Q: I’m going on a birthright Israel trip soon, and my grandparents are thrilled — they haven’t been to Israel in 40 years. I’m sure I’ll be posting pictures to Facebook while I’m there, but they don’t use the Internet, let alone social media. And they live in Florida, so my parents can’t exactly bring over their laptop. How can I update my grandparents in real time about my travels beyond a quick phone call? (Their hearing isn’t the best, so I’d rather not call them.)
A: Before you head to Israel, buy your grandparents an eStarling Touch-Connect.
There are many digital photo picture frames on the market, but this one uniquely will let you snap photographs and take short videos from your iPhone or Android and instantly send them (via email) to the frame in your grandparents’ home. Grandma and grandpa might even think it’s magic.
You can spend the day taking photographs of the Jewish quarter or video of a Tel Aviv walking tour, and the next morning your grandparents can wake up and make breakfast while watching your escapades from the night before. OK, well maybe from the day before.
The eStarling has an easy-to-use 10-inch touch screen, and it’s easy to set up for someone who already has an Internet setup: Just assign an email account to the frame, connect it to the Internet or set it up for WiFi, and anyone will be able to email images to the frame. (Those without the Internet will need to sign up for access, which runs about $14.99 a month from AT&T.) The eStarling costs $249 and is available online at www.estarling.com.
Q:I taught my Seattle-based father how to Skype a few years ago, and it’s been an incredible way for us to keep in touch — we’ve used it to light Chanukah candles together, welcome Shabbat together and discuss the week’s parshah, all while being hundreds of miles away. In October he even watched my children and I build a sukkah!
Recently, he’s developed macular degeneration and so he has a tough time seeing the Skype screen on his small laptop. I really don’t want to downgrade to the telephone. Are there other Internet services or devices I can use that will magnify the screen more for my father?
A: Panasonic and Sam-sung all make Skype-enabled high definition TVs that range in cost from $1,000 to $2,500. You’ll need a TV-compatible webcam (about $150) that allows users to make video calls away from the computer.
If you can arrange this for your grandfather, he’ll be able to peer into your home and holidays from a screen that is much, much larger than his computer screen.
This option is definitely on the costly side, but since it sounds as though Skype is a frequently used resource, this could be a wise investment for you and your family.
Ben Lewis is the founder of Engage As You Age, which provides meaningful companionship to homebound or isolated seniors in the Bay Area and computer help for seniors. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (415) 690-6944. For more information, visit www.engageasyouage.com.
Not a member of the Twitter or Skype generation? Connections gives advice to help seniors stay connected via age-friendly high-tech options.