Updated on May 25, 2021 – According to data from 2019 as published in The Guardian, the average person spends three hours and 15 minutes a day on their mobile devices. For some, it’s even more, with 20 percent of users on their phone for four and a half hours. While it’s fun to stay entertained or browse social media on our smartphones, they can also be used to benefit older people through the use of apps.
In our opinion, here are the 12 best phone apps for today’s seniors:
- Magnifying Glass with Flashlight
- WebMD Symptom Checker App
- Heart Rate Monitor App
- Medical ID App
If you’re not quite familiar with the above host of apps, you’re about to be. In this article, we’ll go over each one, explaining what they do, where to download them, and whether they have a free version or you have to buy them.
Wait – Do Seniors Use Apps?
While teens, young adults, and middle aged adults are all glued to their phones, what about the older generation? Does this age group even use phone apps?
Indeed, they do and their numbers are growing. Pew Research Center data from 2017 reported that, “the share of adults ages 65 and up who own smartphones has risen 24 percentage points (from 18% to 42%) since 2013. Today, roughly half of older adults who own cellphones have some type of smartphone; in 2013, that share was just 23%.“
Age plays a factor in smartphone ownership, according to the Pew Research Center. “59% of 65- to 69-year-olds own smartphones, but that share falls to 49% among 70- to 74-year-olds. Smartphone adoption drops off considerably among elderly people in their mid-70s and beyond. Some 31% of 75- to 79-year-olds say they own smartphones, while only 17% of those ages 80 and older are smartphone owners.“
And, seniors are using their phones for more than just making calls. In fact, in 2017, AARP reported that “smartphone users age 60-69 have taken the lead on using their phone to manage medical care (they are significantly more likely to do so than those over 70: 33% vs. 21%).”
AARP also notes that, “Adults 50+ who are mobile enabled are more likely to do most activities on their computers than on their smartphones, but there are some things that are becoming mobile dominant: sending email/IMs (89% on mobile vs. 61% on computer), getting traffic and directions (77% on mobile vs. 43% on computer), downloading apps (71% on mobile vs. 20% on computer), and using voice assistants (45% on mobile vs. 8% on computer).”
Okay, So Which Are The Best Phone Apps For Elderly Users?
Granted, the elderly may not use smartphones as often as the younger set does, but these devices can still be immensely useful to seniors.
There are a handful of apps you or your senior can download to their smartphone, if they aren’t on there already. We listed these in the intro, but let’s expand on the best apps for today’s seniors more now.
How many times have you gone to the doctor and come back home remembering only one or two points that your doctor made? Or how about asking your elderly parent the question, “So, what did the doctor say?” and your parents’ response is usually something like “Nothing really – things are okay.”
Well – there’s a new free app called Abridge that can be used to record the conversation at the doctor’s office. It then highlights parts of the conversation around medical terms so that if you want to hear again what the doctor said about your cholesterol – you can just go click on that specific highlighted insight.
The app also creates a transcript of that conversation and it even gives you definitions of those medical terms you may not be familiar with.
These conversations and transcripts can also be shared with your caregivers! Such an awesome idea.
2. WhatsApp (Messaging App For Seniors)
The first of these apps is WhatsApp. With more than 1.5 billion users and counting, according to Fortunly, WhatsApp is a messaging app that a senior can use in lieu of sending text messages (or if they only have a limited texting plan).
Available for Windows, Mac, iPhone, and Android, WhatsApp even includes free calling, worldwide.
With Voice Messaging, seniors can communicate without typing on their phones, which can save their hands from pain and strain.
Video and photo transfer, which is instantaneous, allows a senior to share their most precious memories as they happen. In fact, they can use the WhatsApp camera to capture footage as well.
WhatsApp relies on end-to-end encryption so messages go two ways only – to the senior and the other person they’re talking to. That’s it.
3. Lumosity App For Seniors (Brain Training App)
We like brain training apps because they are portable and user friendly once the person has been taught how to use them.
That said, a healthy brain is a well-trained one, but do brain training apps really help? According to the Mayo Clinic, “There’s some promising evidence that brain-training smartphone apps — with popular choices being Lumosity, BrainHQ, Elevate or Peak — may have a mild to moderate effect on improving memory and other types of thinking in older adults with age-related cognitive decline or those with mild cognitive impairment.”
