What The Elderly Want in a Cell Phone

Any cellphone product development people in the audience? We’ve just done your job for you, invented a cell phone for the elderly.

Nowadays, the push is for downloadable ringtones, wall papers, songs, checking your email, packing as much functionality as possible into a cell phone. But Jill’s relative who works in a retirement home overheard a discussion amongst the elderly about what they want in a mobile device.

It’s not the music video for Back That Ass Up…

Jill writes:

    “They want only four functions: Call, Hang Up, Voicemail, 911. They want buttons that say EXACTLY: Call, HangUp, Voicemail, 911. They don’t want a security code for their voicemail because they can’t remember it. And they don’t care if someone else listens to their messages. They don’t want color screens – just big letters and numbers. They’d appreciate nonglare screens. They want bigger buttons that “click” to indicate they’ve hit it correctly. They don’t hear the “beeps” because their ears aren’t very good, but a “click” they can FEEL is what they requested.

    They most specifically said they don’t want menus, choices of ring tones, wallpaper, email, internet, call waiting or ANY choices other than what’s listed above. The confusion of too much technology scares them and makes them feel inadequate and stupid. (They’re pissed about that.)

    When I pointed out that any cell phone can be “programmed” to a simple way of operating, they laughed until they cried. “Hit one wrong button and you’re screwed!” said one old guy. They don’t want programming and in particular NO MENUS.

    As I said – Call, Hang Up, Voicemail, 911.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lars says:

    I think they already have such phones. Except they’re cellphones targeted for kids. I believe Firefly mobile is just that type of solution (err, close). Go to http://www.fireflymobile.com for more info. Of course, I’m not sure if the elderly want to call more than one person. I also know that my older relatives use regular cell phones commonly, though the folks in Ireland are a bit savier with them than they are here.

  2. Ben Popken says:

    I’m sure the elderly do want to call more than one person and fairly certain they want more styles to choose from than one that looks like a piece of hard candy. What would be cool is retro mod ones that look like airstreams or old radios.

  3. Papercutninja says:

    Maybe the cellphone should say “Buick” on the side of it and plow into a crowd of people at a Farmers market. Oh no, wait. That’s their cars.

  4. Amy Alkon says:

    Here’s the phone for old people:


    Old people, not half-dead people. Nobody wants a mobile phone that only calls one person. Here’s the deal from the link above:

    Jitterbug is jumping all over the elderly, so to speak. The newly launched MVNO will start off with a simple flip phone from Samsung (A120) that features extra large buttons, oversized graphics, and even a dial tone when the handset is open. The cushioned cup around the earpiece is meant to eliminate noise, but the phone as a whole looks a little too much like a bedpan or toilet seat for my tastes.

    It seems that the phone is essentially free when you sign on with Jitterbug, but you’ll probably need to return it if you choose to leave the Sprint-leeching MVNO. Most plans will be in the $25/month range, but for ol’ gramps that only wants to call you on your birthday or while he’s at bingo, there are also plans as cheap as $10/month.

  5. Ben says:

    Did anyone ask them about battery life?

    My mom never remembers to plug in her cell phone. She couldn’t care less about ringtomes or wallpapers, sure, but what good is it if the battery is always dead?

  6. ValkRaider says:

    Here is the best phone for old people, without a doubt:


  7. Smoking Pope says:

    I find it hard to believe they wouldn’t get into the Matlock ring tone.

  8. ValkRaider says:

    Not to mention the “Murder She Wrote” theme and the “Golden Girls” vCast…

  9. Bubba Barney says:

    ‘Maybe the cellphone should say “Buick” on the side of it and plow into a crowd of people at a Farmers market. Oh no, wait.’ – that made me laugh, does that make me evil?

    I got a new home theater system and that thing was like trying to figure out nuclear fission. I still don’t know what 2/3 of the buttons are for. I felt the first pangs of being too old for thems new fangled electronical toys, and I am only 30.

  10. Drinker Nisti says:

    The Elderly? Heck, this post describes the features my boomer parents want, and they haven’t hit 60 yet…

  11. Erzengel says:

    My mom is barely 50, but she looks like 40 (money well spent). She was nagging me for ages cause she wanted a camera phone. So here goes the son, i got her a nicer phone than my own. The Result? After hours i tried and tried to explain her how it worked. She is unable to even make a call. And now she got the “chat-bug” and started nagging me to let her use my computer to chat… yeah rite. I just give her a look and tell her “Remember the phone?” and she keeps quiet for days.