With so much technology available at our fingertips today, it’s easy to think everyone wants the best mobile phone with the most apps and gizmos. But what are the best cell phones for seniors?
Seniors often have different needs than other mobile users, so the latest tricked out iPhone may not be the best choice for them. Read on to take a look at why seniors have special cell phone needs and what are the best cell phones for this group.
Why Senior Mobile Phone Needs Are Different
Seniors didn’t grow up with computers and the mobile devices most people take for granted today. In fact, many were already retired or close to retirement by the time that technology reached the public. Therefore, some seniors have little to no idea how to use many of the more complicated cell phones on the market today.
You may think you’re getting a great gift for seniors by giving them a phone for video chatting, photography, email, and, of course, regular old phone calls, but for some seniors, this can be overwhelming and even anxiety-provoking. In many cases, a simpler phone that does what they need and no more is a better choice.
In addition to technology barriers, senior citizens face other barriers when using cell phones:
- Hearing impairment that makes listening to conversations or hearing ringtones difficult
- Visual impairments that present challenges when looking at phone screens or keypads
- Loss of manual dexterity that affects the ability to use a keypad
- Impatience with constant upgrades and software downloads
- The need for easy emergency features in the event of a fall or medical crisis
- Budgetary concerns with fixed incomes, both for phone purchases and plans
- Lack of knowledge or poor ability to deal with complicated phone plans and customer service
If you want to experience some of the challenges seniors must deal with on a daily basis, try replicating their physical experience with this training used with medical and home care personnel to develop empathy for the elderly:
- Smear petroleum jelly on a pair of old eyeglasses
- Put earplugs in your ears
- Tape popsicle sticks to your fingers like splints
- Try to make a phone call or conduct daily business with these impediments
Cell Phone Features That Appeal to Seniors
Given the above list of challenges seniors face when using cell phones, let’s look at some phone features you may not know about that would appeal to seniors in your life. You probably never imagined some of these amenities existed!
Hearing Aid Compatibility
A cell phone that’s hearing aid compatible will work with a hearing aid set in the microphone position. This makes the call sound clearer. Look for a phone with a microphone rating of M3 or M4. For seniors with a telecoil in their hearing aid or for seniors with cochlear implants, search for phones rated T3 or T4.
For seniors who feel nervous alone or whose families want a little extra assurance, look for cell phones with one-touch emergency features on the screen or the back of the phone. Some even have GPS locators when the user dials 911. Phones that are easy to program with emergency contacts, like family, neighbors, a caregiver, or a doctor are also senior-friendly.
Add-On Health and Medical Services
Many of the best phones for seniors today offer easy add-on health and medical services. Some let users connect with doctors or nurses 24/7 for advice and urgent prescriptions. Others have apps to check the user’s heart rate, and there are models that allow the attachment of a heart monitor to take and record an electrocardiogram (ECG).
If younger users are frustrated with their phone’s navigation, imagine how stymied seniors get with the models out today. Instead, cell phones designed explicitly for seniors have intuitive navigation. Look for phones that offer one-screen functionality, instead of requiring you to go through screen after screen and back out again. Some phones also provide simple yes/no menu choices to get where you need to on the screen.
Large, Easy-to-Read Numbers
For senior users with visual impairments, large, easy-to-read numbers are essential. Look for both screens that are easy to view and keyboards with oversize numbers.
For some seniors, using the keyboard is too difficult or not possible at all. A voice keyboard can be a lifesaver–literally–so look for this feature. Instead of having to type in information, the senior just has to speak into the phone to navigate and send messages.
A visual ringer is a great feature for the hearing impaired or even for those with no impairments in a loud environment. Even when the phone is closed, the ringer displays the number calling in large, bright symbols.
Like navigation, programming for cell phones can be challenging for everyone, let alone for senior citizens. Senior phones should have uncomplicated programming that makes it easy to enter numbers regularly called and to set up notifications. Some senior phones even allow remote programming so a family member or caregiver can help from afar.
The Best Cell Phones for Seniors
Below are some senior cell phones that consistently get great reviews and have the features seniors need. Know that over time, models and plans can change, so if one of these is no longer available, ask about the upgrade or replacement from the same company.
Doro 7050 Flip Phone from Consumer Cellular
- Simple to use
- Assistance button for emergency contact
- High-contrast keys that are well spaced and easy to read
- External display screen
- Includes 2MP camera with built-in flash and records video
- Bluetooth compatible
- M4 Hearing aid compatibility
- Supports 4G LTE service
- Long battery life
- Lightweight and compact to carry in a pocket or small purse
Jitterbug Smart 2 by Great Call
- Smartphone with a simplified screen
- Easy-to-see 5.5” screen
- Voice typing option
- High quality 13MP camera with flash
- Mobile Internet
- Email and maps/directions
- Long-lasting battery
- Front-facing speaker for improved sound clarity
- 5Star urgent response button to call for emergency assistance and track user’s location
- Offers unlimited talk and text plans
Note: Jitterbug also has a smaller flip phone model similar to the Doro 7050 that is highly rated by consumers and tech advisers.
