Phones for seniors – they're something you might not have thought about before, but should. It's frustrating not being able to hear on the telephone, and equally frustrating not being heard. If you or someone you love is hard of hearing, louder telephones are an absolute godsend. They make telephone communication possible for those who can't hear well, which is a matter of both safety and convenience, especially for seniors living independently.
Once you've determined it's time to buy a louder phone, the question is, which one? There are many models available, and they offer differing levels of amplification, different features, etc. Making a choice can be overwhelming. Here's a checklist which can help you decide which phones for seniors will be practical, usable, and appreciated.
Amplification. Amplification levels typically range from 20 decibels (dB) to 60 dB, and sometimes more. For people who are just slightly hard of hearing, 20 dB amplification is usually sufficient. For the moderately hearing impaired, a model with around 40 dB of amplification is a good choice. For those who are severely deaf, 60 dB of amplification or more may be needed.
Usability. When looking for phones for seniors, take special note of the keypad, receiver, and general setup. Is it going to be easy to dial? Are the buttons easy to see? Is it corded or cordless? If you're the one who'll be using the phone, determining how practical it will be is obviously easy. If you're buying the phone for someone else, actively put yourself in his or her shoes. Will seeing and dialing small buttons be difficult? Is the receiver very different from anything they've used previously? Do they have a preference for corded or cordless models? If you think like the person who will be using the phone, chances are a lot higher you're going to buy a phone they'll find easy and enjoyable to use. It's worth mentioning that cordless models are often designed to work during power outages, and obviously have the advantage of portability, which can be an issue if the user might be a little slow getting to the phone. If you're discussing the phone purchase with the user before you buy, these are good points to mention. However, if the user maintains his or her preference for a corded phone, honor the preference. There are many excellent corded phones for seniors available, and some of these feature extra-large keypads, picture dialing, and other benefits not always available with cordless models.
Features. You can buy amplified phones which are absolutely loaded with higher-tech features, like voice dialing, voicemail systems, call waiting and forwarding, built-in phonebooks and more. For some, these kinds of features are convenient and beneficial. For others, they're confusing, and will not get much use. Again, this is an easy determination to make if the phone is for you, but if it's not, realistically ask yourself if the user is going to want all these features, or if he or she would prefer something very basic. There's no use spending more money on a feature-loaded phone if those features are never going to be used, or will make using the phone more difficult.
Ringers. Phones for seniors are often – but not always – thoughtfully designed with extra-loud ringers as well as “visual ringers,” ie, a light which blinks when a call is coming in. A practical ringer is an absolute must in a phone for a hard of hearing person.
When you're shopping for phones for seniors, bear these points in mind. They'll help you choose the best phone, and you'll feel confident knowing you've made an intelligent, thoughtful purchase.
Check out my articles on hearing aid compatible cell phones and how to choose the perfect hearing impaired phone.