Smartphones have become an important safety tool for many seniors. But, they can also be a difficult and confusing product to use for them as well. Let’s remember that most of the population in their 70’s and older spent the majority of their lives without these devices!
So, does Apple make an iphone for seniors? The Apple iPhone 7 plus is not considered to be a phone JUST for seniors but it does have many of the features that would be of benefit to the older population. It has a 5.5 inch screen, font size can be enlarged, it includes a fingerprint reader and it includes features for the visual and hearing impaired. As an added bonus, it’s also water resistant.
Although all these features are excellent for the older adult population – it doesn’t mean that using an Apple phone (or an Android phone either for that matter) is easy for them.
My mother, mother-in-law and father-in-law all struggled with learning how to use Apple and Android cell phones. Although I would not completely discount it at all. Truthfully, it just depends on how much time and effort your parent or senior loved one is able to do to learn these handy dandy devices.
Otherwise – as I mention later in this article – I would recommend the Jitterbug cell phone for them.
Features Of A Senior Friendly Cell Phone
I would say that senior friendly smartphones have the following:
- Size – the size of the screen should be large enough for seniors to read the content comfortably.
- Font Size – the phone should have the capability of increasing the font size for easy reading.
- Easy To Use – phones with an “easy mode” feature which simplifies it’s usability.
- Clear Speakers – no sense in having a phone that is difficult for seniors to hear others with or that they can’t hear the phone when it rings.
- Fingerprint ID – phones that allow finger identification will be easier to use than remembering passwords.
- Damage Resistant – any phone that can be constructed to withstand drops and water as much as possible, is a good phone for seniors. However, I would recommend to purchase a screen protector and a protective case for extra protection.
What Is The Best iPhone For Seniors?
The iPhone 7 Plus (as I mentioned earlier) is considered to be the best iPhone product for seniors. It meets most of the criteria mentioned above.
It has a large display screen of 5.5 inches. Compared to the iPhone 7 which has a display screen of 4.7 inches – the Plus model offers a good amount of space for reading and viewing images.
Remember, most seniors will probably use a larger font type to read their content so the larger the screen, the easier it will be to read.
According to the Apple.com website, the iPhone 7 Plus retails for $569.00. You can purchase refurbished ones for less like this one shown here at Amazon.com.
Other features in this great phone are:
- It has touch id capabilities which make it so much easier for seniors to use. This eliminates the need to enter a password not only to turn the phone on but for multiple other programs like online banking, etc.
- It is water resistant up to a depth of a little over 1 yard for up to 30 minutes.
- The iPhone 7 Plus allows the user to increase (or decrease) font sizes which is a must have for any senior.
- It’s easy to use once it’s set up. Yes, the set up process can be intimidating but the great thing about Apple products is the help that you can get for free at their Apple stores.
- The features that I would recommend to set up are
- Touch ID and Passcode – make it as easy as possible for the user to open the phone and use programs.
- Enable Voice Dial which allows the user to activate a phone call with their voice even if the phone is locked. This gives the phone a capability similar to a medical alert system.
- Turn on the “find my iPhone” feature. This allows the phone’s owner (or caregiver) to locate the phone by going to iCloud.com and entering in the Apple ID.
- Set up the Medical ID card which is included in the Health app. This is great for anyone with allergies, drug reactions, who is diabetic or suffers from any number of medical conditions. You can enter your blood type, emergency contacts, medical notes and much more. It’s also a great way to keep track of the medications the elderly phone owner is taking.
- I would also recommend to remove any unnecessary apps from the phone. The fewer choices that are available, the easier it will be for your senior loved one to use.
- The one feature that has some problematic reviews is the sound quality of the iPhone 7 Plus. There seem to be multiple complaints about this issue and several “how to fix the problem” videos on the topic. A simple solution for this seems to be to turn on the Hearing Aid Mode.
- On your iPhone 7 plus, go to settings
- Scroll down to General
- Scroll down to Accessibility
- Scroll down to Hearing Aid and turn it on
- The iPhone 7 Plus (as all iphones) also can pair with hearing aids but only if the hearing aids were made for that purpose.
A Video On How To Pair An iPhone With Made For iPhone Hearing Aids
What Is The Easiest Smartphone For Seniors To Use?
