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Consider several top options when selecting a smartphone

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2019
                                An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2019

    An iPhone displays the apps for Facebook and Messenger in New Orleans.

Dear Savvy Senior: Can you recommend some good smartphones for older seniors? I would like to get my 78-year-old mother to upgrade to a smartphone but want something that’s easy for her to see and use. — Shopping Around

Dear Shopping: There are actually several smartphones I can recommend that will provide your mother a simpler, less intimidating smartphone experience. Here are my top three options.

Apple iPhones

Because of the quality and functionality of Apple products, an iPhone is a great choice for seniors who are inexperienced with technology. But, to make it easier for your mom to use, you’ll need to set it up and customize it to meet her needs and preferences.

To make it senior-friendly, start by decluttering the home screen, which you can do by deleting the apps your mom won’t use and hiding the apps she’ll rarely use in labeled folders or the App Library. The fewer options the better!

You’ll also want to set up a small number of contacts (with photos) to family and friends with whom your mom frequently communicates, and install some apps she would enjoy using.

And finally, iPhones have a wide variety of built-in accessibility features you can turn on depending on your mom’s needs. These features, which you access through the phone’s settings, can help users who have diminished vision, hearing impairment, hand dexterity problems or cognitive loss.

Some popular accessibility features among older iPhone users include larger text and icon display, zoom (screen magnification), magnifier (turns iPhone into a magnifying glass), increased volume and alerts, voice control, find my iPhone, and emergency SOS and medical ID setup. There are dozens of other tweaks you can make to enhance your mom’s experience with her iPhone.

For a rundown of the different accessibility features and instructions on how to set them up, see Apple.com/accessibility.

If you’re interested in this option, the iPhone 12 (5G, 6.1-inch display screen, $800) or iPhone 12 mini (5G, 5.4-inch screen, $700) are excellent choices. Or, for a more budget-friendly phone, consider the iPhone SE (4.7-inch screen, $400), which was released in 2020.

Samsung Galaxy

If you’re an android phone user and would like to get your mom a phone you’re familiar with, consider a Samsung.

All Samsung phones offer an “Easy Mode” feature in their settings that boosts the text and icon size and simplifies the home-screen layout and contacts, which makes these phones a nice option for seniors or tech-newbies.

Samsung phones also have a variety of accessibility features — see Samsung.com/us/accessibility/galaxy-­mobile for instructions — that can accommodate your mom’s needs.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (6.2-inch screen, $800) or more moderately priced Galaxy A71 5G (6.7-inch screen, $600) are good choices to consider.

Lively Smart

Another less expensive option to consider is to purchase your mom a smartphone that’s specifically designed for seniors. The best one available is the new Lively Smart offered by Best Buy.

This phone has a 6.2-inch screen, large text and a simple list-based menu that provides one-touch access to frequently used features like video chat, camera, email and more. It also offers a nice variety of optional health and safety features you can add on, such as:

>> Urgent Response: a mobile medical alert service that would connect your mom to a Lively agent in emergency situations, 24/7, who would confirm her location and get her the help she needs.

>> Urgent Care: allows the user to speak to a registered nurse or board-­certified doctor anytime.

>> Lively Link: an app that sends alerts to family and friends if your mom calls urgent response.

>> Personal Operator Service: This person can assist your mom with tasks such as finding addresses, setting up appointments, booking Lively Rides (through a partnership with Lyft) and much more.

The Lively Smart is available online at Lively.com or at Best Buy stores for $150.


Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.


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