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How to Choose Phones for Seniors

Updated on September 20, 2011

Tips on Choosing Phones for Seniors

Like millions of others, I'm part of a "sandwich" generation which is increasingly responsible for the care of both children and parents. As parents begin to age, we find ourselves needing to help them make adjustments in their lifestyle to meet increasing safety needs. Thankfully, technology can be very useful in this respect, as long as we make wise choices and assure that the adult in our care is comfortable with these devices.

Phones for seniors can be an important tool in assuring access to a network of friends, family, and assistive services at all times. While many seniors are comfortable with modern cell phones, others are not. They are either unfamiliar with the technology or have limitations with vision, hearing, or motor skills that make these phones difficult or impossible to use. I'll provide a few tips for picking out phones that may be better suited to the needs of people as they age.


Certainly, some seniors are very accustomed to using gadgets, but for millions of others they're avoided because of their complexity. Over the years, cell phones have added on many functions; functions which are of no use to many seniors. Camera functions, video recording, web browsing, and MP3 player capabilities are seldom features that many people over 70 enjoy.

These additional functions also make cell phones more complex. There are more menus, more complex navigation, and more buttons. For a senior who hasn't used a cell phone in the past, their only desire is to use the phone as a phone in most instances. Nothing else.

Tip number one in choosing phones for seniors is to find a basic cell phone that allows voice calling and messaging without all of the other features unless they specifically request such things. Text messaging might be desirable but it depends upon the senior of course.

Tip two is to check the menus and navigation. It should be intuitive for any new user. For instance, some phones have a clearly marked Yes/No or OK button to push in response to prompts on the screen versus several screens of menus to page through.

Ease of Handling

The right phones for seniors should generally be easy to handle. Again, there are exceptions, but a design that's easy to grip and not too small is a good idea.

Button size and spacing is important. Generally speaking, a new user won't appreciate having to use a pen or stylus to operate the buttons. Of course, a phone that's capable of voice dialing and one button dialing for those in their contact list is best, especially in case of emergency. Others can assist in getting this set up if necessary.

In general, a candybar style phone is the most simple as it doesn't have to be opened. However a clamshell or flip phone can be good as there are more choices and it allows them to hold the phone to their ear more easily while talking.

If the basic cell phone you choose isn't a candybar style phone, then having an external display for caller ID and the time is a good idea. This allows them to see the information they need without having to get the phone open first.

The best phones for seniors are often the ones that provide a bit of tactile feedback when operating it. Buttons that click or have a distinctive feel when pressed, reassure a new user that they dialed correctly. Touchscreens aren't often good choices because it isn't readily apparent to a new user that the button has been activated. This type of attribute will certainly cut down on the number of "misdials" and confusion.

Good Audio

If the intended user wears a hearing aid, it's critical that the cell phone is hearing aid compatible. You merely need to look for a phone with an M4/T4 rating or better so that there won't be excessive feedback when the phone is near their ear/hearing aid.

Checking the voice quality, volume, and assuring good signal reception in their home and the places they frequently visit are important as well.

The volume control should be easy to find and operate. As I indicated above, a clamshell design is often preferrable because it's easier for the user to press the phone to the ear while talking. Some cell phones for seniors are even designed with a padded earpiece to help shut out ambient noise.

Easy to Read

I can testify to the difficulty of reading smaller print as we age. Having keys with larger print and font on a screen that's bright, large, and has good contrast is critical too. There are a number of phones for seniors on the market that offer easy to read screens and keypads.

Affordable Plans

Finding a basic cell phone is the first step, but finding the right plan is critical to assure affordability. In general, many seniors won't be using their cell phone as freqently as others. Thus, the ideal plan wouldn't offer huge amounts of talk time that they won't use. Several of the major US providers and speciality providers such as Jitterbug do provide plans designed for those over age 65 which allow seniors to pay less for less usage.

Another option might be the pay-as-you go services which would allow a new user to forgo the long contract committments that accompany most traditional plans. Several of the major providers offer this as well. These can be very affordable if usage is low despite the per minute cost being a bit higher.

Photo Credits

Introduction: brick red.

Simplicity: rpongsaj.

Good Audio: newtype2011.


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    • Rpenafiel profile image

      Rpenafiel 6 years ago from United States

      The pointers are very well discussed. Great hub! Simplicity and affordability are what truly make the best cell phone for seniors. But getting a cell phone with a built-in emergency response system is also very ideal for seniors. With this, their safety can further be secured and people like you will have an enhanced peace of mind. Here’s a hub I wrote about that:

    • profile image

      scotied 6 years ago

      great article, very helpfull. i recently got a cellphone and plan for my grandparents. i opted for tracfone. their phone, the samsung t155 is very simple, and has nice large screen and text. i only cost $15, and the senior value plan they offer costs $7 a month. very afforadable. the other thing i really like with tracfone is their reliable nationwide coverage. it works like a bomb. the tracfone is hearing aid compatible and has the 911 emergency location assist. all in all that is what i wanted for them, a reliable phone for emergencies. got it

    • thejovial profile image

      thejovial 7 years ago from United States

      Love the advice, This should help out my Grandma.

    • profile image

      AndyPo 8 years ago

      Great advice

    • lakeerieartists profile image

      Paula Atwell 8 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      My parents are getting to be "seniors". This is something to think about.

    • profile image

      Disney Scrapbook 8 years ago

      Great work on your hubpage, it is amazing how far mobile phones have come and how hard it is to buy a simple phone nowadays. I had the need to give my daugther a phone for when she is away, but it was so hard to find a simple one that she can just ring and text on. My mum took my grandparents phone shopping to get them a new mobile phone a few months ago, and she had a terrible time finding a situable phone for them. So great hub :)