Top Cellphone Options for Seniors

When it comes to cellphone features and options, the choices can be overwhelming, especially when considering the unique needs of older adults. But when you know your needs and have a budget in mind, you can find the right fit for a happy cellular relationship.

“There is a whole suite of phones with greater accessibility and usability. There are models that offer an easy user experience while including features such as texting, mobile apps and a camera,” says Sarah Thomas, a San Francisco-based consultant who specializes in aging and is CEO of Delight by Design, a consulting firm.

Smartphone Options for Older Adults

Generally, the most popular phones are smartphones. These are cellphones that enable the user to do much more than just make phone calls, send text messages and get voicemail.

You can do things like surf the internet, view documents, take photos, play games and access applications (apps) that let you do things like pay bills, make travel reservations, get driving directions, shop and connect to social media sites, among other things.

Here are three smartphone models best suited for older adults:

iPhone SE 2022 5G

The iPhone SE 2022 5G (made by Apple) is a popular smartphone for seniors who are a bit more tech-savvy and want the latest features and amenities. It has a high-definition touch screen and features Touch ID, which lets you unlock your phone with your fingerprint. You can take high-quality photos and Facetime with family and friends; and there’s plenty of memory to store photos, data, songs and more.

This phone is hearing-aid compatible, offers wireless charging, has a bright, easy-to-see screen and is easy to grip and hold. A new iPhone SE starts at about $399.

Samsung A13 5G

The Samsung A13 5G, another smartphone known as an Android (as opposed to an iPhone) may be attractive for seniors who don’t want to worry about constantly charging their device. It has a long-lasting battery life and will run about a full day or longer without charging. Elsewhere, it has a face recognition sensor to unlock the screen, a large 6.5-inch high-definition display, an internal camera and numerous built-in mobile apps. At about $250 per device, this may be a cost-effective option.

Jitterbug Smart3

With a price tag of about $150, the Jitterbug Smart3 from Lively is a favorite for seniors. It’s probably also the simplest of all smartphones. In addition to the low cost, it’s extremely user-friendly, with a basic list-style menu, large touch screen and long battery life. At the same time, it has features like GPS navigation, video chatting, a built-in camera and mobile apps.

It’s probably best-known for its Urgent Response button, which connects you with a so-called “Urgent Response Agent,” who can help you get the help you need. You can also speak to a board-certified doctor or registered nurse, enjoy affordable car service and much more.

[READ: Understanding the Different Senior Care Options.]

Flip Phones and Other Phone Options

Of course, there are lots of other options for cellphones, depending on your needs, abilities and interests. Among them:

Flip Phones

The Jitterbug Flip2 is a senior favorite. With device costs starting at $14.99 and plans under $20, this is attractive for the budget-minded, but it also features easy-to-use elements such as large buttons, a powerful speaker, built-in camera, bright screen, voice dial, built-in magnifier and medical alert capabilities. It’s one of the cheapest senior cellphones available.

Not sure if you want a smartphone or a flip phone? You might want to consider the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 FG. It works like a smartphone with features like hands-free photography, video calling and the ability to stream videos at faster speeds. At the same time, it folds and is easier to grip like a flip phone. However, the up to $1,099 price tag might be prohibitive.

Elsewhere, the Snapfon ezFlip has features like large buttons, WiFi, GPS and touch-screen technology at a cost of about $80. The Snapfon company has a line of cellphones specifically designed for seniors in mind.

Memory Cellphones

Even if someone has some memory issues or cognitive impairment, they can still use a cellphone. One option is the RAZ memory cellphone, an easy-to-use cellphone for people with memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It features one primary screen with three elements: pictures and names of up to six contacts, a button to call 911 and one to an alternative RAZ Emergency Services to avoid unwanted 911 calls.

There are no apps, voicemail or other features to cause confusion or present opportunities for hacking or phone scams. It also has a dashboard that a third party like a family member can monitor. The cost for the device is in the $300 to $350 range.

Phones for Special Needs

For seniors with tremors, unsteady hands or weak grips, the Kyocera DuraXE Epic is extra durable. It is military-tested and designed not to be damaged by dust, water or extreme temperatures. The cost for the phone is about $270.

The Verizon Kyocera DuraXV Extreme is a viable choice for seniors with hearing loss. The device has a high rating by users with hearing aids, who say it limits background noise and feedback. The phone also has dual speakers with noise cancellation for loud and clear sound. The cost for the phone is about $240.

A Tablet for Older Adults

The GrandPad is a tablet that features large buttons, intuitive interaction with a durable stylus and a wireless charging cradle. Frank Engelman, a writer and columnist for Tech-enhanced Life, a website that explores the intersection of aging and technology, recommends the GrandPad as an option with helpful safety and security features. “It comes preloaded with the user’s preferences and contacts and is ready to use right out of the box.” It also enables user-friendly video chatting and apps so seniors can share photos and send voicemails.

The GrandPad also lets users (or other family members) set/limit contacts the user can call and who can call the user. “With the GrandPad, you also can put restrictions on internet access as well,” says Engelman. “This can help people, for example, from inadvertently clicking on something they shouldn’t.” It comes with a cost of under $100 per month for the device and services.

[READ: Activities of Daily Living for Seniors.]

Features to Consider

Ultimately, functionality is key, says Thomas. “Most cellphones have a lot of features. Consider what ones you need and will use. It is also important to find out what kind of service and support comes with the phone.”

For instance, if it’s only onscreen chat support, this can be difficult and frustrating for some people. Professional support is particularly important if you don’t have someone — a friend or family member — who can answer questions or help solve problems with your phone.

If possible, bring a family member or friend — preferably someone a little tech-savvy — with you to shop for a phone. Consider these questions before buying a cellphone:

— How do you want to use your phone? Will you be taking photos? Sending texts/emails? Web surfing? Shopping? Driving directions? Video chats? Buying a phone with features you don’t need can make using it more complex and costly.

— What special features do you need? Volume control or hearing aid compatibility? Bright screen and/or the ability to adjust the size of text? Large screen? Extra durability? Long battery life? What features can you live without?

— Are you comfortable with a long-term contract or do you want month-to-month service?

— What is your budget for the device and monthly service costs?

The answers to these questions can help you determine what kind of cellphone is best for you.

“Find out what cellphones and service providers your friends and family members have,” suggests Engelman. “If you get a device from the same provider they have, they are more likely to be able to help you if you have a question or problem.”

[READ: What’s the Difference Between a Senior Living Community and Independent Living?]

Lose the Landline?

If possible, it may be useful to keep a landline phone as a backup, at least temporarily. If you live alone and are dependent on your cellphone for a connection with the outside world, you could be at risk if something happens to your cellphone — like you lose it or drop it in water.

“The good thing about a landline is that you can call your cellphone if you misplace it. But you also can do that if you have an Alexa or similar device,” notes Engelman. These would include a number of voice-controlled virtual assistants on a smart speaker, such as Google’s Nest and Amazon’s Echo. “If you have WiFi in your home, you can program a friend, family member and/or other emergency contact into your Alexa, Google or Siri device, and it can place a call on voice command.”

Curating Security on Your Phone

Even for the most user-friendly phones, seniors need to know about safety and security issues. These issues include:

— How to detect a scam call.

— How to identify a caller.

— How to block a phone number.

There are some phones and features that make security easier. A little research can make a big difference. However, Engelman cautions that many online reviews of cellphones don’t necessarily look at features that are appropriate for seniors. Sources such as Senior Planet, which offer technology reviews and other information, can help.

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