Now more than ever before, seniors are tech-savvy and connected to the technological world. The stats show more than 50% of Australians aged 65 years and over have broadband internet at home and roughly three-quarters of this number use the internet daily.

On paper, it appears Australian seniors have embraced technology - but some are still feeling like they’re behind the times. It’s easy to see how this occurs. Especially if you were unable to connect quickly with family and friends, felt left out from inside jokes with loved ones or felt concerned about how to implement extra security in your home. 

Smartphones can make it easier to connect, but may present a steep learning curve.

Smartphones can make it easier to connect, but may present a steep learning curve.

It’s true that smartphones could alleviate these concerns around seclusion and safety, and bring you up to speed on the fun and connection there is to be experienced from becoming a smartphone user. But is it the right way to go? And what factors should you consider?

One factor that can keep people from making the switch to a smartphone is jargon. Younger generations have been brought up with technology, and it all changes quickly. So it’s understandable that the range of language and choices that come with talking about smartphones may be overwhelming.

To help with this, we’re going to quickly break down the discussion across four sections - requirements, budget, your style and the ease of access you require. This way the decision to become a smartphone user - or not - doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. And you can make the choice with confidence.

What are your needs and wants?

So, let’s think about why it is you’re considering a smartphone. Perhaps your grandchild has moved away from their parent’s home for the first time and wants to keep you included in what’s going on in their life. Or maybe you have a relative who lives overseas with whom you wish you could see.

To do this, you might need to share files, or make video calls. This is where file sharing applications like Dropbox and Google Docs can help, letting you share photos and files quickly. Social media applications such as Facebook mean you can follow their daily updates and news. With video calling services like Facetime or Skype, you could see their faces with the press of a virtual button.

Smartphone apps can put you in touch with family and friends around the world.

Smartphone apps can put you in touch with family and friends around the world.

Some seniors may have concerns about their or spouse’s safety and want to investigate how a smartphone might offer additional options in the event of an emergency.

At first glance, a smartphone with a medical alert may seem a clear option. But it should be noted that the additional help button on any mobile phone isn’t as reliable as a medical alert system such as CareAlert or VitalCall.

This is because of factor such as:

  • Short battery life - if your phone dies, help won’t come.
  • No fall detection - smartphones rely on accelerometers, but these don’t always work.
  • Dependant on good reception area - sometimes difficult in some remote areas.
  • Smartphones are not securely strapped to your body.
  • An emergency respondent does not stay on the line with you until help arrives.

The choice between using your smartphone and an emergency contact system that stores important medical information and using a medical alert system is a personal one. When it comes to your safety corners should not be cut and you should consider both your budgetary and practical needs. Talk with your family, healthcare provider or a smartphone representative to find out what options are available to you through applications or services. 

Budget, style, and accessibility.

Budget

If you are living on a fixed income, your budget is often the first consideration. Additionally, smartphones features might not appeal to your needs or interests. If you have no interest in mobile gaming, social networking, video calling or the wider network of applications, then it’s possible that a smartphone would be overkill. Same could be said about the services that often come bundled with them, as these services are designed for someone who would use a greater amount of mobile data. Keeping these additional costs in mind when looking at smartphones. The device can cost a fair amount, but so too can the monthly connection and data fees.

Style

There are three main styles of mobile telephone - a touchscreen smartphone, a traditional mobile with a numeric keypad, and devices like a Blackberry which feature a full computer keyboard on a much smaller scale. What will work best for you will largely depend on not only our communication requirements but what you feel comfortable in using. Some people struggle with the transition to a touchscreen phone as they miss the tactile feedback that comes from pressing down on physical buttons, however many users will adjust to the change fairly quickly.

Accessibility

While a basic or stripped-down device may be a great option for a new smartphone user, people with disabilities or special access needs may actually benefit from a more premium phone. Top-of-the-range smartphones often have extensive accessibility features to help the disabled or physically impaired to navigate their phone. For example, one-touch assistants like the iPhone’s Siri interface or Microsoft’s Cortana can be helpful for people with poor vision, and voice-to-text options can help speed communication. By considering your particular needs, you will be able to match yourself with a mobile device with the facilities that suit your needs.

Not The Right Choice?

Smartphones are not always going to be the right choice for everyone. This is usually due to one of three factors: usability, cost, and availability of training on how to use the technology.

If texting and talking are all that you require of a mobile phone then a more traditional flip phone with the raised buttons is a sound choice. Companies such as Samsung, LG, and Nokia still manufacture flip phones tailored specifically for seniors. These feature large buttons and enhanced sound quality to make the operation of the device easier.

Press-button flip-phones are still available from some major manufacturers .

Press-button flip-phones are still available from some major manufacturers .

Which Phone Is Best?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all option. The short answer to deciding which smartphone is best for you is the one that meets your specific needs and requirements.

In addressing the basics of your requirements and interests it is likely you have developed a better idea of what you’re looking for. With a sound idea of your requirements, interests, and budget, it’s time to do a little research.

Another sound idea is to talk about your ideas with a friend or loved one. Discuss with the people with whom you wish to be in touch the best ways to contact them. Do you want to share photos with them? Do they want to send you links to content of interest? A fun discussion with people you know may help you refine your choices from among the ever-changing options available on the market.

How will a smartphone change the way you communicate?

How will a smartphone change the way you communicate?

Don’t forget the experts! Nowadays, because of the rapidly growing market and increased interest in technology and smartphones by the senior demographic, there are more trained salespeople at outlets and specialist shops than ever before. Smartphones can be bought through a variety of network providers, and a friendly Southern Phone team member would be delighted to help you address any other questions you may have to do with your budget, needs, and technological skill.

Choosing and using a smartphone doesn’t have to be complicated. All it requires is a little research and you could soon be on your way to enjoying 21st-century communication at the same pace as your family. And who doesn’t love the thought of being a cool senior?

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