Tools for keeping in touch in the digital era

It's now easier than ever to stay in touch with family and friends who don't live close by or are unable to visit. Email, social media and telecommunications apps like Skype and What's App are generally free to use and simple to learn. Here are some great tools for keeping in touch with your loved ones thanks to technology.


Most email services are free to use. The benefit of email is that you receive mail in your inbox within seconds of a message being sent - no more having to wait for the postie! There are countless email providers to choose from, with Google's Gmail and Microsoft's Outlook being popular choices. Many libraries and community centres regularly hold 'introduction to email' sessions and they're great for teaching you the basics, such as how to log in and out, send an email and search your inbox.

There are speciality email services such as PawPawMail and Red Stamp Mail that have been specifically designed for seniors. These tend to be paid for services, although free trials are available so you can give them a try.

Social media

Facebook and Instagram are the two most well-known and frequently used social media platforms. Facebook is the place to go if you want to connect with family and friends, as well as look up long-lost pals. If they've got a Facebook account (which many people do - Facebook has over 2 billion monthly active users!) you can send them a friend request; you'll then be able to message back and forth and see the content they share (such as photos and videos), and they'll be able to see yours. If it's mainly pics and videos you're interested in, you'll also want an Instagram account.

Both Facebook and Instagram are free to use. You might find instructional sessions on how to set up an account (again check your library or community centre), otherwise ask your carer, family member or friend to show you how to use these sites.


While typing and receiving messages is nice, there's something extra special about being able to talk face to face. If this isn't possible location-wise, telecommunications services such as FaceTime and Skype offer the next best thing. If you've got an iPhone or iPad, you'll be able to use FaceTime to make video calls. Skype is available on all computers and also android phones as well as iPhones.

These services are usually free but use your phone/internet's data, meaning you pay for the internet service instead of the call cost.

What's App

What's App is a messaging app for your phone. It allows you to send encrypted messages and make calls. You can message other What's App users individually, or set up group texts - these are perfect for staying up to date with family members or arranging meet ups, as everyone is involved in the chat.

What's App can be downloaded from your phone's app store - pop into your local phone shop as they might be able to help you get set up, or ask your carer or loved one for assistance.

Main image: Christian Wiediger

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