How to Know When It’s Time to Take Smartphones Away from Seniors

Alert1 Senior Holding Smartphone

Each winter, media outlets rush to make predictions for the coming year, trying to stake out territory in not-yet-realized trends. Late in 2019, the Washington Post published its annual In/Out List for 2020, and something there caught our attention. The writer says that “worrying about your kids’ screen time” is out, while “worrying about your boomers’ screen time” is in. For those who have older parents, or who perhaps work with the over-65 population, this struck a chord.

For some, smartphone use can rack up unnecessary bills, create frustration, and muddle lines of communication. When you keep receiving calls from your senior, you won’t know whether it’s an emergency or a misdial until you answer the phone. With a medical alert system, you won’t question whether the call is an emergency.

But this is far from the only reason to reevaluate a parent’s or friend’s smartphone use. Here are some warning signs that it may be time to have a conversation about their smartphone.

Red Flags for Senior Smartphone Use

  • Accidental spending is very common among very young and elderly smartphone users. For seniors unfamiliar with mobile advertising, scams, and hidden fees, in-app purchases may seem confusing. Seniors may end up spending money without meaning to, even without realizing it.
  • If your senior complains about having trouble sorting through smartphone features, it might be time to reevaluate their need. Some elderly folks feel that having too many options on a single device is overwhelming. Additional features can make it difficult to find the necessities, like texting, calling, and finding the date.
  • Some older adults may experience anxiety and stress when faced with learning a new technology. This anxiety can become more pronounced as a person ages and gradually loses motor and cognitive functions. If your parent is feeling stressed out about not being able to use a smartphone as they did before, it might be time to reevaluate.

    Talking to Your Senior About Smartphone Use

    Elderly Woman Talking On The Phone
    In most cases, seniors will use smartphones primarily for communication, either by chatting with friends and family, texting, and making emergency phone calls. If this is your senior’s primary need for a phone, you may want to rethink their device. Some seniors and their families may want to cut the smartphone cord altogether, opting instead for simpler, more functional cell phones. If you and your senior family member or friend is looking for a simpler, cheaper, and more effective communication tool, sometimes a rudimentary cell phone and medical alert system are the best answer. This is also often the most cost-effective solution. 

    Combining Cell Phones with Medical Alert Devices

    Regardless of your senior’s phone use, adding medical alert technology to the home is always a good idea. If you’re constantly receiving calls from an elderly parent, it may be difficult to know when there’s an emergency. Additionally, cell phones don’t have automatic alert features for when disaster strikes, such as during a fall. Whether you prefer a cell phone or a smartphone, it’s always a good idea to have an Alert1 device as part of your senior’s communication kit.


    We’re not denying that for many people a smartphone can be part of keeping your senior safe. With this tool, they’ll be able to video chat, use GPS to navigate while walking and driving, monitor health through apps, and access the Internet. Adding a medical alert device to your senior’s pile of gadgets can be just part of your communication with them. As always, this decision is a personal one, so talk to your family member or friend about how they use their phone.