How to make cell phones easier to use for seniors

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Many seniors admit they have felt even more alone than usual because of the pandemic, according to a Consumer Affairs survey. While technology offers many ways to combat this loneliness, an AARP study shows that older adults worry about cost, privacy and the ability to learn how to use a device.

Make Grandma and Grandpa happy by explaining how using technology can help them stay more connected with their loved ones. And assure them that you will help set everything up and can offer technical support.

Start by customizing their phone to make it easy to use and truly beneficial to them.

Enlarge the text

This simple fix can take away some of the frustration of not being able to read what’s on the screen. For iPhone, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size and drag the slider. Any application that supports Dynamic Type will adjust automatically.

Adjust on Android phone under Settings > Display > Font Size.

Add emergency information

These important details could be critical for first responders or others trying to help. On iPhone, go to Settings > Health > Medical ID to enter date of birth, medical conditions, allergies, medications, blood type, and whether the user is an organ donor. Then decide whether this information will be available from the lock screen without password. Enabling this feature will allow anyone to hold down the side button and a volume button, swipe on medical ID, and get insights without a password. In some US cities, users can also allow iPhone to text this information to 911 during an emergency call.

On Android phones, go to Settings > About phone > Emergency info to enter medical information and set emergency contacts. The lock screen will now contain a link to personal information such as blood type, allergies, and medications.

Show them how to make an emergency call

Set up shortcuts to call emergency services and alert loved ones when it happens. On iPhone, go to Settings > Emergency SOS and enable Auto Call. In an emergency, the person needing help can press and hold the power button and one of the volume buttons. They can drag the Emergency SOS slider or continue to hold the side button and volume button for a countdown to begin. A user can also choose to activate it by pressing the side button five times. When the countdown ends, the iPhone calls emergency services and then sends a text message to emergency contacts with the phone’s current location. It will send updates if the location changes until someone taps “Stop sharing emergency location”.

For Android phones, go to Settings > Security & emergency > Emergency SOS to decide which features will be allowed when someone makes an emergency call by pressing the power button five times. Users can decide whether the phone will sound an alarm, share information with emergency contacts, or even record a video and send it to emergency contacts.

Connect hearing aids to their device

Seniors can use hearing aids as wireless headphones with low energy Bluetooth connectivity. No more pulling out your hearing aids to use headphones or trying to get the right position to talk on the phone. For iPhone and iPad, go to Settings > Bluetooth and open the battery doors of your hearing aid. Then go to Settings>Accessibility>Hearing and select the hearing aid. Close the battery doors of the hearing aid. Tap the hearing aid name and tap Pair. Note that when the hearing aid is turned off, it disconnects from its phone. The user will need to open and close the hearing aid battery doors to reconnect.

For Android phones, go to Settings > Connected devices > Pair new device. Choose the hearing aid from the list.

While some seniors may be annoyed that declining sight or hearing is preventing them from fully utilizing technology, these adjustments can be a game-changer. Knowing that someone who lives alone can easily contact emergency services and contacts also relieves their shoulders and those of their loved ones. Make grandma and grandpa want to use their devices again with these features that can help them feel armed with the keys to the digital realm.

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