Videophones: A simple way to see your elderly loved ones from afar

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about videophones for seniors? I recently moved to a new city about 500 miles from my elderly parents, and I still want to be able to see them when we talk. But the problem is, they don’t have a home computer for video chatting and they’re terrible with technology. —Youngest Child

Dear Youngest,

Videophones can be a great way to stay connected and get face-to-face time with your aging parents when you can’t be there. Here are some good products to consider for computer-less seniors with technology limitations.

Videophones
For those who aren’t familiar with “videophones,” they’re like a telephone with a built-in camera and video screen that gives you the ability to see the person you’re talking to in real time. All you need is a high speed (DSL or Cable) Internet connection and you’re ready to go.

While there are lots of great videophones on the market today, a top option to consider is the brand new “ASUS Videophone Touch” that works with Skype — a popular software service that enables its users to make free phone and video calls via the Internet. More than 400 million people around the globe currently use Skype. (You can subscribe to this free service at Skype.com.)

The main reason I like the ASUS Videophone for seniors is simplicity. It’s a compact, all-in-one device that comes with a large 7-inch video screen, a built-in webcam, microphone, speakerphone and simple touch-screen controls that makes it very easy to see, hear and use. It also offers a wireless connection and built-in rechargeable battery, giving your parents the freedom to chat anywhere in the house.

Another great advantage is affordability. While the ASUS Videophone will cost you around $270 (available at Amazon.com), Skype-to-Skype video calls are completely free, and if you have a webcam, you can use your computer to video call your parent’s videophone (and vise versa), which means you don’t have to buy a second videophone to converse with them like you do with other services. This videophone will also let your parents make unlimited calls to other landlines and model phones in the U.S. and Canada for only $3 per month.

Other Options
If you don’t want to use Skype or don’t like the ASUS Videophone, there are a plenty of other videophones on the market. The drawback however is you’ll have to buy two (one for them and one for you) in order to converse with each other, which doubles your costs. Here are your options:

  • ACN (www.myacn.com, 877-226-1010): A digital phone service company that makes and sells the IRIS 3000 videophone for $100 with a two-year agreement, plus a $12 monthly fee for ACN-to-ACN users. They also offer an unlimited calling plan to landline and cell phones in the U.S., Canada, or Puerto Rico for $30 per month.
  • 8×8, Inc. (www.8×8.com, 866-879-8647): Developers of the Tango videophone, it sells for $200 plus a $25 per month unlimited calling plan.
  • Vidtel (www.vidtel.com, 877 698-4383): Offers the Grandstream GVX 3000 videophone for $200, with monthly voice/video calling plans starting at $15 per month. Grandstream also offers two other models — the GVX 3005 and 3140 – that you can see at www.grandstream.com.
  • Ojo (www.ojophone.com, 877-367-6965): They offer two videophones, the PVP 1000 for $450 and the PVP 900 for $350, plus $10 per month for Ojo-to-Ojo calling.


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