Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens – How to Select

Selecting the best cell phones for senior citizens is just as much of a personal choice as with any other purchase. It starts with deciding the type of phone, looking for a model that fits the allocated budget which has features that meet personal needs.

As a senior looking for a new mobile phone, this exercise can be quite daunting since, let’s face it most seniors do not understand the technical “lingo” that get thrown at them. This causes a lot of overwhelm they experience. There are however some key questions and criteria that can guide in this important exercise to help make well-thought-out decisions.

Background

There are still notable differences in the use of technology between U.S. adults under 30 and those 65 and older. Many baby boomers and older seniors shy away from technology like the plague because they find it too confusing. However, adoption of key technologies by adults in the older age group has grown sharply over the last decade. The gap between both age groups has also narrowed according to analysis of a Pew Center survey conducted in 2021 and published in 2022 by Faverio, M – Share of those 65 and older who are tech users has grown in the past decade. Technology improvements now offer features that make calling, texting and connecting easier for people as they age.

Differences Between A Cellphone And A Smartphone

Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens
Non Flip Cell Phone

Cellphones

  • Have simple, easy to understand and use interface
  • Allow making of calls, sending texts, taking photos, and access of the internet.
  • Offer a more affordable alternative to a smartphone.
  • Often come in one style: a two-part handset where the screen flips up from the keypad. While there are a few other styles, the flip phone style is the most common.
  • Some carriers may not support non-smartphones

Smartphones

  • Have an advanced operating system with options that can be customized
  • Allow making of calls, sending texts, taking photos, access of the internet, playing games, and use of apps.
  • May include a digital assistant like Siri or Google Assistant.
  • Are available in more sizes and shapes although most use the same basic design – a large screen in a rectangular frame which still offers several choices e.g., screen size, resolution, camera quality and a host of other features

Having decided on the type of phone desired, you will very quickly find that service and plan options vary. Typically, cellphones are provided as part of a prepaid (or pay as you go) plan where you purchase calling time or data usage in blocks that are used and then replaced This is better suited to the elderly and some more independent seniors may find this system less convenient than more common smartphone monthly plans.

Preliminary Questions to Ask Yourself When Looking For the Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens

At the very onset, decide on the following as this will narrow down your search considerably:

1. Do you want a basic phone mainly for talking or do you want the advanced functionality of a smartphone? This is your most critical question. If all you need is a phone to be able to communicate with family and friends, then your best option will be a simple basic phone.

2. If you feel that you need a more expensive phone with advanced features, then carefully think of the reasons to justify why this would be your preferred option instead of the more affordable alternative. While the idea of having the newest and most powerful smartphone with all the latest features (many which you will probably never use) might be enticing, the best cell phones for seniors should fall within the range of their modest budgets.

Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens
Smartphone

Some Frequently Encountered Terminology Explained

A smartphone is a cellphone with advanced features. Technically, a smartphone is a cellphone, but a cellphone may not always be smart. Low-end mobile phones are often referred to as feature phones as they only offer basic functions.

  • Pixels mean text will be clearer and easier to read. More pixels allow the display to show more detail and more information. This is called “resolution” and is typically stated in terms of vertical and horizontal pixels
  • Data size is also often measured in MB (megabyte) which is an amount of data equal to approximately 1 billion bytes
  • GB (gigabyte) or TB (terabyte) are even higher blocks of data used to refer to how much data (how many photos, videos, apps, etc.) can be stored on a device or storage medium, or how much data might be downloaded from the internet to the phone per month. This mobile data connects to the internet when you are out and about.
  • Both cellphones and smartphones have mobile operating systems, which is the software that run their interfaces.
  • iOS – the software that Apple smartphones run on.
  • Android – the software that most non-Apple smartphones run on, including handsets made by Samsung, Huawei, Google, and many other companies.
  • RAM – This is essentially a device’s short-term memory. It temporarily remembers and stores everything currently running on a device, like all OS-specific services and any web browser, image editor, or game you’re playing.

