Zoom: Tips and Tricks for Older Adults

By Lauren Bedosky |

Stay connected with this guide to the popular video calling platform.

seniors on a video callAretha Franklin: legendary singer or fortune teller? The answer may be both. In the 1980s, her single “Who’s Zoomin’ Who?” reached number seven on the Billboard 100.

Today, that question takes on an entirely different meaning. The popular video calling service Zoom has been a lifesaver for many during the pandemic, enabling them to connect safely with loved ones and favorite activities.

Whether you’ve been Zooming all year or you’re just getting started, we’re here to help you get the most out of it. If you’re a Zoom newbie, we’ll guide you through a few basics to make your calls easy and successful. If you’re an experienced Zoom user, we’ll offer you some fun tricks to take your video calls to the next level.

Ready to give it a try? Here are tips for a successful interface.

The Basics

The easiest way to get started with Zoom is to have someone else invite you to a Zoom event. So recruit your tech-savvy friend or family member to host a Zoom get-together. Invitations usually arrive via email or text message. If you’re joining SilverSneakers LIVE, you’ll get an email invite to each class or workshop you sign up for.

Get Set Up

Before your Zoom session, download the free software on your computer, or get the app (iOS or Android) for your phone or tablet. By doing this ahead of time, you’ll be able to join your session more quickly, and you can join a test meeting beforehand to familiarize yourself with Zoom.

You can also create a free account, but it’s usually not necessary if you are just attending a session. If you want to step up to scheduling your own Zoom meeting, then you’ll need an account.

How to Join a Meeting

When it’s time for your Zoom meeting, simply click the link in the email invite to join. This is the easiest way to get into your call.

You’ll have an option to join with or without video. Go for video if you can! It’s more fun, and the point is to see each other. You’ll also want to select “join with computer audio.” If the host hasn’t arrived, you may need to wait like you’re on hold.

Helpful Hints

Once you’re in the meeting, here are some useful functions for first-timers.

1. Pick a view. You can select between a gallery view, where you see everyone, or a speaker view, in which the person talking is front and center and everyone else is smaller at the top. To adjust the view, use the icon button at the top right of your computer. The location may be different on tablets and phones.

If you’re using Zoom for a SilverSneakers LIVE class, you’ll only see the instructor, and they will be the only one speaking. This format is also used for webinars and other types of presentations.

2. Look for the microphone. On the lower left of the Zoom screen is a microphone button. This is also the mute button. If you have a lot of background noise where you are, do your companions a favor and hit mute when you’re not speaking. A red slash will be indicated on the microphone icon when you’re muted. Tap the icon again to unmute.

You can also hold down the space bar to temporarily unmute so you can speak. When you’re done, release the space bar to go back to mute status. Meeting hosts also have the ability to mute participants.

Next to the microphone is a video camera icon. Click it if you want to stop or start your video feed at any point.

3. Start a chat. Along the bottom of your screen, you’ll see a chat feature. It opens a messaging section on the right side of your computer screen. Here, you can send a message to the entire group or send a private message to an individual.


If the video is choppy or freezes, you may have trouble connecting for a few possible reasons. You can leave the call and exit out of Zoom, then rejoin the call by clicking the invite again.

Didn’t work? Close any other programs or windows that are open. You can also restart your computer, but that can take a little longer.

Didn’t help? Try moving closer to your internet router.

If you have an older device, it may not work as effectively. For more Zoom help, click here.

Next Level

Once you’ve got the basics of Zoom down, here’s how to have more fun with it.

Use a Virtual Background

These are those fun scenes you might have seen on other people’s screens when you’re on Zoom. It may look like they’re calling from an exotic location or the set of a popular TV show. Here’s how to join the fun—or simply hide the fact that you’re sitting in a messy room.

1. Use the Zoom desktop or mobile client app. Virtual backgrounds are not available on the Zoom website through a browser. Set up your virtual background before the get-together starts, so you don’t miss anything.

2. Click the gear icon for “settings.” Select “background and filters.”

From there, you can select one of the existing virtual backgrounds, or click the + button to add an image of your own. Choose a favorite photo that’s saved on your computer, or browse the fun images Zoom has collected.

3. If you background doesn’t automatically load when you join a meeting, go to the video camera icon, and click the up arrow. Then select “choose virtual background” to add it.

Virtual backgrounds work best when you’re sitting in front of a solid color background, preferably green. Depending on your computer’s operating system or your mobile device, you may not be able to access the full features of virtual backgrounds. For more help, click here.

Use a Video Filter

An alternative way to jazz up your appearance on Zoom calls is with video filters. You can add an attractive border, turn your screen black and white, shade it with another color, or add images to your screen. Put a crown of flowers on top of your head. Or add a mask, if you’re feeling naked without one.

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To add filters when you’re in a meeting, go to the video camera icon, and click the up arrow. Then select “choose video filter,” and try on different looks until you find the right one for you.

Host a Meeting

Don’t want to wait for the next Zoom call your family or friends are planning? Got a fun idea for a Zoom get-together, like a book club or recipe swap? Host your own Zoom call. Here’s how.

1. Get a Zoom account or sign in. You’ll need an account to host meetings. If you don’t already have one, it’s easy to sign up for a free account.

Once you have an account, simply sign in, and click “schedule a meeting.” Select the date, time, and duration of your meeting. The free version of Zoom usually limits calls to 40 minutes if you have three or more participants, but you can pay to upgrade to unlimited group meetings if you’d like.

You can add a meeting topic or description to make it more fun. Host a pajama party for everyone to show off their comfiest PJs, or enjoy a meal and good conversation remotely. Click “save” when you’re done. This will take you to a page with your meeting details.

2. Invite people. On the page with your meeting details, click “copy invitation.” This will open a smaller window, where you’ll be prompted to “copy meeting invitation.” Click that button, and you can then paste the information into an email to send to invitees. There are other ways to invite people to a meeting, but email may be the easiest.

3. Start your meeting. When you’re ready to start your meeting, log in to your Zoom account, and click “meetings.” Locate your meeting, and click “start.” If the meeting doesn’t start, you may need to click “join from your browser.”

Once your meeting starts, be sure to click “join with computer audio,” and turn on your camera using the camera icon at the bottom of the Zoom screen so that everyone can see and hear you. As guests join, you’ll get an alert to let them in—don’t keep your guests waiting.

4. If you want, record the call. You may want to record the call so you can enjoy it again later or even share it with people who couldn’t attend. All you have to do is click “record” once the call is active, and you’ll see a recording indicator in the top-left corner.

Participants will also see the indicator on their screens, and they may even hear a message letting them know that the meeting is being recorded. So give people a heads-up! You can stop or pause the recording at any point.

Once the meeting is over, Zoom will automatically convert the recording into a file for you to access and share. For more help, click here.

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