Zoom became synonymous with keeping businesses running during the pandemic, and the name alone became a buzzword for all means of communicating outside of quarantine.
But videoconferencing hasn’t lost its luster. Folks, including those 50 and far older, continue to rely on Zoom for their everyday connections when distance, time and convenience call for face-to-face interaction.
Other video chat options are available, including Cisco Webex, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, and Skype, but many Zoomers choose the service because of its relative simplicity. Click a link and you’re attending a book club meeting, getting personal pet training from your breeder or just schmoozing with friends.
Los Angeles-based physician Steven Goldberg, 73, a self-described “sober alcoholic,” said that even today, being able “to find a Zoom Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at any hour of the day” is still going strong.
If you're unsure about Zoom — and maybe a little intimidated — we're here to help.
What Zoom costs today
A basic Zoom membership is free, allowing you to host a meeting of up to 100 attendees for up to 40 minutes. Participants can join a Zoom meeting from their computer, smartphone or tablet.
With a free Zoom account, people can sign back in after 40 minutes or another host can start a second meeting. But that can be a bit of a hassle.
Pay plans that let meetings extend up to 30 hours, among other added benefits, start at $14.99 a month or $149.90 a year, per user. The Pro plan allows up to nine licensed accounts and lets you conduct meetings that run for up to 30 hours. Zoom has higher-priced plans for large businesses.
How to get started
Zoom works on Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets, with some interface and feature distinctions among devices. You can download desktop software for Zoom on a computer or get the iOS and Android app versions in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store.
You also can participate in a Zoom call through your web browser without having any software installed on your device, albeit with more limited functionality. Zoom continues to add new features to the browser. For example, you can now schedule a one-time or recurring meeting from the web browser.
This story was produced in collaboration with Senior Planet, which helps people 60 and older learn technology skills to find community, reach their goals and thrive in the digital world. Senior Planet is part of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS) from AARP, which teaches more than 50 free virtual programs each week on a wide range of topics, such as getting in shape, joining telemedicine appointments, listening to podcasts, making friends and saving money.
Senior Planet recently introduced findings of a study it conducted at various times throughout the pandemic that reinforces the power of maintaining social connections for older adults using technology like Zoom. The nonprofit presented a training course called Android Essentials twice a week over Zoom to a group of low-income New York City adults 60 and older, who were each given a free tablet. The study compared the group to a similarly aged control group of people who were issued tablets but didn’t receive the Senior Planet training.
The findings: Those who took the course were far more likely to use the tablet to expand their social connections. More than half, 52.6 percent, of the participants indicated that they connected with someone new, compared with 25.8 percent who didn’t take the course. About 38 percent of participants in the training group reported that they had a video call with someone new, compared with 22 percent of folks in the other group.
While you don’t need an account to join a Zoom meeting, you’ll need one to host your own conference. And you may have to register to participate in webinars or other sessions. Some hosts restrict access to people who have created an authorized profile under a Zoom account.
Keep in mind that whether you use Zoom through a cellphone or on your home Wi-Fi, you'll need a decent speed.
“We've struggled with some people who don't have a powerful connection. And so they haven't had as much access,” says Paula Rochelle, 77, of San Jose, California, who learned the technology in 2020 to stay active in the groups she's involved in. That includes organizations from the activist Raging Grannies to Toastmasters.
More recently, Rochelle added a twice-weekly band-and-weight exercise session on Zoom with women in their 70s and 80s from California, Montana, Utah, Virginia and Washington. “We call it ‘pre-hab’ exercise instead of ‘rehab’ exercise since several of us have had incidents or injuries that have put us in rehab.”
How do I join a Zoom session?
An invitation typically arrives via email or text. Click the Join Zoom Meeting link in the body of the message. You'll be prompted to download Zoom or to launch the app if you already have it. You then just choose to join a meeting with or without video.