Common Parts Of All Mobile Phones – Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens

The common components found on all mobile phones (Wikipedia) are:

  • A central processing unit (CPU)
  • A battery, providing the power source for the phone functions. The average phone battery lasts 2–3 years at best. Many wireless devices use a Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) battery, which charges 500–2500 times, depending on how users take care of the battery and the charging techniques used. It is only natural for these rechargeable batteries to chemically age, which is why the performance of the battery when used for a year or two will begin to deteriorate. A modern handset typically uses a lithium-ion battery, while older handsets used nickel–metal hydride batteries.
  • An input mechanism to allow the user to interact with the phone. These are a keypad for feature phones, and touch screens for most smartphones.
  • A display which shows whatever you type and displays text messages, contacts, and more.
  • Speakers for sound.
  • Mobile phones require a small microchip called a Subscriber Identity Module or SIM card, to function. The SIM card is usually less than the size of a small postage stamp and is usually placed underneath the battery in the rear of the unit. The SIM securely stores information used to identify and authenticate the user of the mobile phone.
  • A hardware notification LED on some phones

Important Questions To Think About

  • What size is the display and what is its resolution? The higher the number of pixels, the clearer and easier the text will be to read.
  • Does the device offer any accessibility options that allow for larger fonts and an easier-to-read user interface?
  • How loud are the earpiece and speakers? This is especially important for users who may have difficulty hearing.
  • What is the expected battery life with normal usage?
  • Does the phone include any emergency features, like single tap calling or storing vital health information?
Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens
Flip Cell Phone

Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens – Factors to Consider for Reduced Dexterity and Dimming Vision

1. Aging can cause reduced dexterity and dimming vision and this can make traditional keypads on many smartphones harder to use. Cell phones with larger buttons for easier typing or a black-and-white display to boost contrast and readability are more suitable options. These features can be found in flip phones making them easier to use

2. Changes in vision due to aging require the use of phones that can reduce eye strain. This can be done with a smartphone with a larger screen or an add-on magnifying device. The other alternative as already discussed, is a black-and-white display to enhance contrast – a feature of flip phones

3. Duration of battery charge is an important feature to consider. A phone that holds a long battery charge of at least a full day — morning to night will prevent worries of loss of connectivity during the day.

Additional Useful Features of Smartphones to Consider

1. Voice activation: Many smart phones can do a lot of things without a touch to the keyboard due to voice-activated features. Seniors that desire to use voice controls should make sure that whichever phone they select has voice dialing and voice texting as well as text-to-speech. This function will enable the phone to read messages out loud.

2. Multiple apps, many of them which are free can act as amplifiers for sound, helping seniors clearly listen to and hear conversations with others. Sound Amplifier for Android and HearYouNow for iPhone are two examples of free apps that offer help for those who may have difficulty hearing when using a device.

3. Some phones are also compatible with certain hearing aids. Check the model compatibility before making a cell phone purchase.

4. Mini tablets with their enhanced features make them a great option as a cell phone for seniors. The larger screen offers a way for seniors to get around any visual challenges and gives them a bigger keyboard too.

Other General Factors to Consider Under Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens

1. Emergency features such as one tap connectivity
allow sending an emergency alert to four contacts simply by pressing the power button three times in a row on certain phones. Look for a phone with an emergency feature that suits your needs.

Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens
Rugged Smartphone

2. Accessories vary depending on the phone brand, style and model. Having a sturdy cell phone case is important in case the phone gets accidentally dropped and cases with a more tactile finish are usually easier for older fingers to hold

Similarly, a screen protector offers extra protection in case of accidental drops and bumps.

3. Finding the Right Carrier is critical because cell phone companies can be as confusing as the phones they offer. They each have different plans, work with different phone manufacturers and have different levels of coverage and service. They also require that you decide if you are willing to pay as you go with a smartphone, or if you want to be locked into a contract.

In many cases having a contract can save you some money, but it means remaining with that cell phone company for 2-3 years at a minimum. If you choose the wrong company or plan and sign a contract, then you are stuck and can only get out of the contract with a huge monetary penalty, so there is a need to be careful

To find the right cell phone company, check out which company has the best coverage where you reside. Having a great smartphone is not helpful if you cannot connect to the Web or are constantly being cut off calls.

