While the newest generation of digital natives takes to smartphone tech like fish to water, older adults often struggle with it. Since previous generations did not grow up with smartphones, they do not always understand what more tech-savvy adults consider intuitive.
Loved ones do their best to make smartphones more accessible to senior citizens, but sometimes even our best efforts aren’t enough to quell the anxieties of those in their golden years. That’s why some manufacturers make smartphones specifically for older adults, such as product offerings like the Lively Flip phone. These designs can help bridge the gap where even the most patient smartphone teachers fall short.
If you’ve already acquired a smartphone for the senior in your life, there are a few things you can do to make it more accessible. Grandma deserves to text her grandchildren as much as the next person, and this guide can help you take her there.
Increase the size of the font
If your loved ones struggle with reading small text, you can make their smartphones easier to use by increasing the sizes of fonts in texts and emails. Several smartphones also have options to increase the size of the text in websites and other apps.
Most smartphones have at least three levels of font sizes and an additional zoom feature if you’re still struggling with reading texts and emails. You’ll probably have to teach your loved ones to use the zoom feature by manipulating the screen with their fingertips.
Luckily, touch-based zoom controls are intuitive once you know how they work, so this step shouldn’t take long.
Enable voice control
Because smartphone keyboards are tiny and often challenging for older adults, many prefer to use voice control.
Nearly all modern smartphones offer voice control, but seniors need to know that they must say a keyword to activate it. You might have to remind your loved one to summon Siri or Google out loud before making an audible request.
Smartphones also have text-to-speech features that read texts and emails for adults who struggle to read or type their replies.
Seniors who want to use their smartphones to watch videos often benefit from learning how to activate the captions. Closed captioning can be a gamechanger for many seniors who struggle with hearing. However, you should remind your loved one that sometimes the videos do not have professionally created captions. In these cases, technology in the app makes the captions, so they aren’t always accurate.
If the captions are too small, show your loved ones how to increase the size by accessing the settings.
In the accessibility portion of your smartphone, you’ll find a magnification feature. When you access this, it will increase the size of anything you’re looking at on the screen. This feature helps elderly users who struggle to see the icons on their phones or the details on their apps.
Sometimes, the enlarged items look fuzzy. The cure for this problem is changing the contrast. When using the high-contrast feature, the fuzzy edges become less blurred, and the image clarity improves.
Use “Easy Mode”
Another helpful tool for elderly smartphone users is Easy Mode. It creates a home page with fewer icons, delayed response time if elderly fingers accidentally tap on the wrong app, and high contrast to quickly identify apps.
Use the best keyboard
If your elderly loved one prefers to type texts and emails, you can increase the size of the keyboard. You can also switch the keyboard from the QWERTY style to an easy-to-use ABC style keyboard.
It is easy to make mistakes on a QWERTY keyboard when you aren’t typing with both hands with fingers placed on the keys.
Elderly users generally do better when they have to tap on one key at a time. If the smartphone has a swipe feature enabled, remove it so your loved one can input the words one letter at a time. Show the older adult in your life how the predictive text works so they can tap on a word if it appears above the keyboard.
Remove unwanted apps
Seniors might feel overwhelmed by the plethora of apps that appear on their smartphones. Remove as many as possible, so older adults have only the apps they need to use. Try to keep your loved one’s necessary apps on one screen, so they don’t have to worry about swiping from one screen to another.
Turn on enhanced alerts
When your loved one receives an alert, it might be too small for them to read. Adults unused to smartphone technology might not notice the pop-up alert or see it on their home screens. Instead, turn on enhanced alerts so your loved one sees a flashing light that tells them they have phone calls, texts, or emails to return.
Use a senior-friendly launcher
Launch screens can be complicated for seniors who just want to access their apps. An easy way to make smartphones senior-friendly is to add a simplified launcher. With a senior-friendly launcher, you can add up to nine apps with large icons and fonts.
You can add a control center and access the contacts list, so your loved one can make changes and contact their friends from one convenient screen. When you add the control center, customize the available features so your elderly loved one does not accidentally change something you cannot fix.
When you shop for a senior-friendly launcher, look for one with simplified menus, large fonts, and only the apps your loved one needs. Some launchers are too complicated, so they aren’t good choices for seniors who have anxiety about using their phones.
Teach seniors to use assistive apps
One of the most useful apps for Android users lets seniors magnify text on actual paper. Using the Magnifying Glass with Flashlight gives Android users a bright, clear, and readable image on their screen.
Conclusion: Helping seniors stay connected
It may be difficult to altogether remove technology anxiety from the lives of seniors who are unfamiliar with the latest smartphone innovations.
Fortunately, smartphone manufacturers and app developers continue to look for ways to simplify smartphone technology for seniors with limited mobility and agility.
Whether you buy your senior a smartphone built for them or help your loved one use an Android or iPhone, you’re doing your part to keep your loved one connected to friends and family.