Author Topic: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability  (Read 4779 times)

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Dear Mustachians,

I'm trying to help my mom find an arrangement for her phone.  I tried setting her up with a Republic Wireless phone, but I really don't think she has the basic knowledge of technology to use a Moto E.  She currently uses one of those government funded cell phones, but consistently runs out of her 350 minutes early in the month and can't call anyone thereafter.  Can anyone recommend something cheap, and really easy to use (I'm talking like designed for infants)?  I love her dearly, but I swear she doesn't know how to cut and paste, despite me having shown her like 10 times.  So this thing needs to be something a time traveling cave man could use. 

Thanks.

Turkey Leg

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 228
  • Location: US
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2015, 12:51:35 PM »
Not cheap, but it was exactly what my mother-in-law wanted: http://www.greatcall.com/cell-phones/jitterbug (She never uses it, but likes to have it for emergencies.)

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2015, 01:14:22 PM »
LG A380 in Senior Mode, coupled with PureTalk USA and their Senior AddVantage 500 plan.

$25 for the phone, $12.95/month for 500 minutes (caps out at 750 minutes after six months), both available from PureTalk USA directly.

If 500-750 minutes a month still isn't enough (or even with the 1000-1500 plan at $17.95), the phone should be carrier unlocked and you can port the number over to Airvoice which now has a $20/month "unlimited" talk and text plan.

Those are as good  as you're going to get per minute for real mobile phone service on a basic phone (and they're rates that kill the ROI on Republic's proprietary service anyway).

Jacana

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
  • Location: Back in the DMV :(
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2015, 01:17:33 PM »
We recently set my grandmother up with Ting and it is working out great. My mom called them up, and the rep helped her pick out the perfect old fashioned flip phone with bigger numbers, and he set up the account so texts and data were deactivated completely. Phone was <$100 and the monthly payment runs around $9 plus taxes I think. And since you can bring most phones, you can probably get a used flip phone for close to nothing.

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #4 on: September 02, 2015, 01:21:57 PM »
Man, this community sure is resourceful!!  Thanks guys. 

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #5 on: September 02, 2015, 01:24:18 PM »
Man, this community sure is resourceful!!  Thanks guys.

Speaking of mobile phone service, have you found the guide yet?

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #6 on: September 02, 2015, 01:37:45 PM »
Man, this community sure is resourceful!!  Thanks guys.

Speaking of mobile phone service, have you found the guide yet?

You know, thanks for the reminder.  I had seen that in my previous life as a lurker some months back.  I'll give it a gander. 

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2015, 01:42:30 PM »
The issue is that I'm try to balance low cost with maximum simplicity.  I just got off the phone with her trying to set up her Republic phone and she couldn't even complete the basic task of setting up the device.  She had a stroke some years back, and tasks like this are incredibly challenging for her. 

So we might wind up going back to a landline for her.  She has one of those so-called Obama-phones, but it's not meeting her needs.  She's been using landlines for all of her 70 years, so I think that might wind up being the most user friendly technology for her. 

I'll add that very small glitches are completely unmanageable for her.  She makes monthly trips out to the Apple store for her iPad when it "won't work", but usually this involves her having forgotten a password or not remembering to charge something, etc.  So any complication can be a real impediment for her. 
« Last Edit: September 02, 2015, 01:47:36 PM by tanzee »

abiteveryday

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 130
  • Location: Seattle
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2015, 02:42:09 PM »

I'll add that very small glitches are completely unmanageable for her.  She makes monthly trips out to the Apple store for her iPad when it "won't work", but usually this involves her having forgotten a password or not remembering to charge something, etc.  So any complication can be a real impediment for her.

This is not going to change, or get better.   I've seen my grandma be 100% convinced that she is out of food, because whatever item she wants is on the "wrong" shelf in the refrigerator.    My mom does all her shopping, because my grandma believes that all the card reader machines are "so different from one store to the next, how can anyone know how they all work?"      If the land line was working, stick with that.    Change is hard when we're old.

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2015, 02:56:38 PM »
That's my thinking as well, abiteveryday.  I spoke with her earlier about it, and I think she's on board.  I think trying to change things up would lead to undue stress for her and undue stress for me.  I'll find something fairly frugal but maximally simple. 

