Technology for Seniors

By Karen Cifala

Figuring out what to buy mom or dad or a senior friend as a holiday gift can be tough. For the most part they either have or don’t need most of the things you consider giving them.

Cell phones have become an important and convenient tool for seniors. Many have embraced the use of cell phones in their daily lives: they surf the web, post on Facebook, and use them for emergencies. Obviously Panic buttons for emergencies are a good idea, and having a single button to push can bring some peace of mind.

There are tons of apps out there to help seniors stay sharp mentally and help them do the things they would like to do: organize information, keep in touch with friends, provide driving directions, clip coupons—you name it, and there is an app for it! This might seem crazy, but there are grandparents out there who keep in contact with their grandkids by texting and sending text photos. Who loves photos more than grandparents?

Our current technology seems to have overcome the past problem of finding the right cell phone for older folks to use. Not only has the technology caught up with the needs of our seniors, but it has also reduced the overwhelming effect of information overload. I recently found a list of cell phones that were made specifically for seniors—just in time to share for the holidays!

If you are thinking about buying a cell phone (not a smart phone) for your senior, look at the Jitterbug Plus. One of the new services from Jitterbug is the 5Star service. This service replaces a (PERS) Personal Emergency Response Service. It has large numbers on a bright, crisp, color screen that are easy to read. It is also hearing aid compatible.

The Snapfon ex One cell phone was especially designed for seniors. It is simple to operate and has a large text display and an emergency SOS button. But the neatest thing about this phone is that it will “say” the numbers as they are dialed (called a speaker keypad)!

The Just5 J510 cell phone includes the SOS button (called the Super Button) which can call up to 5 numbers when pressed. It has big buttons, a back-lit keypad, easy navigation, and a speaker phone (with the speaking keypad).

Smartphones, Notebooks and IPads with so many apps available make it very easy for seniors to use as well. The Jitterbug Touch or Pantech Flex might be good choices, although any of the major smartphone brands out there with the Apple or Android operating system will be fine too. Just remember to check that the smartphone you purchase has the “Easy Mode” functionality which transforms the user interface on the phone into one that is easy to navigate and use in 3 seconds.

Look for features in a smartphone like those in the Samsung Galaxy S4. This phone has a good speaker and a loud speakerphone with personalized sound profiles. Google Play has other keyboards that can be downloaded to increase the key size. It has a front and rear facing camera that takes amazing photos. You can also look into getting a case that is “easy to grip.” The Galaxy Note 2 or 3 might be the right thing as well. The Galaxy Note 3 makes sending calls and messages easy without touching the phone.

One of the hardest parts of getting your senior to use the cell or smartphone is training them to use it. I asked senior Beverly Terry, 83, how hard that was for her. She said “I asked the salesman if he would come home with me and he said no, but he also said to just keep pushing buttons.” But trial and error can turn into panic quickly.

Jerry Hickman of Shared Knowledge Technical Solutions offers training and support to seniors. He offers mobile service for computer repair and training and technical support. He says if there is enough senior interest, he will present an onsite training course. You can reach Jerry Hickman at 703-371-9597 or go to his website,

Cost is always a big concern for our seniors, so don’t forget to ask your carrier if they offer a plan specific for seniors—for example, one that doesn’t require signing up for a 2-year plan. Also ask about accessories to assist users who have a disability.

These phones could open the outside world to elderly people who might feel isolated, or who are unable to venture out into the community. Isolation is one of the leading causes of dementia, and having the opportunity to connect with others through new technology could possibly be one of the keys to unlocking this door.

So consider giving your senior friends or relatives a doorway to interaction so they can really feel included this holiday season!


Karen Cifala is a senior real estate specialist with Remax Roots in Berryville. Her interest in Seniors carries through into her work on a daily basis. To reach her you can call her at 303-817-9374 or email her at Join her for one of the open senior forum discussions with Professionals Working 4Seniors being held around the community.