There's no one perfect cellular service option that fits everybody, and senior cell phone plans are no different. Whether you're in your golden years or have a loved one who is, you know how tough it can be to figure out exactly which device and plan will work best for an older person's needs. Yet with 78% of adults ages 65 and over being cell phone owners, you're likely to encounter this decision at some point.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options ranging from ultra-basic to the most advanced. Whether you want the latest smartphone or simply a way to get help quickly in emergencies, the best cell phone plans for seniors come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. In the following guide, I'll outline the range of available options and where to get them.
Senior Cell Phone Plans: What to Consider
There are several factors you can take into consideration to help narrow down your choice of phone plans for seniors:
According to the NCOA (National Council on Aging) a third of senior households have no expendable income left at the end of the month, or are even further in debt. For many senior citizens, cost is a major factor in what kind of cell phone service they can afford. Later in this guide, I will detail various low-cost cell phone plans for seniors.
One of the main concerns of many older Americans and their families is that they need access to help if something should happen, such as a fall. On the other hand, some seniors use their cell phones to keep up with news and email. The level of service you need will depend on the range of tasks you perform with your phone.
Even the best senior phone plans aren't helpful if you or your loved one doesn't have the right device. Features to look for include a bright, easy to read display, a voice command option, a senior-friendly keyboard, and emergency number presets. You may also want to consider a phone with a one-touch SOS button so that it's even easier and faster to call for assistance.
One of the easiest ways to keep mobile service costs under control is with a prepaid, or pay-as-you-go, cell phone plan.
A mobile phone is a personalized choice at any age. Use these tips as a guideline to choose the right one for you or your family member.
Pay-as-You-Go Senior Cell Phone Plans
One of the easiest ways to keep mobile service costs under control is with a prepaid, or pay-as-you-go, cell phone plan. This option is ideal for the low-use senior citizen who simply needs a way to communicate with family and friends as well as call for help in an emergency. The largest cell phone companies offer solid pay-as-you-go options that are ideal for older adults.
When it comes to the cheapest cell phone plans for seniors, T-Mobile is at the top of the list. For $3 per month, you get 30 minutes to use as you please, in the form of talk or text messages. You can bring your own device, or choose from a selection of phones starting at $40.
If you end up needing more minutes than you planned, no problem. Buy additional texts or talk minutes for .10 each. If you're a smartphone user, you can buy additional data as well. The only downside is that if you want a flip phone, as many seniors do, you'll need to purchase that somewhere else as T-Mobile does not offer them.
If you use your phone to talk for longer periods of time, AT&T's GoPhone Daily is one of the best prepaid cell phone plans for you. You pay $2 a day, but only on the days, you use your phone. On days that you use your device you'll enjoy unlimited talk time as well as text, picture, and video messages. Not only do you get unlimited text messages within the U.S. but to over 100 countries worldwide as well.
As far as devices, you can use your own compatible device by purchasing a SIM card for about $5. Or you can buy a phone from AT&T, starting under $20. There is a flip phone option for those who prefer not to use a touchscreen, and there are no activation fees. If you want internet access on your phone you can purchase data separately for $1 per 100 MB.
Republic Wireless operates on a unique concept called Adaptive Coverage™. What it means is that service switches between WiFi and cellular depending upon whether WiFi is available. Due to this technology, the company is able to offer some of the cheapest cell phone plans for seniors on the market. Rates start at $15 per month for unlimited talk and text, plus data while on WiFi, and go up to $60 with 6 GB of cell data included. You can bring your own compatible phone, or buy one from Republic starting at about $180.
Cricket Wireless also offers an affordable prepaid plan at $30 for unlimited talk, text, and data, including 1 GB of high-speed access. You can bring your own device, or buy a phone starting at $30 for a basic flip phone.
Boost Mobile also has a great deal on prepaid service. For $35 a month you get unlimited everything, including 2 GB of high-speed data. This provider also carries a flip phone, with device prices starting at $20 (or bring your own).
Emergency Senior Cell Phone Plans
If you (or your elderly relative) live alone and are concerned about having a quick and easy way to call for help in the event of an emergency, there are phone plans for seniors which have added safety nets for just this purpose.
As the creator of the Jitterbug phone for senior citizens, GreatCall offers not only affordable cell phone plans for seniors but also the added peace of mind of emergency services access.
