Smartphone

How to Set up a Smartphone for Elderly Loved Ones

On an iPhone: Use the Shortcuts app. 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 Phone or Facetime, and pick the contact you want to add. Give the shortcut a name, choose the icon and color, and then tap Done. To add to the home screen, tap and hold until the icons wiggle and tap the plus icon at the top left, find your Shortcuts widget, and tap Add Widget.

Consider a Simple Launcher (Android Only)

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

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

There are loads of alternative Android launchers that you can install, and several simplify the phone experience with big icons. Simple Launcher, Big Launcher, and the comically named BaldPhone are all worth a look.

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, then Font size.

On an iPhone: Go to Settings, Display & Brightness, Text Size, and drag the slider. To go even larger you can head into Settings, Accessibility, then select Display & Text Size and tap on Larger Text, then drag the slider.

Ringtones and Notifications

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

On an Android phone: Go to Settings, then Sound and vibration to choose alert sounds, ringtones, and set volume levels. You can also set Ring vibration and Notification vibration levels by tapping Vibration and haptics.

On an iPhone: Go to Settings, then Sounds & Haptics, and choose sounds with them. You can also set the volume here, and it’s probably a good idea to toggle on Vibrate on Ring as well. There is another feature for the hard of hearing in Settings, General, Accessibility, where you can toggle on LED Flash for Alerts. If you find that they accidentally flip silent mode on a lot, which is easily done, you can also turn on Vibrate on Silent and Flash on Silent.

Set up Phone Tracking

Photograph: Simon Hill

To make it easy to find, should it ever go missing, make sure that phone tracking is enabled.