My mother and I had lunch together the other day. We ate, we laughed, and we had a great time just being together. The only thing that would have been better is if we were in the same room. My mother lives about two-and-a-half hours away from me, so we lunched together via the magic of computers.
About a month ago my sister and I purchased my mother a new iMac. She’s no stranger to computers, but this new one is faster and has more bells and whistles, including a built-in video camera. Using the iChat video conferencing feature, we were able to sit at our desks that day and eat our sandwiches and carry on a face-to-face conversation. Also, by pivoting her computer screen around, the computer camera could scan the room, and show me the new furniture in her office, as well as my dad sitting in his recliner waving to me and watching television.
Despite her lack of formal computer training, my mom’s been an eager student and has become quite adept at Googling information, emailing her friends, working on Excel spreadsheets, and instant messaging and Skyping with family members all around the country. The screen grab above shows a three-way video conference with three generations of us laughing and having a good time. It’s been wonderful to see her empowered by her new knowledge of computer technology and it’s been a blessing for me to be able to spend time with my parents everyday.
Video conferencing could have a huge positive impact on senior citizens in general, but especially so for those who live in senior care facilities. The loneliness of these seniors is palpable. I volunteered in a senior assisted care facility for several years and found it difficult to observe residents who never had visitors. Wouldn’t if be wonderful if these senior facilities had video conferencing capable computers on site so that the residents could stay connected to the world by having video visits with friends and family? Of course, I know that this requires their friends and families also to have these types of computers, but I’m a dreamer and always believe that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Considering there are computers everywhere – surely neighbors, friends, employers all might be willing to share their computers periodically for these priceless visits.
Nothing can ever replace an in person visit, but sharing time together in any form possible is valuable. Thanks to computer technology, we have at our disposal the ability to stay connected with everyone we care about. With applications like iChat and Skype, which have basic services for free, we have few excuses not to include seniors as part of our connected group. So what about this – buy a relative you’d love to see more often a computer video camera for the upcoming holidays?