You often see wireless carriers market really bad phones to seniors and they do it by reinforcing negative stereotypes about seniors. What we hear is that seniors aren't good at using new technology. They don't want to learn how to use it. They need flip phones because they are just easier to use. Let's start by debunking a few of these misconceptions:
Seniors we have come in contact with who have taken a little time to play with a smartphone are just as capable as younger people of using smartphones and they love them just as much, however a lot of the time they were a little bit more hesitant about breaking something. It’s common for them to ask a question about something they already know how to do, but they don’t want to push the wrong button. Seniors have been learning new skills with technology for their entire lives and they've seen computers go from the size of an entire living room to something you can hold in our hand. They remember when entering the wrong command on a computer could crash the whole thing, so they're naturally a little more hesitant about just pushing buttons. Luckily in the past several years smartphones have switched their focus from introducing new features to emphasizing the ease of use. For instance when you upgrade to a new iphone all you have to do is take the old one and hold it near the new one and everything transfers. If you do ever get lost in a smart phone you can just hit the home button and you’re back to where you started. When introducing seniors to a smart phone it’s important to emphasize the fact that you can't break it by pushing buttons. There's nothing that they can do that's going to break it so have fun!
A smart phone can be an excellent way for seniors to connect to the outside world. Seniors enjoy taking pictures and sharing them with friends and family just as much those who may be from a younger generation. Text messaging makes staying in touch just as convenient and easy for seniors as it does anyone else. Video chat, voice commands, calendar reminders, news, weather games and everything else that make smart phones so great are great for people of all ages. The argument that seniors don't need any of the amazing features that smartphones offer just doesn’t make sense. When you actually look at the flip phones marketed to seniors one thing that comes up a lot is the buttons size. For some reason the flip phones have huge buttons and of course smartphones have no buttons at all. Well if you go to the iPhone keypad you start dialing a phone number those buttons are significantly larger than the buttons you will find on a flip phone. Of course the buttons don’t matter at all when you can say “Hey Siri, call my daughter”. If you want to send a text message that flip phone is actually much harder to use. The keyboard on a smart phone is significantly easier to use. Again that is if you want to use the keyboard at all, of course a smart phone allows you to just speak whatever message you want to send. Even the largest of screens offered on flip phones are still just a fraction of the size you have with a smartphone. Smartphones also offer the ability to easily zoom in on text if it is still to small or difficult to read.
With a little practice seniors tend to be able to use smart phones just as well as their younger counterparts. These phones are just as useful and just as fun for people of any age. Odds are you may even have spare iphone or android just collecting dust in a drawer or a closet. So if you are asking, what is the best phone for a senior? The answer is you may already have it.
Ty Strahl is the Spokane areas leading Certified Senior Advisor (CSA). Her job is to help navigate the many aspects of aging and to help seniors who are in transition to find the right solutions for their individual needs.