-financial-abuse.pdf

Medicare Scams: https://www.ag.state.mn.us/consumer/publications/medicaressscams.asp