How to Choose a Senior-Friendly Home Telephone

(Click to watch) Looking for a practical, senior-friendly home phone for an aging parent or elder loved one? Today there are a huge variety of “amplified” and/or “big button” phones on the market that can help with almost any aging need.

How to Choose

To help you sort through all the different senior-friendly telephones that are available and select an appropriate fit for your loved one, you need to take into account their specific needs and wants, including his or her:

Hearing: If they’re hard of hearing, what type and degree of hearing loss do they have? (An audiologist can help here.) Most amplified telephones are sold with varying degrees of amplification and tone adjustments, so be sure the phone you choose accommodates her hearing loss. Also note that most amplified phones are hearing aid compatible and come with extra loud ringers and flashing ring indicators.

Vision: If low vision is a problem too, most corded amplified phones come with big buttons and high contrast numbers that make them easier to see. Some phones even offer a talking keypad that will announce the number as it’s dialed.

Safety: If your parent lives alone, you may want to choose an amplified phone with an emergency alert feature. These phones come with a neck pendant or wristband (SOS button) that he or she wears, so if they fall down and can’t get up, they can press it and the phone’s preprogrammed emergency numbers will automatically be dialed.

Memory: Is remembering a problem? If so, check out the photo phones. Photo phones let you insert pictures of family members or friends over preprogrammed buttons, so your parent can simply press the picture of the person she wants to call and they’re automatically dialed.

Voice: Does your parent speak so softly it’s difficult to understand them? If so, there some amplified phones that can amplify outgoing speech as well as incoming sounds.

Preferences: There are many other options to consider, for example, would they prefer a corded or cordless amplified phone? While the cordless models provide the freedom to talk anywhere in the house, corded phones typically offer more user-friendly features. Or, would they like a phone with a built-in caller ID, speakerphone or answering machine?

Where to Shop

While there are many companies that make and sell senior-friendly telephones, the leading supplier in the industry is Clarity, a division of Plantronics Inc. At ClarityProducts.com (or call 800-426-3738) you can find an impressive array of amplified, big button telephones that offer a wide variety of senior-friendly features, at prices ranging from $30 up to around $300. Other top makers include ClearSounds, Geemarc, Fanstel, Doro, Krown and GE. To find these and other amplified phone models, visit assistive hearing sites like teltex.com and independentliving.com.

Free Phones

Another option you should check into is state funded telecommunications equipment distribution programs, which are available in about 30 states. If the state your parent lives in has a program, you may be able to get him or her an amplified telephone for free. Check with their local telephone company or visit tedpa.org to find out what their state offers.

Captioned Phones

If your parent has moderate to severe hearing loss another option to consider is CapTel. This is a captioned telephone service and customized phone that will let your parent listen to the caller, as well as read written, word-for-word captions of everything the caller is saying on the CapTel phone display window. To learn more or order a phone, go to captel.com (or call 888-269-7477) and click on the state your parent lives in. Most states offer them through Weitbrecht Communications, Inc. for $99, or your parent may qualify to get one for free.
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