Skype is a downloadable computer programme that allows you to make free video calls to anywhere in the world. Perfect for checking up on that new baby or globetrotting gapper.

A click of the mouse and there are your loved ones

They might be on the other side of the world, but you can still chat to them as if they were in the same room (which, in a sense, they are). Eighty-seven per cent of over-55s use the internet to keep in touch with family and friends abroad. Skype is the most popular provider of video chat technology, and because it’s free, you can check up on that new baby or globetrotting gapper as often as you wish.

But Skype is more than an electronic umbilical cord 

Skype provides other free services, including internet phone calls worldwide, voicemail, instant messaging and conference calls for up to 25 people. You can access it on your mobile, Facebook page, or make Skype calls on your home phone using a Freetalk adaptor. And instead of trudging to an evening class, you can link to your tutor without leaving your chair.

All you need is the latest version of Skype and a reliable broadband connection, microphone and webcam—open up a contact and click “check settings” before you start. Next, click the Call Quality icon and tick “automatically select” to adjust the microphone and speakers. Then block spammers by changing the privacy settings in Tools>Options>Calls.

Download the latest version of Skype here

Skype doesn’t do everything better

It isn’t always the cheapest option: TalkTalk currently offers anytime calls to landlines in the UK and ten countries plus North American mobiles for just £4.71 a month. Sound can also be an issue, so a headset’s often recommended for phone calls. And please don’t ditch your old phone, because you can’t ring 999 with Skype.

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