How to Recommend a Mobile Phone for Seniors


smartphone There is no doubt that seniors can feel a bit left behind in the technology revolution. Just consider the modern smartphone. Now think back in time when today’s seniors were in their teens and twenties. Someone coming of age in the mid-70s would have a much bigger leap to make than a person born in the 90s.

TV shows like Seinfeld are stark reminders that even in the late 80s and early 90s cell phones of any kind were practically unheard of. A wealthy person might have a giant car phone. And the personal computer revolution was still in its infancy.

Fast-forward to today and we have pocketable, featureless slabs that dominate our lives. It is perfectly understandable that your parents might have a tougher time mastering these devices, not to mention your grandparents. They will have no idea what qualifies as a good smartphone, let alone which is right for them.

That’s where you come in. The seniors in your life are going to need some help navigating this new landscape. But before you can recommend a phone to them, you have to first understand why smartphones are challenging for them in the first place. This is what you need to know before you can tell them what they need to know:

Physical Buttons Are Easier to Learn and Use

Jitterbug smartphones feature big, bright, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to use buttons. That is one of the qualities that makes them stand out in this world where everything is a featureless monolith. Even feature phones are masquerading as smartphones with large touchscreens and few physical buttons.

But anyone who works with seniors knows that dedicated buttons are easier to learn and use. A physical button does not change location on the device based on what is happening on screen. It does not change size. It does not have to be hard-pressed, long-press, swiped, or anything else for it to work as expected. One need not even look at the button to know where it is and how to use it.

Seniors are used to mechanical objects that have a single function. So bear this in mind when working with seniors who find it a bit more challenging to adapt. Recommend phones with mechanical buttons whenever possible.

Emphasize Value

Another challenge many seniors have with modern smartphones is recognizing the value. This year’s crop of super-phones rings in at $1,000. Seniors remember buying cars for less than $1,000. They don’t see smartphones as essential as cars, and never will.

You can get into an unfruitful discussion about why computational photography is going to change their lives. Or you could just recommend a smartphone with a good cost to benefits value. You should, of course, inform them of any known problems and disadvantages the phone has. But they don’t have to have the latest and greatest, and probably wouldn’t appreciate it.

People from earlier generations tend to be more price-sensitive, especially if they did not grow up wealthy. Spending money frivolously would have been frowned upon. Purchases needed to be practical. And if they do not see the practical value of an expensive smartphone, recommend less expensive smartphones where the value is more apparent.

Smartphones Constantly Change

There are people who never run automatic updates because they are afraid that the update will change something about the way the phone works. They are not wrong. Some iPhone users who updated iOS 6 to iOS 7 have still not forgiven Apple for such a radical change.

If they buy an iPhone, there will be incremental changes. But the system will be more secure. Most Android phones never see an update. But they are more vulnerable. This is one of those things where you have to explain to them why updates are important. They have the option not to apply them. But they should. And you have to be patient. Change is hard.

Whatever smartphone you ultimately recommend for the senior in your life, be sure it has some hardware buttons. Make sure the value is obvious. And help them understand that there will be incremental changes that happen periodically.