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A cell phone can make a great holiday gift for an older adult. While many seniors have one, they often purchase these devices with few features. These traditional phones may have keys that are too small for hands with arthritis to manage, or screens that are difficult on older eyes.

Upgrading to a smartphone—that can connect to the internet and download apps—can make everyday life easier. But it can also put a senior at risk for problems like text messaging scams and identity theft.

Here are a few things to consider before you buy a smartphone for a senior this holiday season.

Senior-Friendly Smartphones

If you aren’t sure what type of smartphone to purchase, here are two to consider:

  • Apple iPhone: You don’t need the latest version of the iPhone to make this a good choice for a senior. Even older models will work. Most have large screens (5.5 inches on the iPhone 7) that are kinder on older eyes. And Apple devices are among the easiest tech products to master.
  • Jitterbug Smart: This smartphone was developed specifically for seniors. A few of its many senior-friendly features include: larger text and icons, an easy, list-style menu, voice command typing, email access, camera, and compatibility with hearing aids. It also has a downloadable 5Star Urgent Response app that can be used to call for help in case of emergency.

Finally, remember to take the monthly service plan fee into consideration before you purchase a smartphone.

Smartphone Safety Issues to Review with Seniors

Don’t forget to review potential safety concerns with your loved one after they open their holiday gift. Some might not be aware of the security risks smartphones can present, such as:

  • Text message scams: Scammers can be very sneaky when it comes to text messaging. Remind your loved one not to open or respond to text messages from phone numbers they don’t recognize. Additionally, they shouldn’t respond to messages telling them they’ve won a sweepstakes prize or contest they never entered. These are usually scams.
  • Calls from fraudsters: Older adults often don’t realize that they can receive the same annoying—and often fraudulent—calls on their cell phone as on a landline. So the same senior safety principles apply to cell phones too.
  • Use a password: Just as you would on a computer, make sure access to a smartphone is restricted by a strong password. Don’t use the senior’s birthday or dog’s name. Instead, create a password that the senior can remember which contains letters, numbers, and characters. Some newer phones have finger print technology that protects the user.
  • Don’t store personal information: While it might be convenient to store information like a social security number or a health insurance ID number in a note on a smartphone, discourage your senior from doing so. This information could end up in the wrong hands if their phone is lost or stolen. It will put them at higher risk for identity theft.
  • Caution with apps: While apps to store medical information can be useful and convenient, it’s important for seniors to know to download only those from a credible company. When in doubt about an app’s authenticity, encourage them to ask for your help.

At Sunrise, our residents enjoy the benefits of technology, just like younger generations. After all, email, online photo-sharing, and browsing the Internet are all part of keeping up with loved ones and with the world.


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  • I am learning how to use my tablet!
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