Stay Connected During Social Distancing

senior man laughing on the bed in front of a laptop

With an increasing number of areas on lockdown, it’s worth bringing to the surface the idea of avoiding the replacement of one danger with another. 


Here’s what I mean. 


While social distancing helps us do our part in flattening the curve (yes, please do it), we don’t want Coronavirus to cause a loneliness epidemic, either. 


flattening the curve with protective measures
Please do your part in flattening the curve by practicing social distancing. Source: NPR


Loneliness is already an issue that runs rampant among seniors. 


So much so that, according to AARP’s loneliness study, over 35% of older adults are lonely and loneliness is a significant predictor of poor health.


What’s more, about 28% of older adults live alone in the US (that’s 13.8 million people). In the UK, a whopping 51% of people aged 75+ live alone. And living alone can be isolating.


It goes without saying, being on lockdown with the added anxiety, stress, and unknown factors of COVID-19 doesn’t help. At all. 


On the flip side, social interaction for seniors is so important. Countless studies reveal to us that staying connected and involved in your community improves your mental, physical, cognitive and emotional health (the list goes on, too).


So what’s one way to stay social from a distance? Read on.


How to stay connected long-distance

The best way to maintain your relationships with family, loved ones, friends, colleagues, or even new friends when you’re unable to physically spend time together is in two words: socialize virtually. 


As far as a solution, thank goodness for technology. 


i love lucy gif
Phew, there’s a way to stay connected. Source: Giphy


Socializing virtually goes beyond a phone call (although, phone calls are encouraged, too). 


Take it a step further and incorporate video into your virtual relationship building and nurturing.


Why? At least 70% of our communication is nonverbal. 


Which means you can catch more of someone’s nuances and personality, and deepen your relationships with people through the use of video, especially with this technology literally at your fingertips.


Sound daunting? Not to worry.


To help you, or anyone you know, avoid the negative impact of our “social recession,” I’ve put together four video chat tools to socialize with people virtually. It’s a basic tech run-through for non-techies, so the idea of using a new technology or tool is less overwhelming. 


(If you’re already familiar with the how-to, great – skip the play-by-play and start video chatting more.) 


More specifically, I’m expanding on tip #7 from my Part 1 article on fighting loneliness, which is to use technology to stay connected. 


All you need is an internet connection and either an iPhone or computer.


Let’s dive right in.


5 Free Video Chat Apps for Virtual Socializing

Video Chat App #1. Zoom

One of the most popular online video meeting platforms, Zoom is not just a desktop application – it’s also a mobile app that you can easily access on your phone and tablet.


zoom home page


With an annual revenue that grew 326% in 2021 to $2.7 billion amidst the Covid pandemic, it’s no surprise that the platform serves users beyond just the workplace for remote meetings.


You can use the Basic plan for free, which gives you meetings up to 40 minutes per meeting and 100 attendees per meeting. The Pro, Business, and beyond plans are of course designed to cater to business meetings, but the free Basic plan is a great option for keeping in touch with friends in family remotely.


Once you create an account, just head to the Profile page to grab your Personal Meeting ID, which you can share with your invitees for instant meeting access. Alternatively, you can set up a scheduled meeting and invite your friends and family to the meeting using their email addresses.


Video Chat App #2. Skype

Skype is a popular telecommunications app that specializes in video chat between digital devices. You can use your computer, tablet, mobile device, or even a smartwatch.


To get started with Skype, simply download Skype to your device first, whether on your desktop or mobile phone. 


skype screenshot for desktop and mobile
There’s both a desktop and mobile version available for Skype. Source: Skype 


From there, create a free account using an email and password, and then sign in. Sidenote: to sign in again, you can use either your account’s Skype name, email or phone number. 


To search for contacts, simply enter your contact’s Skype name into the search field and hit enter. (To connect with someone using Skype, your contact needs to also have a Skype account on the receiving end.)


skype 1
Source: Skype 


Once you find your contact, select it, and then click the “video call” icon to start your video call.


skype 2
Source: Skype 


The process is just as straightforward on an iPhone once you download the app from your App Store icon (just search for Skype in your App Store). 


If you prefer using an app that’s already installed on your iPhone, the easiest method is using FaceTime, our next tool.