Lumosity (mentioned above) is a good smartphone app for helping the elderly person in your life boost their own brain health and cognitive function. While this is an all-ages app, it’s especially good for seniors because it exercises their mind and memory.
All the tasks offered in the app are validated by scientific entities, so you know they’re effective. Seniors just log in each day and will get a new exercise when they do. As they make progress, these brain training exercises become more tailored to the person’s cognition and intelligence.
Through Lumosity, it’s possible to improve one’s problem-solving ability, processing speed, mental flexibility, attention, and memory.
The app is free to download and use on devices like Android and iPhone.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the Mayo Clinic article quoted at the beginning of this section also stated that, “Potential benefits of brain-training apps require a fair amount of work. They must be used regularly and fairly intensively, and the effects fade quickly if you stop. In one study in which a brain-training app improved memory and thinking speed, study participants used the app for one hour a day, five days a week for eight to 10 weeks.”
4. Magnifying Glass With Flashlight (iPhone And Android)
Sometimes reading the fine print on things like restaurant menus can be difficult for seniors with vision impairments. Rather than squint and give themselves a headache, we recommend they download the Magnifying Glass with Flashlight app instead.
Produced by Digitalchemy, LLC, this free app lets seniors magnify via a handy zoom feature. Produced by Digitalchemy, LLC, this free app lets seniors magnify via a handy zoom feature. The simple user interface allows the user to adjust lighting any way that’s suitable to increase visibility.
The flashlight, while helpful on its own, can also augment the magnifying glass to improve image quality and brightness.
If your senior loved one struggles with certain colors, the negative mode will make their lives much easier. It inverts a screen’s colors so they may not be so straining on elderly eyes.
If they need to pause for a moment, the freeze feature lets them do so. By freezing the image, the senior essentially screenshots it, so they can also share it across social media or through text.
This handy app is free and available for iPhones and in the Google Play store for Android users.
5. WebMD Symptom Checker App (Health App For Seniors)
While an Internet search will never replace the medical opinion of a doctor, the WebMD Symptom Checker App is still a useful app to have downloaded on any senior’s phone. This free health app allows the person to search their symptoms so they can narrow down what may be ailing them.
Even better is the doctor directory feature, which connects the senior with doctors in their neck of the woods.
WebMD Rx is another useful feature of this app, as both you and the elderly person in your life can browse for more inexpensive medications and prescriptions.
Additionally, the Drug Interaction Checker lets you or the senior check the prescription drugs and over the counter medications they take to confirm that no drug combo is potentially dangerous.
This app is free and integral, as WebMD is one of the most trusted names in medicine.
6. Heart Rate Monitor App (Health Apps For Senior Citizens)
If your senior feels their heart beating especially fast and they weren’t recently physically active, this can be a very scary scenario for them. Rather than stress about it and make it worse, though, they can open their Heart Rate Monitor App, a valuable health app from REPS.
This great option asks the user to place their finger on the camera of their smartphone. By keeping their finger in place for a moment, the app can pick up on the senior’s heart rate correctly.
The free app will let the person know what their peak, cardio, fat burning, and resting heart rates should look like so they know whether to contact their doctor.
The Heart Rate Monitor App also doubles as a fitness app, as it syncs with Google Fit to track physical activity and even tracks how many calories the user burns hourly.
7. Pillboxie App (Medication Reminder App)
Even if your senior’s mind is still as sharp as a tack, they can forget to take their medication – especially if they have a long list of them.
To that end, Pillboxie is essential. Also great for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, the app informs the senior through notifications that it’s time to take their medication for the day.
It doesn’t matter if their smartphone is asleep; as long as the phone is on, they’ll get their medication reminders.
You can schedule when the reminders drop so the elder never misses an important dose. With more than 100 different medications and colors for coding them, this app makes remembering medication easy.
A network connection is not necessary to use Pillboxie, but it is only available for iPhone users. Seniors with an Android phone can get similar reminders through the Pill Reminder & Medication Tracker app by Medisafe (available on the Play Store).
The Pillboxie app is free.
8. What Is The Best App For Emergencies? Medical ID App (Android and iPhone)
The Medical ID App from Laurent Pellegrino could be a lifesaver. It allows the older adult (or yourself – I have this one on my own smartphone) to create a medical profile for themselves. Then, even if the senior’s phone is locked, this profile is still accessible.
