Recently I came across an interesting article in the Journal of Clinical Nursing. The article, Older Nursing Home Residents’ Experiences With Videoconferencing to Communicate with Family Members (abstract), reports on a project in Taiwan that encouraged elderly individuals in nursing homes to communicate with their family members via videoconferencing. Participants in the small study, 34 seniors in 10 nursing homes, were introduced to video-phone communication, and they continued using the technology to communicate with family members over a three-month period. Researchers provided the supervision for the video-calls and conducted interviews with the residents over the length of the study.
The experiment, considered a great success, was set up with the expectation that residents would communicate with family members about once a week. In reality 12 percent made daily calls, 46 percent participated on a weekly basis, and 24 percent made monthly videoconferencing calls. Only about 18 percent hardly ever used the technology. Calls were offered at specific times in order to have an attendant available to assist residents. Residents were enthusiastic, according to the article. “Because they did not want to miss the videoconferencing appointments, they usually came to wait half-an hour earlier even though the researchers had not yet arrived.” Read more about the videoconferencing research at the ScienceBlog and also at Senior Journal.
Elderly residents stated that the videoconferencing enriched their lives and that the online visits were the second-best option if they could not visit with relatives in person. They also liked seeing homes of family members’ homes while talking.
For many of us with aging parents, these observations are hardly surprising. Using today’s technology tools to connect aging parents to other much-loved members of their families is a “no-brainer. Skype, with its video phone service, is a big-deal communication tool in many families. Download Skype here or check out Skype frequently asked questions here (FAQ). I would not be surprised if Google Voice developed videoconferencing in the near future.
Helping others use technology tools is the primary focus of my professional experience and has been for more than 20 years. During the past five years, as I have visited communities for aging adults, I have also noted their technology spaces — how they are set up, what they look like, and whether I see people using the equipment. Most have a room with a few computers connected to the Internet. However, ensuring that these technology spaces serve as communication hubs with minimal frustration for users is no easy task.