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Choosing a mobile phone for elderly family members

Use our guide to help you choose the best mobile phone for your elderly loved ones.

August 02, 2021

Elderly couple using mobile phone

Reading time: 3 minutes

 According to the latest Ofcom research, 55% of over 65s use a smartphone and 59% have their own social media profiles.

These figures show that we can no longer assume older family members have no interest in technology. Many older people are embracing the convenience that technology can bring to their lives.

This last year has highlighted the need for us to stay connected to friends and family when we are unable to be physically close to them.

With over 3.6 million older people living alone, mobile phones are a wonderful tool for helping to alleviate loneliness and isolation as well as providing a lifeline in an emergency.

However, no-matter how useful they can be, there are a few things to consider when looking for a phone that will be simple and easy for an elderly relative to use. Conditions such as poor eyesight, arthritis, memory loss or poor hearing will impact what kind of features you might need from a phone.


Important features of easy-to-use mobile phones for the elderly

Here are some of the top things to consider when choosing a mobile phone for an elderly loved one:

  • A large screen with adjustable font size and bright display that is easy-to-read indoors and outdoors.
  • Big buttons to avoid frustration from pressing the wrong thing.
  • Good battery life so the mobile phone will work when they need to make a call.
  • A strong mobile signal where they live, and in the areas they frequently visit, so they can make a call when they need to.
  • Simple to navigate and use. Smartphones have lots of features but your elderly loved one may only want to use one or two.
  • Consider alternatives to mobile phones too. Think about what they would use a mobile phone for. There may be other easier to use solutions for video calls for example, or for getting help in an emergency.


1. Large screen

If your loved one has impaired eyesight or easily gets headaches, it is a good idea to find a phone that has a large screen.

It is also worth checking what kind of accessibility options the phone has too, as this may enable the user to increase text size on menus and messages. Bigger than standard font size and a large screen will make it is easier for an older person to read the menus.


2. Big buttons

Whilst most modern phones now come with touchscreens, many older people still prefer a phone with buttons. However, a touchscreen that enables you to increase the size of the keyboard may be preferable over small or fiddly buttons that mean they have to compromise on screen size.

If you can, test out a variety of different phone models to see which feels most comfortable for your family member. You could also consider using a touchscreen phone with a stylus as a way of making the buttons on a touchscreen easier to use.


3. Good battery life

Mobile phones can often give us reassurance that our older family members can get help easily if they need to. However, they’re no good in an emergency if your loved one finds the battery has run out when they want to use it.

One of the downsides with smartphones is that the batteries often don’t last as long as some of the simpler models. Consider whether your family member is able to remember to keep the phone regularly charged.


4. Strong signal

Just as with battery life, it is essential you can get a strong signal when you need it. Check out which networks offer the strongest signal in your area and the places that your loved one may visit on a regular basis.

The Ofcom website has a mobile signal checker that is free to use. Enter your postcode to check the mobile signal in your area.


5. Simple to navigate

It can seem great to have lots of useful features on a phone. However, if the menus are too complicated to navigate then the phone could become a source of frustration rather than reassurance.

Ask your family member what features are most essential to them. For example, do they need a reminders for remembering medication, or would they like a camera to be able to video call friends and family?  


6. Alternatives to mobile phones for elderly people

It is worth thinking about how your loved one will use their mobile phone. If it is for staying connected with family through video calls then there may be more suitable alternatives to facetime on a mobile, for example specific video calling devices designed for older people.

If they would use their mobile to get help in an emergency, a GPS personal alarm or personal alarm watch may be easier to use and offer better coverage thanks to a multi-network SIM.

For those who want a reliable device that they can use to get help in an emergency, a personal alarm for the elderly may be the perfect solution. These provide reassurance and peace of mind that help is available anytime of the day or night from a specialist monitoring centre.

The Out-and-About Mobile Alarm enables you to get help 24-hours a day from our Emergency Resolution Team at the touch of a large, easy-to-press SOS button. This device has built-in fall detection and will automatically call us if it detects a fall.

It also has GPS technology so we know where your loved one is if we need to send help. Your loved one can also make and receive calls to two friends or family members, just like a mobile phone. The Out-and-About Mobile Alarm has been designed with an elderly person in mind and has a simple interface and large buttons.

Mobile personal alarms

Find out more about the Mobile Personal Alarm and how the device promotes living independently

Mobile alarms

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

Ways to support independent living

Independent living products brochure

Learn how personal alarms and home monitoring solutions can keep you or your loved ones safe and independent at home.

Download brochure

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