Do smart seniors still need to purchase a smartphone?

If a senior can answer a smartphone, chances are they can find more use with it like staying connected to family and friends. Photo: Shutterstock
If a senior can answer a smartphone, chances are they can find more use with it like staying connected to family and friends. Photo: Shutterstock

Smartphones have become a crucial part of our daily lives and are an important piece of technology for seniors, especially those isolated or vulnerable.

However, there is no one particular mobile device to suit every elderly person.

As with anyone else, the choice of phone for a senior really comes down to a personal level of digital confidence and the ability to use the device. But what if you just want a mobile that's simple to use, easy to navigate and lets you make a quick call in times of stress?

According to Denis Gallagher of Australian leading consumer advocacy group CHOICE, there are several options available when looking for a mobile for people with low vision, people who are hard of hearing, or people who'd simply prefer a talk and text device.

"Simple mobile phones strip most things back to the bare essentials, and typically do away with touchscreens," Denis said.

"Because of this they tend to have a retro, simple design, clear navigation tools and menus [and] a far lower price point, generally, compared to most smartphones."

However, according to Denis, you might also be surprised at the ability of some of the more popular smartphones to provide useful assistance to seniors.

What should you look for?

  1. Desktop charging cradle - removes the need to insert a cable and physically plug in the phone for charging.
  2. Dedicated speed-dial buttons - usually available on mobiles with a number keypad rather than a touch screen, can be handy when you need to call a few people often.
  3. Emergency SMS - this function can send a predetermined message for help.
  4. Emergency call key - lets you contact a predetermined number or numbers. Simply store the emergency numbers you wish to call.
  5. A phone with a standard headphone jack lets you use headphones and may be preferred by those with limited hearing.
  6. Hearing-aid support - the microphone (M) rating and T-coil (T) rating determine how well your hearing aid will work with your mobile phone. Look for a phone with an M3 or M4 rating. If you prefer telecoil coupling, look for a phone with T3 or T4 rating.
  7. Maximum ringtone and speakerphone volume can indicate how well someone with limited hearing can effectively use the phone either held to the ear or in hands-free speakerphone mode.
  8. Receive MMS - this feature allows you to view photos and/or listen to sound sent to your phone providing important connection with family and friends.

Finally, if cost is a concern Denis said many of these options are also available with low budget smartphones.

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