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By far the most popular video communications tool, it enables video-
sharing of just about anything done on a daily basis via computer,
Smartphone, tablet or TV. If you are using a computer, both parties
need their laptop or desktop to be equipped with a web camera,
speakers and the software, which can be downloaded for free.
The system uses the Internet to transfer voices and images between
users and, because users have already paid for Internet service, there
is no additional fee when one Skype user calls another Skype user.
However, there are fees, though quite reasonable, if Skype is used to
call a regular phone number such as a land line or cellphone.
A good source for information about how to get started with Skype
is at:
Similar to Skype, this is Apple’s
video solution for users on newer
Mac computers, iPhone, iPod touch
or iPad 2. It also uses the Internet
to enable communication and is
free. When downloading FaceTime
software there is a one-time, 99-
cent fee for older Macs, or search
for various other sites on which the
software is available for free. More
information can be found at
Google Talk
This downloadable chat
application by Google
enables users to text and
voice chat, transfer fles
between computers,
tablets and Smartphones
anywhere in the world for
free, and talk to multiple
people at once. Users
can also get a video chat
plug-in to make voice
and video calls within
Gmail, iGoogle and orkut.
Randy Ray
Yves and Jeannette Caya
spend their winters in Florida, but still
manage to see what their grandchildren are up to in Texas and
Since 2010, when they learned how to use Skype (a free, online,
video-calling system), the Ottawa grandparents have set up their
laptop computer once or twice a week at the dining room table
in Naples, Fla., and watched their four grandkids grow up.
It’s not the same as hugging the children in person but, for the
Cayas, it’s the next best thing.
Thanks to Skype, they’ve seen their granddaughter Gabrielle
model her Halloween costume in Ottawa and watched her
brother Mackenzie show of the new boots he wears to his Air
Cadet meetings in the nation’s capital. They’ve also watched
San Antonio-based granddaughter Isabelle show of her new
braces and seen her sister Grace parade about the house in the
Cleopatra outft she once wore in a school play.
“As well, we were able to see the fantastic reaction of both Belle
and Gracie when their parents told them they would be going
on a Disney cruise for Christmas,” says Jeannette.
The Cayas are among a growing number of snowbirds who rely
on technology to keep in touch visually on a computer screen
with their loved ones back home, whom they dearly miss when
they trek south every year.
“Seeing them, rather than talking on the phone, is very import-
ant to us,” says Jeannette. “It is so much better than the phone
because they are looking right at you…it feels as if they are right
across the table from you.”
Toronto-based technology expert Marc Saltzman says that Skype
and other tech tools ease the pain which many grandparents
feel when they are thousands of kilometres away from family
members, in particular the grandchildren on whom they dote.
“Skyping makes travel a lot easier…it makes the distance gap a
lot more palatable,” says Saltzman, who Skypes twice a day with
his wife when he is on lengthy road trips. “The biggest advan-
tage is that you see who you are talking to and they see you. It
makes for a much more emotional experience.”
Snowbirds who want face time – rather than simply phone
time – with their relatives and friends have several options, all of
which are easy to use and, in many cases, free.
“If you know how to use a telephone, you can use the technol-
ogy,” says Carmi Levy, an independent technology analyst and
journalist based in London, Ont. “You download the software for
free, then you simply click and you are connected. It is easy to
use and it lets you see who you are talking to…that’s what sells
the service.”
If you want to stay connected to your family and friends while
wintering in the sunny south, here are some communications
options to consider. As you might expect, you’ll get the best
performance if you have the latest and greatest computer or
Video Communicating
If all of this tech talk has your head spinning, Levy has some advice: get one of your tech-savvy grandkids to set up your system
and be available – by online video, of course – should you encounter glitches.