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For Boomers & Their Aging Parents

Recent Questions: Difficulty with stairs & Senior cell phones

Question:  My aunt is 78 years old and lives in a two story home.  She is starting to have difficulty managing the stairs up to her bedroom and bathroom due to a developing arthritic condition. She intends to stay in her home for as long as she can but does not have the funds for any major remodeling.  Would a stair chair make sense and how much do they cost?   

Answer: Installing a stair lift chair is certainly a practical solution that can be a cost-effective alternative to remodeling, depending on the configuration of the staircase.  For example, if the staircase is straight, has no turns, and is not particularly narrow, you can expect the cost to run between $3500 and $4500 including installation.   On the other hand,  if your aunt’s staircase is curved, or there are other factors that might make installing the stair chair lift more difficult, the cost can rise significantly.  Stair lifts do come in varying models with varying price tags, so researching the features offered in different models is important to controlling the cost.   

Stair lifts can be rented and can also be purchased pre-owned.  And while Medicare does not cover the cost of this equipment, there might be some federal funds available for this type of home modification.  Your local Area Agency on Aging might have additional information on fund availability. For more detailed information on stair lifts, read our blog on Managing Stairs   

Question: Are there cell phones that are easier for seniors to use?  My mother often doesn’t hear her phone ring and never seems to remember how to retrieve her voicemail.   

Answer:  Many older people have trouble with cell phones because they are too complex to navigate, are not intuitive, and have screens too small to read.  There are a few, however, that have been designed specifically for the senior market.  Here are just two that are available:   

Just5 was designed for seniors or people with hearing or eyesight problems. This phone is simple yet very attractive and well designed.  Features include big buttons for easy dialing, a “speaking” keypad, which confirms the buttons pressed, an emergency button, amplified sound, simple keyboard lock and a long lasting battery. There are no confusing menus, options or settings to frustrate the user.  The phone itself is approximately $120, monthly fees are low, and there are no contracts required.   

The Emporia Life Plus was designed for easy reading and the buttons and keypad are easy to use. The phone is meant to be used closed most of the time. The default screen is the contact list, so there is no menu navigation when you want to call someone; just arrow down to the number and hit the big green button. There is a large emergency button on the back of the phone. Once pressed, it will dial up to 5 numbers that can be programmed into it. As an added bonus, this phone will run off AAA batteries when the Li-Ion battery runs down. It offers speakerphone and text messaging as well.  

Susan Luxenberg
HomeSmart LLC

2 Comments to Recent Questions: Difficulty with stairs & Senior cell phones :

Comments RSS
Juliette on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 12:54 PM
In terms of "senior" cell phones, there are several others out there that I've had experience with (via my mom) that are much more affordable than the Just5 model. We actually started out with Just5 last year for a short time, but I found their network was very limited and the finding the phone itself was difficult since it wasn't sold locally. We went thru Jitterbug as well (very expensive) before I ended up finding a prepaid provider at KMart, SVC/Tracfone, that has worked out well for her. The service is about $7 a month and the phone itself was less $15 without a contract - the network is surprisingly strong as well. While her SVC Samsung phone doesn't look as interesting as the Just5, its been pretty dependable -- even after it rolled off the hood of ehr car when she was driving. The 'Life Plus' device sounds interesting so I think I'll check that out for my dad -- great article!
Reply to comment
Susan Luxenberg on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 2:41 PM
Juliette, Thank you for sharing your experience with these "senior" cell phones. With so much product on the market directed at seniors, it's difficult keeping up with all of it, so we really appreciate hearing from our readers! Good to know that there are still cell phones available that are dependable and take abuse. Wish I could say the same about my own phone. Susan

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