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It’s great-gran on Zoom as housebound seniors embrace video chatting

A week ago she called ReadyTechGo, a company that teaches computers to seniors, and using phone and remote-access software learnt how to use Zoom video conferencing.

She has already used the app for a medical appointment.

Her first U3A philosophy class with eight others was ‘‘hilarious’’ as faces flashed on and off screen as connections dropped out and they spoke over each other.

By the second class, they’d nailed it: ‘‘I could sit in my lounge chair with my laptop in front of me and I had all their faces on the screen and it was lovely”.

Mrs Briggs now wants to get her family, including three great-grandchildren, doing regular Zoom group chats.

She also just bought her first groceries online.

Jurgen Streich, 78, from Drysdale, near Geelong, learnt how to video call like he learns home maintenance – by watching YouTube ‘‘how to’’ videos.

Mr Streich now uses WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger video to chat to his offspring, who live in Melbourne’s east.

On Wednesday, Mr Streich and wife Judy used Messenger to wish their great-grandson Kyson, of Mount Evelyn, a happy first birthday.

ReadyTechGo director Lisa Du said customers have been asking: ‘‘How do I get connected to my club or my loved one’’?

She said people ‘‘will have to adapt to technology now so they can stay communicating with everybody else’’.

Apple Users Society of Melbourne secretary Susan Jensen said before coronavirus, seniors might have learnt computer skills at libraries or neighbourhood houses.

They could now access online programs such as the Federal Government-run Be Connected which offers free courses.

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Ms Jensen said members of computer clubs such as hers can give advice and run regular online workshops.

Ms Jensen logging on can be a leap of faith: ‘‘You can socialise, with these things, you can keep in contact with your friends and your relatives, if you just have the confidence to take that next step.’’

Judy Briggs urged others to give online apps a go but admits for some people, it’s ‘‘way beyond them’’.

‘‘They’re the people I worry about. I think it’s sad.’’

One person Mrs Briggs can’t interact with, or even hold his hand, is her husband of 62 years, Don, 84, who has dementia and is in lockdown in a nursing home.

‘‘Fortunately for him he’s not aware that all this is happening,’’ Mrs Briggs says.

‘‘It’s me that’s heartbroken. It’s a huge worry, and I just can’t see him.’’

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