If you’re caring for an elderly relative, you may have briefly considered buying them a smartphone, only to change your mind when you remember that they’re still asking for troubleshooting advice on a PC you gave them 6 years ago. But while a smartphone can be tricky for non-tech-savvy users to wrap their heads around, it can make their life much easier and allow them to live independently.
Benefits of Smartphones for Seniors
An increasing number of seniors are choosing to age in place, rejecting assisted living facilities and nursing homes, and choosing to live by their own means. A smartphone can help them with this, offering all the following benefits:
They Can Help in an Emergency
With a smartphone in their pocket and GPS services activated, an elderly person can get help if they wander off. If they have their wits about them, help is just a phone call away. If not, the GPS services can track them down and direct family, friends, caregivers, or emergency services to their location.
It can help them in the home, as well, providing an option if they fall, get stuck somewhere, or need medication and/or food.
They Can Control Smart Devices
A smart home device like Amazon Alexa or Google Home can be controlled from a smartphone, as well as voice activation. Additional devices like plugs, thermostats, and light switches can be installed around the home to turn on the television, lights, and fireplace while changing the temperature on demand.
Phones can even connect to smartwatches and fitness trackers, allowing the elderly user or their caregiver/family members to monitor their activity, heart rate, and other key health metrics.
They Help Them to Stay in Touch with Friends
As people age, they lose touch with friends and family members. They move away, get caught up in their careers, and are kept busy by starting their own families. Staying in touch is difficult, but it’s made much easier by smartphones.
Elderly smartphone users can connect with old friends through Facebook, WhatsApp, Snap Chat, and text. They can use text, voice, or video, all while browsing photographs of weddings, holidays, and christenings that they can’t attend themselves.
They Provide Entertainment
A smartphone connects the user to a world of entertainment options, helping to combat boredom without needing to leave the house. They can watch YouTube videos, play games with friends, listen to audiobooks, and even download eBooks. Most of these options are available free of charge, so they don’t have to worry about being hit with a big bill.
They Offer Many Practical Apps
From alarms that sound when it’s time to wake up, leave the house, and take medication, to apps that announce the weather and time, smartphones simplify many activities of daily living.
As the saying goes, there is an app for everything, and many of them are particularly useful for elderly users.
They Can Help to Boost Memory
Along with appointments and calendars, which remind users of key events and dates, smartphones can be used to stimulate brain activity and improve cognition. Brain training games and general puzzle games are a great way to keep the grey matter active and could help in the early stages of dementia.
Protecting the Smartphone
If you’re gifting a smartphone to a first-time elderly user who isn’t very tech-savvy, doesn’t understand many of the potential security flaws, and has mobility issues, you may need to assist with the following:
- Purchase a Protective Cover: Ideally, you should purchase a cover that is drop-proof and scratch-proof, while also making sure the phone is waterproof. Seniors with weak grip strength, arthritis, and mobility issues are more prone to dropping their devices.
- Set it up: Smartphones can be tricky to set up in the beginning. To make sure they don’t get fed up with the device before it’s even ready to use, do all the work for them.
- Password Protect the Device: It helps to add a credit card or other payment method to the device. That way, they can send/receive payments and purchase apps, games, and movies. If they are prone to confusion, however, they may spend a lot of money without realizing.
- Keep it Away from Thieves: Expensive phones are often targeted by thieves. A frail senior cradling one of these devices can become a target, so they may need to be reminded of the risks and told to keep the phone out of reach of potential thieves.
- Simplify: Smartphones have many different features and while these are greater for younger users, they may confuse an elderly person who has no experience with these devices. Look for the simplest and most user-friendly options, whether that means buying an older device, choosing iOS over Android, or turning off some of the features in the settings.
Conclusion: Getting Smartphones for Seniors
Smartphones are relatively easy to get used to. Give it a few weeks and your elderly relative will be swiping, typing, and surfing like a teenager. The best ones are very expensive, costing over $1,000 on average, but there’s no need to drop 4-figures on a phone for a first-time user.
You can get a very good smartphone for less than a few hundred bucks. Simply do your research, compare, and see if there are any features tailored to seniors in particular.