Today’s technology can be intimidating to those who grew up with rotary phones and black-and-white televisions, but that shouldn’t be a reason for seniors to steer clear of smartphones. These devices are a great way for grandparents to keep in touch with family and friends and can be excellent tools for monitoring health and preserving independence. These simple tips can help first-time users get comfortable with their new device.
Choose the right device
The type of device you choose will have a big impact on how easy your phone is to use. A common issue for seniors is dealing with tiny type on a small screen.
Choose a phone with a screen size of at least 6 inches. If you have trouble with touch screens, opt for a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note that comes with a stylus.
Select a phone that friends and family members are familiar with so they can help with set-up (often the most complicated part of using a smartphone) and troubleshooting.
Unlock these hidden features
If you have specific issues that make it difficult to use a smartphone – such as poor eyesight or hearing – both Android and iPhones have hidden accessibility features that can make your experience easier.
Easy Mode: Samsung smartphones have a feature called Easy Mode in the Settings section of the phone. Turn it on and you’re left with just the phone’s three core uses phone, contacts, and tools/programs. You can customize this and turn it off and on depending on your needs.
Third Party Launcher: You can completely change the look of your Android phone to suit your needs by downloading a “Third Party Launcher” from the Google Play app store on your phone. Apps like Large Launcher, Big Launcher, Necta, and Wiser all have different features that are great for seniors, but the main affect is to make the text and icons larger.
Zoom: Apple’s version of these “easy” features is Zoom mode under Settings. It enlarges everything on the screen to make it easier to see and use.
iPhone Zoom feature
Android and iPhone
Make your phone speak to you: Both Android and iPhones have a voice-over function under Settings (called TalkBack in Android and VoiceOver in iPhones) that allows the phone tell you what’s on the screen just by touching the screen.
Make it bigger: The Settings on your phone allow you to adjust the display size, color, and contrast, enlarge text size, and turn on a screen magnifier to help you see text more clearly. iPhones also have a magnification feature built into the camera so you can use your phone as a magnifying glass.
Larger text option
Skip the swipe: A common issue for seniors is difficulty using the touch and swipe motions needed to operate a smartphone. Apple’s Assistive Touch feature lets you perform any basic actions with just a tap, no swiping required.
iPhone’s Assistive Touch feature
Brighter notifications: If you don’t always hear the phone, the LED Flash Feature will alert you to calls and notifications. by flashing a bright LED light to notify you visually.
Get friendly with your voice assistant
Both Android and iPhone have built-in personal assistants who can do a lot for you. The Google Assistant (Android) and Siri (iPhone) can help you do most of what you need your phone to do. Ask them to make a phone call for you, play music, launch an app, give you driving directions, read your text messages – you may not even have to pick up your phone at all!
With just a few simple functions and a little time exploring, smartphones can be a great (and easy) way for seniors to use technology to stay in touch with family near and far.
Jennifer Pattison Tuohy is a freelance writer and contributor to Xfinity Mobile. She covers the intersection of sustainability and technology and writes about mobile phone technology, consumer tech, small businesses, and green living for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and online publications.