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2015, 02:57:27 PM »
The issue is that I'm try to balance low cost with maximum simplicity.  I just got off the phone with her trying to set up her Republic phone and she couldn't even complete the basic task of setting up the device.  She had a stroke some years back, and tasks like this are incredibly challenging for her. 

So we might wind up going back to a landline for her.  She has one of those so-called Obama-phones, but it's not meeting her needs.  She's been using landlines for all of her 70 years, so I think that might wind up being the most user friendly technology for her.

Here's the deal... if she's home most of the time anyway, it would probably be best to go with basic lifeline home phone service. If they don't provide sufficient/any long distance for the money, your best (and one of the cheapest long distance per minute) options is Pioneer Telephone with rates as low as 1.9-3.25/minute (trust me, those are excellent long distance rates for landline). They do offer local phone services in certain areas as well, so it might be worth investigating that, too. Also, don't forget to place a PIC freeze on the phone line to prevent carrier slamming after everything is set up.

If for whatever reason you can't get away for under $20/month after taxes going landline (don't see that realistically happening without going lifeline service), there are other options that'll let you bridge a home phone to the GSM mobile network for cheap, as well.... but you'll have to go with an AT&T MVNO to make it happen due to the inability to carrier unlock the equipment. Fortunately, I already covered the cheapest per minute AT&T MVNO options available in my previous post, so you're golden there. If you're curious about this particular path, the device in question to look for is the ZTE WF720, stuff an AT&T MVNO SIM card in, and connect up a home phone she's used to.

All this said, I am curious to know how the "Obama-phone" is not meeting her needs beyond the minute allotment as it sounds like she's having no trouble making and receiving calls currently. (For the record, it's just an extension of the lifeline service, and technically if you want to blame a specific president, it's more a "Bush-phone" if we must drag people's names into it.) Supposedly, all carriers should permit carrier unlocking for phones, but many smaller outfits (especially on the mobile lifeline end - many lifeline MVNOs are some of the scummiest, most corrupt providers out there) don't actually make good on this and are just pumping the federal lifeline service for a quick buck. That said, depending on the carrier and network, it might be possible to continue using the existing mobile phone with another MVNO with minimal fuss, even and especially the AT&T MVNOs Puretalk USA and Airvoice as previously mentioned if the carrier you're dealing with is an AT&T MVNO itself. We can explore this path as well, but I'd need more details first (phone model, current carrier, etc.).

If she's able to work out a basic flip phone anyway, though... again, the LG A380 would be a reasonably easy to use choice so long as you set it to Senior Mode. The key with dealing with this situation is ease of use and a reasonably large physical keypad... the closer it resembles and operates like a cordless home phone in interface, the better. You venture beyond that (like with smartphones that have no physical buttons), you're just making everyone's life more difficult.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2015, 03:02:31 PM »
One last thought... there is the VoIP option as well, but it depends on an internet connection. If she's already got one and it's robust and stable, you're probably golden on this option. VOIPo would be a good option at around $8/month for 5000 minutes a month, and they provide a pre-configured ATA bridge. Just plug into the router and plug in a traditional home phone as suggested with the ZTE wireless home phone bridge.

tanzee

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 128
  • Location: Asheville, NC
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2015, 03:08:10 PM »
Thanks, I.P Daley.  You seem to be quite the resource on this topic.  She lives in a senior living community and doesn't have internet in her own apartment.  She uses the public wifi that exists in the communal space.  It sounds like the option you cite (which seems like an incredible deal) wouldn't work in her situation unfortunately. 

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2015, 03:28:24 PM »
Communications is a bit of my wheelhouse, it's why I developed and shared the guide for the community.

Given that, it does sound like you've really only got one of two options, which I covered. The landline and the mobile to landline bridge.

