“Can you see me like I can see you?” my Grandmother asks with a quizzical look on her face.
“Yes, your face takes up my entire screen,” I reply.
“And you can hear me ok?” she continues.
“Yep – as plain as day,” I state. “Can you hear me ok?” I ask.
“Well, isn’t that something,” she gasps. “It’s like we’re sitting at the table talking.”
She pauses to contemplate the possibilities and quickly realizes the implausible.
“If only we could play cards this way,” she cracks herself up and her shoulders shake up and down as she chuckles and leans back in her chair.

The face-to-face conversation through the computer with my Grandma continues over the marvels of technology for a few minutes and then moves on to her latest hair appointment. The smile doesn’t leave her face for the near 30 minutes we chat. I watch as she leans towards the screen searching for answers to how this is possible and she laughs as I attempt to virtually hug her through the computer. I may not be able to see every wrinkle of her face, but I can certainly see her smile and excitement and it’s quite an improvement from what I normally hear over the phone. All this made possible via Skype.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used Skype for business over the past few years. Chatting instantly with colleagues and conducting video meetings across multiple states on a weekly basis. What was neat at first somehow became the norm. Oddly enough, the thought of using Skype to stay more connected to my family never crossed my mind. We try so hard to keep our work lives separate from our family lives that some of the simplest concepts aren’t transferred over. Last week the norm was exciting all over again.

What is Skype?

For those of you that might not know, Skype is a free downloadable software application that allows users to chat over the Internet via instant messaging (text), voice and video. It also allows users to call landline and mobile phones for a fee. You can send files and photos through the instant messaging feature and you can add people to your call or video call to make it a conference call. One of the latest features is screen sharing where you can basically show the person you are speaking to what’s on your computer screen (photos etc.) with one click.

What do I need to use Skype?

All you need is a computer with a built in microphone, an Internet connection and a web cam (if you plan on video calling). Downloading and using the software is super simple. First, you need to create a user name and password that you will log into each time. After you are all set up, you can easily search for friends by their email address or their user name. Video demonstrations on how to use the software are on http://www.skype.com/.

My Grandmother doesn’t actually have a computer and maybe that’s why this concept never really occurred to me. But like a slap upside the head, I realized my Dad, who lives down the street from her, has a computer. I simply got on the phone and walked him through the Skype download. He tested it out a few times to make sure he knew how to use it and now my Grandmother and I have a weekly video chat date!

If you are miles away from your loved ones and missing their smiles, look into Skype. It’s free, it’s easy and it’s guaranteed to put a smile not only on their face, but yours as well. Need help getting setup with Skype? Chicago Methodist Senior Services offers affordable computer help for senior citizens – contact us today!

Carrie Robertson
Research & Community Education

Chicago Skilled Nursing
Chicago Senior Living

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