The senior’s medical profile will include such information as their medical contacts, their blood type, any allergies, and more. If a first responder has to act quickly, knowing this information is crucial.
This handy tool is available for free on both iPhones and Android devices, but the Medical ID App does have a Premium version. The paid version includes extra features not found in the free one, such as a compass, a current location that uses GPS coordinates, and a calculation of body mass index.
The premium version of the app costs $5.49 as of this writing, so it may be worth considering if you can make it work financially.
9. Uber (Ridesharing)
If you can’t always be around to give your senior a ride, the next best thing is ridesharing.
Uber is one of the two most popular apps for this service (Lyft -see next section – is the other). You can help your senior set up a profile, which included adding a picture of themselves and some basic information.
Then, when your loved one needs a ride, they open Uber and request one. According to Uber itself, the service is currently available in over 700 cities across the world, with more on the way.
If an Uber driver can pick up the senior, the senior will see the driver’s vehicle info and a driver profile with a picture.
A map, which updates in real time, tells the senior how far away the driver is. Once the senior is in the car with the driver, they should keep using the map to track their progress to the destination.
While Uber is free to use, the senior must pay to get rides via Uber. They can do so through PayPal, Apple Pay, cash (in some cities), and credit or debit cards.
10. Lyft (Ridesharing)
Because some people prefer Lyft (another mega ride sharing company) over Uber (or vice versa), we wanted to give you both options. After all, on the off-chance you live in a small town, you may not get a choice, as you might possibly only have access to Lyft or Uber for a senior’s ridesharing needs.
Lyft works in much the same way as Uber, in that the senior creates their own profile on the Lyft app before scheduling a ride.
After that’s done, whenever they open the app, they can ask for a ride with a starting and ending destination just about anywhere.
Both Uber and Lyft can accommodate single riders or even groups. The fare can change throughout the day depending on peak times, and of course, the fee will be higher for longer trips through either company.
It’s even possible to request a ride via scooter or bicycle using Lyft now!
Like Uber, this app is free to download, but the senior must pay to use the ridesharing service.
11. Kitestring (Senior Check In App For Adult Children and Caregivers)
If you feel a tad anxious about your senior riding in a vehicle with strangers, then check out Kitestring. Unlike the other apps we’ve discussed so far, this one is for you – the adult child or caretaker.
Kitesting gives you an easy way to check on how your senior is doing at any time.
The senior gets a text from the app, asking how they are. They should then respond.
If they don’t, you and any other emergency contacts would get a message about their lack of response.
While Kitestring is a phone app, you can also access it on your computer.
Now, no matter where life takes you, you can always have the peace of mind that comes from knowing whether your loved one is all right.
The Kitestring app is free.
12. Life360 (Senior Check-In App For Adult Children and Caregivers)
In a similar vein to Kitestring, Life360 is a great app for either Android phones or iPhones. Use the app to build a Private Circle, in which participants must be invited. Then, share locations so other family members or caretakers never have to guess where the person is.
Each time your loved one leaves the house, you’ll get a notification.
With consistent use, Life360 will populate a list of the person’s most frequented places, should you have to go and look for them. Additionally, should the senior’s phone battery begin running low, the app even tells you so the senior is never stranded.
If the elderly person in your life still drives, you’ll love the driver reports, roadside assistance, and crash detection features included with Life360.
- The driver reports tell you what your senior is doing while driving.
- Roadside assistance can help with vehicular issues in a pinch.
- Crash detection deploys an ambulance directly to the location after an accident.
Life360 is free to download but does have in-app purchases.
Honorable Mention: Amazon’s Alexa/Echo Show Device
Okay, so this one isn’t technically a cell phone app, but the Echo Show is still a good device for seniors to have. They are easy to set up and sync with Alexa and are a great way for an elder to talk to you through another Alexa in an intercom-like fashion.
To see how this works, check out our article about the Echo Show Drop In Skill.
Besides that, the Echo Show and other Alexa devices boast more than 25 other “skills” that seniors can use to make life easier for them (see our article here).
While seniors are less proficient at smartphone use than younger adults, they still do own these devices. That’s a good thing, too, as there are all sorts of apps out there that can make a senior’s life better.
From brain training to medication management, ridesharing, and location tracking, the apps we recommended in this article can help the elderly, beginning today.