There are basically two excellent options when it comes to an “easy to use” smartphone.
- The Jitterbug Smart2
- The Doro 824 SmartEasy
By far these two are the easiest smartphones for seniors. They are very similar, although the Jitterbug has a few more features that the Doro but is also a bit more expensive.
The Jitterbug Smart2 has:
- a 5.5 inch display screen
- big, bold buttons to make it easy to choose email, texting, phone calls, etc.
- is hearing aide compatible with a m4/t4 rating
- has a rear and front facing camera
- there’s no contract involved with the Jitterbug phones
- services plans are through the company GreatCall which offers multiple monthly plans depending on usage.
- no service contract required
It doesn’t have the speed of other smartphones but if the other features in this very easy to use phone are more suitable for your elderly loved one then sacrificing a little speed may just be worth it.
The Doro 824 SmartEasy has:
- a 5 inch display screen (so slightly smaller than the Jitterbug Smart2)
- the display is very crisp and clear for easier viewing
- big, bold buttons for calling, email, camera, etc.
- has a built in flashlight
- service plans are through the company Consumer Cellular which offers 5% discount on monthly rates for AARP members.
- no service contract required
Can Seniors Get Free Cell Phones?
In the USA, the Assurance Wireless program is available to seniors who qualify. To qualify…
- The senior’s income must be at or below 135% or 150% of the federal poverty guidelines OR
- They must be on Medicaid and/or
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) and/or
- Home Energy Assistance Programs and/or
- On the Food Stamps / SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
- They must provide proof of participation / qualification for any of these programs
- Only 1 phone per household is allowed
Another program in the USA is the Lifeline Assistance program which was developed during the Reagan Administration. Their list of qualifications include…
- A yearly income that is either at or below the Federal Poverty guidelines.
- Currently enrolled / participating in any of the following…
- Food Stamps program or SNAP
- Federal Public Housing (Section 8)
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- National Free School Lunch Program
- Other state programs.
- Of course proof must be presented that you are participating in any one of these programs.
I put together a page of links to each state’s information concerning the Lifeline Assistance program. You can read it here.
Other Wireless Carriers
Of course, there are a variety of cell phone plans (some with discounts for seniors) available from the most popular wireless carriers in the USA which include:
- Verizon Wireless (their 55+ plan)
- TracFone Wireless, Inc.
- Sprint Corporation (their 55+ plan)
- MetroPCS Communication, Inc. (T-Mobile) (their 55+ plan)
Are Jitterbug Phones Any Good?
Although the Jitterbug phone won’t be able to complete with an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy – the truth is that the Jitterbug is an extremely user friendly phone with features that are more than adequate for the majority of seniors who would be using it.
Smartphone Tips For Seniors
No matter what kind of phone you end up using, there are a few things that you can do to make it easier for the senior user.
In the article Smartphone tips for seniors by Kathy Bunnell – tech expert Deb D’Amico talks about these 4 tips:
- Ask your service provider (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) to initially set up the phone for you. They can do things like setting up your contacts list, put icons like your calendar, voice messages, texting app, etc. on your “desktop” to make it easier to get to.
- Bluetooth earbuds or speakers can make it easier to hear for anyone who is hearing impaired in any way.
- Ask your service provider to set up the phone so that any text message you receive is in larger font to make it easier to read.
- Ask your service provider (or someone you trust) to set up a passcode on your phone and make sure it’s something that you can remember.
One recommendation I can make is to check with AARP – they do offer technology learning events across the country for older adults. You could also check your local community colleges and community centers as well.
Does Verizon offer deals for seniors? If your senior loved one does not use the phone very much and does not use data or texting, the Verizon 65 Plus Plan may be a deal for them. It costs $29.99 / month and gives users 200 minutes for calls. Data and text messaging are extra. The plan is only available for existing customers. You can read the details here at Verizonwireless.com.
Does AARP have cell phone discounts? For Doro cell phones (which use Consumer Cellular service), AARP offers two discount plans. One is a $9.50 monthly plan with pay as you go voice (at 24 centers per minute). The other is a $19.00 monthly plan that includes 300 voice minutes. There is a $35.00 activation fee for either plan.