Today is National Grandparents Day in the U.S. As people age, their ability to focus on close objects naturally diminish as a result of presbyopia. While the degree of blurred vision may vary from person to person due to other conditions affecting vision, the effects of presbyopia can be accurately predicted with age. A child can focus on objects just 2 inches (50 mm) away. By the time we reach 25, that distance is doubled to 4 inches (100 mm) and levels off at about age 60 with the minimum focus distance extending to 3 to 6 feet (1-2 meters).
People older than 40 may find it increasingly hard to focus on small fonts and screens of mobile phones. Technologies such as Retina display do not really help because the eye cannot focus on the sharper text at close distance without the aid of reading glasses. The only solution is to hold the phone farther away or increase the object size.
Presbyopia is only one challenge for aging mobile phone users. As more landlines are being severed, more and more seniors are migrating to mobile phones and are often confused by complex user interface and overwhelming features.
Not surprisingly, Apple’s iPhones are among the most popular choices for seniors. The intuitive interface combined with a simple but functional design make the iPhone the ideal choice for many senior users. Linda Tran, a sales associate at Sprint said “The trend I’m really seeing is the iPhone or more entry-level Android phones. The most I’ve seen get an iPhone over anything else. With its simple set up, it’s been the easiest to transition so far.”
Facetime is another feature some seniors may find compelling. It is pre-installed and ready to go with current models of the iPhone and does not require any app installation. The only downside is that it only works with other Facetime devices and up until recently, only worked on Wi-Fi. AT&T has been criticized for blocking Facetime over their network unless customers pay for an expensive unlimited voice plan.
Samsung Galaxy Note
On the Android front, the Samsung Galaxy Note II at 5.5” may be a good choice as it will reign as the world’s largest phone when it is released in October. It includes a stylus with a modified version of Android to optimize handwritten notes across various phone functions. Linda Tran noted that many seniors arrive at the Sprint store with a pen and notepad to jot down notes before deciding on a phone so a phone with a functional pen will be an easy and natural transition from an analog to digital world.
Skype on Android is free and easy to use for video chat. Once it is set up, All outgoing calls will offer a choice of a traditional phone call or a Skype call.
Low tech options
For those with basic needs, the solution may be a recycled flip phone or a low-end no frills phone often offered free with a plan from carriers. All carriers offer family plans which allow additional phones to be added for a nominal cost.
Among the standouts in the low tech arena, Samsung makes the Jitterbug, a simple large button flip phone with a large font display. What sets the Jitterbug apart is a partnership with Greatcall to provide live assistance for a variety of issues such as setup and urgent response.
No matter which phone you choose for yourself or your grandparents, mobile phones serve a much-needed lifeline for active seniors on the go. What are your experiences with mobile phones for seniors? Make your recommendations in the comments below.