October 24, 2014

How to help seniors with their computer issues from far away

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Dear Savvy Senior,
Are there any computer software products that you know of that will let me help my parents with their computer issues from afar? They are in their 70s and frequently call me with their computer questions and problems, but I live across town and don’t always have time to get in the car and drive over to help them. What’s available that can help us?
—Weary Son

Dear Weary,
Helping an elder loved with their computer questions or problems over the phone can be frustrating and difficult. Fortunately, there are a number of resources available today that offer remote access software that can easily help you assist your parents with their computer issues from afar.
One of the best is TeamViewer, which is free to use and works with Windows and Macintosh computers.
To get started, you and your parents will need to go to TeamViewer.com and install its free software on each of your computers. How-to videos are available on the site to help with the installation.
Once installed—and with their permission—you will be able to access your parent’s computer right from your own computer wherever you are. Both machines must have broadband Internet for this to work.
This software will give you the ability to actually see what’s appearing on your parent’s computer screen, and will let you remotely take charge of their computer so you can show them how to do something, or you can do it for them while they watch. Almost anything can be done remotely with this software. You can even keep a live video chat open at the same time you’re helping them.
If you’re interested in shopping around, some other free remote access programs worth a look include Chrome Remote Desktop (go to chrome.google.com/webstore and type in “Chrome Remote Desktop” in the “Search the store” box to find it), and SkyFex (skyfex.com), which works only with Windows.
Skype also has a screen share feature (see skype.com/en/features/screen-sharing) that lets you share your screen and video chat at the same time, but you can’t actually take control of the other person’s computer. You can only show them what they should be doing by demonstrating it on your own desktop.

Professional Tech Support
If your parents need more tech support than you are able to manage, another option to consider is to sign them up with a tech support company like Geek Squad (geeksquad.com, 1-800-433-5778), which also offers remote access capabilities to help your parents with almost any computer issue.
Whenever they would need assistance, they could call the Geek Squad toll free number anytime, 24 hours a day or log in to its website. A Geek Squad representative would then help them initiate a remote access session, so they could remotely show them how to do something, or make repairs or adjustments to their computer. Once the call is completed, the remote control access would be disconnected from your parent’s computer.
In addition to the remote access help, Geek Squad tech support also offers free anti-virus software, they cover up to three computers (or other devices) and provide unlimited phone and in-person tech support at any Best Buy store. Costs range from $200 for one year, $280 for two years or $350 for three years, with a 15 percent discount available to AARP members.

Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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