Using Skype* as a way to help overcome isolation and loneliness in the elder community

Using Skype* as a way to help overcome isolation and loneliness in the elder community

What is *Skype?

*Skype: is a “voice over internet service - VoIP” which allows registered Skype users to communicate with each other for free by voice, video, and instant messaging over the Internet.

There are other VoIP providers, but Skype is to date the most widely used.

Could a family Skype experience become a community experience?

I would like to share my personal experience of using Skype to bring our scattered family together. I believe that our experience may be followed to help in the linking of isolated senior citizens with each other, their families and friends. Skype could also provide a regular and continuous link with organisations such as Social Services, Age UK, etc….

In our experience, Skype has been particularly valuable for the older members of my immediate family who live across three continents (my mother, her two brothers, her sister and her daughter). As recently as three years ago, family member communication was not so very frequent. It was also quite expensive plus my mother was feeling a little cut off from everybody.

I introduced Skype to all the senior family members at the maturing stage in their lives when they were all 65 plus years. None had any competence with computers or tablets. However, such was the ease of contact that Skype promised, that they were all quick to embrace and implement the idea.. Skype is also used by family members living in Newcastle as well as by my mother to keep in term time contact with her grandson. Now everyone has internet, a laptop or a tablet and is a frequent and quite expert Skype user. The video and voice calling facilities now brings them together on an almost daily basis for a morning or evening chat. Not only do they see each other, but also the growing members of the extended family! Using the video call feature they can even see inside each other’s homes without having to move out of their respective comfortable seats! So the point is that it is not always necessary to travel the miles to be together Although my mother and I both live in Newcastle, I start and end the day with a Skype call to her to help reduce any feeling of loneliness especially in the short winter days.

I suggest therefore that we look into ways that Skype or similar service can be used to connect all older members of the community living alone and not able to move frequently outside their homes.

How to do it?

To be able to use Skype at home requires the following:

A personal computer, laptop or tablet (cost from 70 to say 500 pounds)

A broadband internet connection (cost from 12 to 20 pounds a month)

A wifi modem to provide wire free broadband connection to the computer or tablet at various places throughout the home area (from 50 to say 150 pounds).

A subscription to Skype programme (can be completely free if used only to contact other on-line Skype users)

Some initial instruction on how to use PC/tablet and the Skype ( can be free on a voluntary / family basis)

Some initial practice making and receiving calls.

More use and practice and having regular contact with family, friends and others.

How can it be afforded?

Equipment costs are coming down but ways to provide PC/tablets and modems at low cost/no cost need to be investigated, and particularly for those with low income. Is sponsorship a possibility to provide new or good used equipment?

Broadband internet could be provided free just as is TV licence is to older community members. This would be low cost for the general community since the marginal cost of a new connection to a broadband network is low. So this needs to be lobbied for.

A well connected elder community will be happier, healthier and much more integrated into their local, regional and national communities.

Rima Karam

Skype