- Large-button phone
- Easy-to-read face
- SOS emergency alert button to contact first responders and family/friends
- Emergency button has optional siren for safety and to help with location
- Speaking keypad option
- Enhanced volume
- Includes powerful LED flashlight
- Eight programmable speed dial keys
- Simplified menus
- M3 hearing aid compatible
- Can attach to a lanyard for safekeeping
Samsung Galaxy S8
- A regular Android smartphone for tech-savvy seniors
- Offers “Easy Mode” for simpler use and larger fonts
- Menu navigation with voice control through “Bixby” personal assistant
- 8” infinity screen for easy viewing
- Screen can be seen even in bright sunlight
- Water-resistant for use around pools and tubs
- Large storage capacity (64GB)
- 12MP camera takes gorgeous photos
- Long battery life
Tips for Helping a Senior Select the Right Cell Phone
Now that you have a better understanding about which cell phones are right for seniors, here are some final tips for helping the senior in your life select the perfect phone for them.
Go Beyond Cell Phones for Younger Users
Remember, the best cell phones for younger users are rarely the ones that work best for seniors. You may not have even heard about the features and models suggested here, and some may not be found in local phone stores. Don’t assume you have seen everything by going to the local big carrier outlet near you. Start by asking at brick-and-mortar stores, but know that you may need to look online as well.
Evaluate the Senior’s Individual Needs
Also, keep in mind that every senior has their own individual needs that should be evaluated when making a mobile phone purchase. Some people may simply need to make phone calls and have a safety button for emergencies, while others may want email, video chatting, or text messaging. Don’t buy a phone that has more than the user needs, or it will just be confusing for them (and probably a waste of money).
Look for Flexible Plans
While many younger cell phone users are comfortable being locked into long-term plans, this doesn’t always work for senior citizens. Ideally, a phone plan should be short term or pay as you go, so the user can make changes if needed after trying it for a few months. As seniors age or health conditions change, they may want the ability to add on features or services.
Understand What Is Included in the Plan
Be sure to double check exactly what is included in the plan before signing on the dotted line. It will only create frustration for the user if they can’t use a text message function they thought was included or they run out of minutes halfway through the month. Ask how to go about adding or topping off services and if there are hidden “activation” fees associated with doing so.
Make Sure the User’s Area Is Covered
Many smaller cell phone companies now piggyback on the major cell phone carriers’ towers, so coverage throughout the country is fairly substantial for most phones. However, it’s still worth checking to make sure the user’s area will be covered, especially if purchasing a phone and service online and not from a local store. Furthermore, make sure any places where the senior travels are covered as well, such as out-of-state areas where family resides.
Look for Unlimited Calling
In this day and age, unlimited calling is pretty much the norm, although some plans do still limit minutes. Look for cell phone plans that offer unlimited calling at any time of day throughout the week. Be wary of roaming charges or higher fees for going over minutes or talking during peak hours. If the user likes to chat on the phone frequently or worse, has an emergency, limitations will be problematic.
Investigate Subsidized and Discounted Plans
Cell phone plans for seniors are generally designed to be reasonably priced, but a phone can still be a significant expense for some users. Make sure to take advantage of any senior discounts available, or look for organizations that offer super cheap plans for members, such as AARP (American Association of Retired Persons).
Check Customer Service and Reviews
Phones and plans for seniors have tons of reviews available online, so be sure to check them out before committing to a purchase. You can see how users liked specific features and what they thought of the customer service when they needed help.
Consider the Senior’s Entire Lifestyle
Buying a cell phone for a senior citizen should be considered in the context of their entire lifestyle. Sometimes cell phone needs point to larger issues that need addressing, such as loneliness or the inability to continue living with complete independence. If that’s the case, it may be time to look at the senior’s living situation to see if they have enough of a social life or need help around the house. Perhaps they need more security in the event of an emergency.
Park Terrace Senior Living offers tiered senior care in a community that houses both independent seniors and those needing assisted living accommodations. Rather than relying on a cell phone for video chatting with people far away, residents of Park Terrace have social activities, happy hours, and restaurant meals. When an older senior needs help with the laundry, someone is there to take care of it. If an emergency occurs, their medical alert pendant means help is on the way. There’s no need to learn how to use a cell phone ridesharing app because transportation to local appointments and shopping is always available.
Other Park Terrace amenities include:
- Housekeeping and maintenance
- Premium TV and high-speed Internet
- Entertainment programs
- Fitness and wellness facilities
- Tennis courts, walking trails, and two swimming pools
- Trained nurses and caregivers
- Full-time security
For more information about how Park Terrace can enhance the quality of life for senior citizens, get in touch today. Sometimes it’s not a cell phone your senior needs but a more supportive environment where they can interact and thrive in person.