Video Chat App #3. FaceTime

If you have an iPhone, simply head over to your green phone icon that you use to find your contacts:


green phone icon png 4 300x300 1


If you already have your contact saved in your phone, great. Simply pull up that contact by scrolling through your Contacts tab or typing their name into the search bar at the top. 


contacts in iphone


Otherwise, add a new contact by clicking on the “+” sign in the upper right-hand corner of your Contacts tab. Then fill in the form fields and tap “done” in the upper right to save the info. 


Once you’ve pulled up the contact you want to FaceTime, simply hit the FaceTime icon on the right, which will show up if your contact has an iPhone. 


contact mama bear


If they don’t have an iPhone you can hit the “video” icon at the top. Alternatively, if you’ve followed the first tip and installed Skype onto your phone, a Skype icon will show up in lieu of the top video icon if your contact has a Skype account. 


Once you hit that button, voila – you’re on your way to a virtual face-to-face chat.


If you want to use your iPhone to video chat with people across the globe, try the next tip.


Video Chat App #4. WhatsApp

WhatsApp is another free and easy way to chat with people using video chat directly from your iPhone. 


To download the app to your iPhone, head over to the blue App Store icon, search for “WhatsApp Messenger” and download it. 


whatsapp app store


Once it’s downloaded to your mobile device, simply click on the green WhasApp icon and set up your credentials. After you enter your phone number, you’ll receive a text message with a 6-digit code to validate your device. Simply type in the code and finish setting up your account. 


You’ll need to enable access to your camera, microphone and contacts, which you can do by clicking the Settings tab in the popup notifications. 


Once you’re in Settings, just make sure your “contacts,” “microphone” and “camera” access buttons are switched on, indicated in green when “on.”


whatsapp camera settings


To make a video call, just tap the phone with “+” icon in the upper right of your screen. You’ll then see your list of contacts display. From there, simply hit the video icon and you’re good to go.


whatsapp video call


Don’t have an iPhone? No problem. 


Our final option might be right up your alley.


Video Chat App #5. Facebook Messenger

If you have a Facebook account and a pre-existing habit of hanging out on the platform (which is highly likely considering the platform lured in 2.5 billion monthly active users in December of 2019), Facebook Messenger is a convenient option for video chatting. 


All you need is the internet and a computer with a camera. Ideally, you’d use a laptop with a built-in camera at the top of your screen.


The convenience of using Facebook is your contacts are likely already on the platform. 


To video chat, simply click on the Facebook Messenger icon at the top right of your menu bar:


facebook messenger icon


Then click “new message” right below the icon when it pops up. You can also select a previous messenger chat if you have a chat history with the person you want to video chat. 


If it’s a new message, type your contact’s name into the “to” field and select your contact from the list of auto-populated friends that pop up. Go ahead and type in a message and hit enter to start the conversation box. 


facebook video chat


Once you have a messenger box open, simply click on the top-right video icon and begin your video chat.


Alternatively, you can download the Facebook Messenger app onto your iPhone and follow along the same steps. Once you’ve selected your contact and have a chatbox open, the same video chat icon is in the top right-hand corner.


Pretty straightforward, right?


It’s worth noting that with video, you can hang out virtually and do things like play music for someone, read them a book, demonstrate how to cook a recipe, connect with long-distance grandkids, show off a cool dance move, or practice yoga together. 


Basically, get creative and enhance the “community” part of your life (one of the 5 Rings or Retirement) by leveraging free live chat tools.

And don’t forget to check out our list of the 15 best retirement apps that go beyond just financial planning.


Now is the time to leverage live chat and socialize virtually

Armed with these four free live chat tools, please consider reaching out to someone through video chat as you practice social distancing.


Whether you or the person on the other end need it more, social interaction is one of the most powerful ways to fight loneliness and stay healthy.


And when this pandemic comes to an end (because it will end), you’ll have acclimated to a super useful tool to help you stay connected during social distancing and deepen your long-distance relationships.


Here’s to staying engaged in a meaningful way…


(And if you’re looking for clarity on how to spend your time in a meaningful way, watch this free workshop video on How to Live a Purposeful Retirement Life.)