Cellphones and Seniors: A Guide to Buying New Technologyby Carissa Andrews - April 7th, 2014
According to recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, as few as 18% of seniors are using smartphones, despite growing popularity and trends. Only 39% of adults age 55-64 have them.
As a daughter of two Baby Boomers, I understand how hard it is for even the most willing older adults to latch on to the latest technology. Both of my parents have cellphones, and neither of them understands the ins and outs truly available, nor do they really care to. My mother typically leaves her cellphone in the glove compartment of her car, and though my dad needs his for work, he will always answer a text with a phone call.
So when it comes to buying cellphones to fit the needs of our senior loved ones, what is a good way to go? In my experience, it really comes down to the type of senior we are talking about. There's no point giving an iPhone to a senior who will only be using it from the roadside when they're in trouble. Trust me, I know. So the first thing you need to do is identify what type of senior we are talking about.
3 types of senior cellphone users:
Use in case of emergency only.These are the seniors who really have no use for a cellphone, with the exception of dire emergencies and half the time they probably have a medical alert button for just this kind of thing. For folks like this, check out the Just5 J509 model. It has a personal emergency response system, big buttons, and amplified sound.
Just calls, please.The majority of seniors out there right now fall into this category. They like to have their cells with them, but will only make phone calls on them. There are two sub-categories in this group.
1. The ones who often times forget to turn them on (because they are saving battery life) or forget to charge them from the last time they turned them on.
2. The ones who are diligent with their cellphones, have them on hand, and turned on, but use them strictly for phone call usage and nothing more.
With this group, the idea is to know what they need. Is their eyesight impaired? If so, consider looking for cellphones with large buttons and a simple user interface like a Samsung Jitterbug (which has an old-school dial tone and acts much like a regular phone).
Tech-savvy seniors.Yes, there are some tech-savvy seniors out there, to be sure. These folks understand the world of texting, apps, and more. They thrive on learning new things and probably had friends, children, or grandchildren showing them the way. For these types of seniors, they are probably already working with a smartphone. Your best bet with these folks is to let them guide the way with their interests and limitations. If they want to expand their knowledge base and test the tech limits, the door to a host of possibilities open up. Most cellphones can enlarge text for easier reading, or include some form of audible voice over if their sight is limited. For seniors with arthritis, going into a local store and testing out the size and dimensions in person is also another great way to go.
Anyway you look at it; cellphones can enhance our lives and the lives of the seniors we love. However, we need to take a few minutes to understand their needs before buying something they may or may not use.
Carissa Andrews is an passionate author and freelancer from Minnesotan with a focus in creative writing.