It’s an unfair stereotype to think of elderly people as unable to cope with or uninterested in technology.
In fact, it was found in 2017 that 39% of over 65s are using smartphones; an increase of 11% from 2016 to 2017. But while more older people are using smartphones, 65+s are still the least likely age group to have one.
It’s true that not growing up with technology from a young age has put older generations at a disadvantage to start learning, and that age-related health problems such as arthritis, poor eye-sight and memory loss can make navigating a smartphone much trickier. But whatever the reason that some older people may feel uncertain about getting a smartphone, there are lots of benefits to mobile technology that many older people are starting to embrace, as well as options that could make them easier to use.
3.6 million older people live alone in the UK, and access to a mobile phone could make living independently that little bit easier and help alleviate feelings of loneliness or isolation. Whether it’s the confidence to go out alone knowing that you can contact a loved one at any time, or the ability to feel more connected to the family by sharing photos and quick messages via text, mobile phones open up lots of opportunities to improve older people’s well-being.
If you’re thinking of buying your first smartphone, or are helping an elderly friend or relative to pick one out, then there’s lots to think about to ensure you choose one that’s going to be simple and convenient to use. Take a look at some of our recommendations below to help you find the right phone for a senior:
Not many phones come with buttons anymore, but some older people find them much more familiar and simple to use than touchscreens. That being said, phones with small buttons can still be tricky to manage and some older people prefer the larger buttons on touchscreens once they get the hang of them. We’d recommend trying out a variety of different style keyboards to find one that the user is comfortable with.
If you do opt for a phone with buttons then be aware that it could possibly mean sacrificing screen size. Small screens can cause problems for unfamiliar users, and particularly if you’re buying a phone for someone with poor eye-sight, you might want to go for the largest screen you can. Flip phones offer the best of both worlds with a large keypad and screen that snap shut together.
If an elderly person isn’t used to carrying a phone then they might be put off by anything too bulky or heavy that isn’t convenient to add to their bag or pocket. Phones are much lighter now than they were 20 years ago so it shouldn’t be tricky to find one that won’t weigh your pocket down, but keep in the back of your mind that choices such as a bigger screen or buttons might tip a phone from something easy to slip into your pocket to an inconvenience that gets left at home.
Those of us who are glued to our phones all day long tend to expect that we’re going to have to charge it on a regular basis. But older people who intend to use it more casually need a phone that you can rely on to hold its charge and won’t become a hassle to remember to plug in. 41% of over 55s listed battery life as a criteria they consider when buying a mobile phone in Kantar Media’s TGI Survey Oct 16 – Sept 17.
Many 2018 phones praised for their long battery lives have 4,000mAh batteries or higher, so if you can get a good deal on one of those then you should enjoy a good amount of time out of your battery. You may also wish to consider a phone with a charging dock to make re-charging that little bit easier.
Companies do tend to use similar processes and designs to make their phones easy to adapt to without poring over an instruction manual, but for someone unfamiliar with smartphones these processes can take some time to get used to. If you’re buying for an unexperienced user or someone with poor memory then you may want to look for a phone with a simple interface that is easy to pick up.
That being said, there are adjustments you can make to any phone to make it easier to use, such as increasing the font size, using a voiceover that will read text aloud or simply organising the apps so that the most-used ones are easily accessed from the home screen. There are also apps you can download, such as Wiser and Necta, that will adapt the phone for you to make it easier to use.
If an older person is worried about getting used to a new smartphone, then the last thing they’re going to want to do is to change to a different one every couple of years. It seems much more sensible to invest in a durable phone that can go the distance and won’t fall apart if it accidently slips out of your pocket. Be wary of older models and read reviews to make sure you don’t end up with a phone that conks out after a year or two. With Apple recently admitting to deliberately slowing the performance of older iPhone models, you’d be surprised at what information comes to light after a little research into other users’ experiences.
It’s not just the phone handset itself that requires careful consideration, but also which telecommunications network you choose, and what kind of payment plan works best for the person using the phone, and the person paying the bill.
We’ve all experienced the frustration of finding yourself somewhere with poor reception, but for casual phone users and those who don’t really bother with the internet on their phones, good reception is much more important. Kantar Media’s TGI Survey Oct 16 – Sept 17 found that over 55s were 19% more likely than younger participants to value reception when choosing a mobile phone. This age group was significantly less likely than other participants to value most other factors included in the survey, such as internet speed, camera, brand image and consumer reviews. Good reception and ease of use were the only two criteria that over 55s valued more than other age groups.
There are sites available that will give you an idea of the best network coverage for your area, including this mobile phone coverage map from Which, so it’s definitely worth looking up the network providers with good coverage in your town and the places you frequently need your phone.
For an older person only using a phone occasionally, there’s really no need to splash out on a £30 p/month contract. What might seem like a good deal to a heavy user of phones could be an unnecessary expense to a casual phone user. So, it’s important to narrow down the features that are realistically going to be used and compromise on the ones not needed.
For example, if the phone is just needed so that people can get in touch when you’re out then you may be better off putting a small amount of credit on a pay-as-you-go phone instead of signing up to a contract. On the other hand, if you want to make the most of texting friends and family throughout the day then a low price contract with unlimited or 500+ texts could avoid any concerns about running out of credit. Most important is to find a deal that the bill payer is comfortable with and understands fully.
If you’ve introduced more devices and gadgets to your household recently then don’t forget to update your home and contents insurance to ensure you’re covered. Age Co Over 50s Home Insurance is designed to protect the items you value, with no hidden admin fees or nasty surprises.
*Recommendations relevant upon publishing May 2018. New models and deals are regularly released so be sure to do your research to find the best deal at the time of purchase.