Final Thoughts on The Best Cell Phones for Senior Citizens

Because there is so much competition in the marketplace finding the best cell phones for senior citizens has become easier once you understand some technical jargon. This makes the decision-making process easier as more affordable cell phones are available on the market because manufacturers and carriers are all trying to entice customers to sign up with them. Do not be rushed into making a decision

References

Cellphone vs Smartphone (2021) Lifewire for Humans https://www.lifewire.com/cell-phones-vs-smartphones-577507

12 thoughts on “Best Cell Phones For Senior Citizens – How to Select”

  1. Hi Ceci,

    I need to help my mom purchase a new phone, and your article comes at the right time, which includes something I ignore—for example, the dimming vision and the hearing issue. My mom’s eye has some problems, so I purchase a smartphone with a bigger screen. I’ve also set up the large font so that she can read without difficulties. One thing I missed is that I forgot to compare all plans but chose what the salesperson recommended to me at the moment, which is more expensive…Anyway, thanks for sharing. It’s helpful.

    Matt

    Reply
    • Hi Matt,
      Really glad that you found value in the post. Yes, comparing plans would certainly have helped you in your decision making – for next time!

      Ceci

      Reply
  2. Hi Ceci,

    This is a very valuable post, especially for seniors. I think the infographic is a very great tool that makes it easier for seniors to read due to the larger font and not as much text. Another consideration to make for anyone when choosing a cell phone is the coverage map that shows whether your area and the areas you call have coverage according to the coverage map. Before I got into my current plan I didn’t think of that and was therefore unable to make cell phone calls from inside my own home, which is very inconvenient. After I spoke to neighbors and found out which carrier has the best coverage in my area I went with that carrier when I renewed my contract and it made a lot of difference. Great and very thorough article!

    Barbara

    Reply
  3. Hi Ceci,

    What a great article! I have had to help my parents get phones in the past and it is always challenging. One thing you didn’t address is the potential of seniors falling. My mom has a smartphone (iPhone) that has a service attached to it like Life alert. If she falls or is in an accident then the system will contact police, fire rescue, and medical assistance. She has only like 30 seconds or so in which to deactivate it or she gets a call. If the call is unanswered then she gets quite a few visitors within a few minutes. It’s activated by motion so sometimes she forgets and throws her phone down setting off the alert.

    I think this is a great topic though because finding a phone or any technology is challenging for seniors. It is difficult for my mom to teach her how to work the features. I still have to help her even find her home screen when I’m on the phone with her.

    Reply
  4. These are some create tips for seniors indeed. I remember my gran mother having trouble getting hold of someone when she was not well and was alone.
    It would have helped if she had a phone with an emergency button indeed as you suggested.
    Luckily now we have someone who lives with her but I still think she needs one of these cellphones just incase.

    Reply
    • Hi Thabo,
      Your grandmother would certainly have benefitted from having a phone with an emergency button when she was ill. I do hope that you are planning to replace her phone with one that has this feature to ensure her future safety.

      Ceci

      Reply
  5. My granny would have needed this a few weeks back because she did not have a phone let a lone with an emergency.
    Luckily we have a girl staying with her now so I do not think she will need a phone anymore but thus article is valuable.

    Reply
    • Having a girl stay with your granny is a good safety option if you feel that a cell phone is no longer a requirement for her. Perhaps you might find this information helpful when you do choose to get her a cell phone. Thanks

      Ceci

      Reply
  6. Hello, I personally think I prefer having an old retro phone without all the bells and whistles. Like I have a disability and most important thing is that I have battery if I need someone to call me or vice versa. I also prefer the simplicity of the burner type phones as well. I mean I think this would be the same for seniors too that have age related issues with mental health and mobility. Although also saying that it is kind of nice to have a device with the internet I think especially as much as I am uneasy about GPS tracking. Also one reason I got my phone now is for when I am overseas and I need to get my bearings of where I am. It I guess is probably not something a senior should be too concerned about but I guess it does help.

    So yes any basic cellphone is good that holds a battery but also maybe an inexpensive smartphone that is not too bulky could be helpful too I would say.

    Reply
    • Hello Alex,
      I must confess that simple and functional is my preference as well. Knowing your criteria before shopping for a phone is so important, otherwise many people tend to get carried away with all the bells and whistles. More tech savvy and newly retired seniors tend to prefer smartphones because they are already comfortable using them while in the workforce.

      GPS tracking does have its advantages especially for more elderly people and those more prone to slips and fall.
      Many thanks,
      Ceci

      Reply

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