Home Alternative guide How to set up a smartphone for the elderly

How to set up a smartphone for the elderly


On an iPhone: Use the Shortcuts application. If you create a folder for the Home screen, you can potentially add multiple shortcuts. You can tap the plus (+) icon at the top right to add a new shortcut, choose Add action, select Telephone Where Facetime, and select the contact you want to add. Give the shortcut a name, choose the icon and color, and press Ended. To add to the home screen, press and hold until the icons move and tap the plus icon at the top left, find your Shortcuts widget and press Add Widget.

Consider a simple launcher (Android only)

With Android phones, you can change the “launcher,” which determines the look of the entire interface, including things like app icons and font size.

Samsung phones have an alternative launcher called Easy Mode built in. To activate it, go to Settings, Display, and choose Easy mode.

There are plenty of alternative Android launchers you can install, and several make the phone experience easier with large icons. Simple launcher, Large Launcher, and the comically named BaldPhone are all worth a visit.

Increase font size

To make the font more readable, you can increase its size.

On an Android phone: Go to Settings, Display, and choose Font size, then drag the slider to adjust. You can also get there via Settings, Accessibility, so Font size.

On an iPhone: Go to Settings, Display and brightness, Text size, and drag the slider. To go even further, you can go to Settings, Accessibility, then select Text display and size and press Larger text, and then drag the slider.

Ringtones and notifications

Difficulty hearing incoming calls or messages is common. Make sure the volume is loud enough and choose appropriate ringtones and alerts that are familiar to your loved one.

On an Android phone: Go to Settings, so Sound and vibrations to choose alert sounds, ringtones and adjust volume levels. You can also define Ring vibration and Notification vibration levels by pressing Vibration and haptics.

On an iPhone: Go to Settings, so Sounds and haptics, and choose sounds with them. You can also adjust the volume here, and it’s probably a good idea to turn on Vibrate on the ring also. There is another feature for the hearing impaired in Settings, General, Accessibility, where you can activate LED flash for alerts. If you find that they accidentally turn on silent mode which is easy to do, you can also turn on Vibrate in silent mode and Flash in silent mode.

Configure phone tracking

Photography: Simon Hill

To make it easy to find, if it goes missing, make sure phone tracking is turned on.


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