One other variant that I didn't mention on the mobile to landline end would be the wireless GSM desktop phone for around $50 if only one phone and location was necessary, but these handsets are all 2G GSM only, which means no AT&T coverage in four months if at all already... and it should probably be stuck on a desk next to a window. If you do go this route, you would have to use a T-Mobile MVNO such as P'tel instead, as T-Mobile is the only GSM provider in the US that's maintaining any sort of 2G EDGE network coverage through 2020 or later... but you need to make sure there's good T-Mobile coverage in your area first. When working blind, I typically recommend AT&T coverage above T-Mobile simply due to the bigger network footprint, but it doesn't hurt that PureTalk USA has some of the cheapest per minute rates currently amongst all the GSM MVNOs. Your only real option on the T-Mo MVNO end currently would be P'tel (as mentioned) if this is feasible. They have a $20 "unlimited" talk and text plan as well, but their PAYGO rates are 5/minute.

Sayonara925

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 131
  • Location: Point B
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #14 on: September 02, 2015, 03:45:09 PM »
Great info, but shoot.  I was hoping this thread would hold the answer to my parent's phone problem (late 80s).

The LG phone mentioned is still not quite simple enough.  Don't need surfing/texting /camera/bluetooth/music/etc, just make calls and answer.  Other bells and whistles cause them confusion.  And my dad has huge fingers that won't do well with the small-ish buttons.

The Jitterbug I've considered before, but is several times more expensive than what you would think a super-simple phone would cost.  The phone would likely get dropped often due to dexterity issues, so would be expensive to replace.

I tried a few others, like Samsung Gusto, phones of that sort, but the sound quality is poor and not loud enough, which is one of the few essential things the phone must have for persons with poor hearing.

On a side note, I did find a pretty good TV remote for dad.  He was getting confused having a separate cable box and TV to turn on.  This device seemed to solved the problem:  https://www.flipperremote.com/?gclid=CI2ZyPyl2ccCFQqDfgod5UQNiA

Thanks for the thread and info.

Daley

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4122
  • Location: Cow country. Moo.
  • Got that mustache feeling.
Re: Cell phones for an elderly woman with virtually no technological ability
« Reply #15 on: September 02, 2015, 05:21:09 PM »
Great info, but shoot.  I was hoping this thread would hold the answer to my parent's phone problem (late 80s).

The LG phone mentioned is still not quite simple enough.  Don't need surfing/texting /camera/bluetooth/music/etc, just make calls and answer.  Other bells and whistles cause them confusion.  And my dad has huge fingers that won't do well with the small-ish buttons.

Well, there's actually a small but surprising selection of big button simple GSM phones available through Amazon. The problem is the whole AT&T 2G GSM twilight network shutdown. (My apologies, by the way, shutdown is before January 2017, not 2016. Misprint on my memory. Still a good reason not to depend on AT&T with 2G only handsets as many regions have already been converted.)

As I stated before, T-Mobile is really the only viable 2G GSM network carrier moving forward in this country, and their network isn't quite as large coverage wise. Why bring this up? Because of that selection of large buttoned GSM handsets available on Amazon. Most of them are 2G GSM network only, which means they simply won't work on AT&T after 2016.

If T-Mobile coverage works great for your area, any of these phones will be great to use: the Emporia Essence Plus, ARCCI SC051, Jethro SC213B, and anything from JUST1 or TTfone... many of which have been available on occasion for under $35 (excuse the JUST5 J509).

It's not that you couldn't potentially use these phones on AT&T right now (and many of them list AT&T MVNO compatibility such as with H2O Wireless, Airvoice, Puretalk USA, etc.) and you could maybe switch to a T-Mobile MVNO down the road, but their functional end-of-life with an AT&T MVNO is simply much sooner than later. Better to tell you now not to buy one if that's your goal than say it'll be fine and have your grandmother's cellphone mysteriously stop working without notice within the next sixteen months, leaving you clueless and scrambling for a replacement.

If you need AT&T coverage or you'd rather get the cheaper PAYGO minute options from Puretalk USA, you're going to need to make sure you get a 3G GSM capable handset, and that selection is a fair bit smaller. It's one of the reasons why I recommended the LG A380 simply due to price and availability and the simplified senior user interface option. That said, the Snapfon ezTWO and Kevenz KM-100 are 3G capable handsets compatible with AT&T after 2016.

There you go. That help?