As the creator of the Jitterbug phone for senior citizens, GreatCall offers not only affordable cell phone plans for seniors but also the added peace of mind of emergency services access. The way GreatCall works is simple. There are two phones, both of which are available with a range of plan options to fit your needs and budget.
- Jitterbug Flip: This is the basic phone with a bright, easy to read display, flashlight and reading magnifier, camera, large buttons, and 5Star button for accessing help quickly. The phone retails for about $100 and plans range from $15/month for 200 minutes to $50 for unlimited talk and text.
- Jitterbug Smart: The Jitterbug smartphone option comes with a bright 5.5" HD display, front and rear cameras, voice typing capability, and the 5Star emergency app. It retails for $150 and plans cost between $15 per month for 200 minutes and $50 for unlimited talk and text plus 100 MB data. You can also purchase additional data separately.
Both phones come with optional health and safety packages priced between $20 and $35 per month. Choose from features like 24/7 access to medical professionals, daily health tips, medication reminders, and even a personal operator for help with daily tasks. If you choose a health and safety package you get a discount on your cellular service as well.
This company provides senior phone plans encompassing choices from basic affordable phone service to a comprehensive health package. Prices start at just $5 per month for 50 minutes of any combo of talk, text, and data, up to $39 per month for unlimited everything.
The feature that makes this one of the best senior cell phone plans is the option to add a health package. The Seniors Wireless wellness plan includes virtual doctor visits with board-certified physicians who can assess, refer, and even prescribe medication in the event of a health problem. You'll pay $30/month for unlimited access for a single person, $40 per couple, or $48 for access plus unlimited follow-up.
The SpareOne phone is a truly standout product in terms of cell phone plans for senior citizens. It's an emergency phone that operates on standard AA batteries. This means that if the power goes out, you or your loved one still has access to emergency services, or the ability to simply call to let someone know you're okay.
The SpareOne has no display, and the phone features a button that will call 911. In addition, if you call someone for help, they can log onto the internet and get your exact location. The phone is available for purchase separately or from providers like AT&T which sells the SpareOne for just $9.99. In order to make calls other than 911, you'll need a plan hooked up to your phone.
Senior Cell Phone Plans for the Tech Savvy
Not all senior citizens are interested in just a basic phone. According to the Pew Research Center, 30% of adults age 65 and over, use a smartphone. A higher tech option gives seniors access to emergency help as well as a way to keep up with news and more without the expense of cable TV.
If you or your elderly relative are more about technology than the average senior, there are some affordable options for you as well.
With this option, you pay $30 per month for 100 minutes of talk, unlimited text messages, and 5 GB of high-speed data. You can bring your own compatible device or purchase a phone at retail. You can get the basic monthly plan on T-Mobile's website or at Walmart stores.
Virgin Mobile's new Data Love plan is one of the best options for senior cell phone plans for the tech-savvy older adult. For $35 per month, you get unlimited talk, text, and music streaming, plus 5 GB of high-speed data and unlimited data at slower speeds. Unlimited data plans are hard to come by at this price point, making Virgin Mobile a great choice for the budget-conscious senior.
Low Income Senior Cell Phone Plans
The best cell phone plan for seniors who are living on a low income is the Lifeline Assistance program offered by the federal government. This program was started in the 1980s to provide landline service to more vulnerable citizens, and now it's been extended to include cell phone service as well.
Participation in the following programs automatically qualifies you for a free basic cell phone and 500 minutes of service:
- SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)
- SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
- LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits Programs
There are other state criteria which may qualify you for the Lifeline Assistance program. Check with your local Department of Health and Human Services to find out if you're eligible.
Senior Cell Phone Plans: Recap
There's no reason for older adults to be left behind as technology marches on. Whether you're looking for cheap cell phone plans with no frills or a full-service high-speed data package, there's plenty to choose from. Most importantly, there are useful features that allow you to call for help quickly, just in case.
If you prefer to keep costs down by putting everyone on the same account, don't forget to check out the best family cell phone plans as well. It's yet another great way to save money on senior cell phone plans. While budget is an important aspect of finding the right plan, peace of mind is even more vital. All of the providers I've included in this guide operate on the four largest, most reliable nationwide networks so that you can be sure you'll have service right when you need it.