6 Useful iPhone Tips for Seniors

Friday Apr 29th, 2022


The iPhone's ease of use makes it a great choice for senior citizens who want a smartphone. If you aren't happy with how it functions out of the box, there are many ways to make the iPhone easier to use for the elderly.

Let's look at some iPhone features and tips that make the device more accessible for seniors.

1. Use Display Zoom

Most people's eyesight declines with age. To combat this, you can enable Display Zoom, which increases the size of text and other elements in iOS.

Here's how:

  1. Open Settings and select Display & Brightness.
  2. Under the Display Zoom header, tap the View field.
  3. Choose Zoomed. A few simple previews will play so you can get an idea of the differences.
  4. Tap Set to confirm your choice, then you'll need to accept the prompt to restart your iPhone and apply the change.


2. Increase the Text Size

While Display Zoom makes everything on the screen larger, increasing the text sizes will improve overall readability. To adjust text size, follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings > Accessibility > Display & Text Size (under the Vision heading).
  2. Select Larger Text.
  3. Adjust the slider to choose your desired text size.
  4. If the largest option isn't suitable, enable the Larger Accessibility Sizes slider at the top to show even bigger levels.


3. Utilize Speak Selection

With Speak Selection, your iPhone can read any text that you select out loud to you. It's useful if text isn't legible on the screen, or you want to listen instead of look at your screen.

To enable it:

  1. Open Settings > Accessibility.
  2. Under the Vision section, tap Spoken Content.
  3. Enable Speech Selection. Now, when you select text on your phone, you'll see a Speak option for reading it out loud.
  4. If you find it difficult to select text, you can also enable Speak Screen. This lets you drag down from the top of your device with two fingers to read everything on the screen.
  5. To tweak how this sounds, select Voices to change the voice, or Highlight Content if you want to follow along with what's being read.
  6. If needed, you can also adjust the Speaking Rate using the slider.


4. Turn Up Ringer Volume and Enable LED Alert Flashes

If you're setting up an iPhone for a senior who is hard of hearing, it makes sense to boost the ringer volume, so they don't miss calls and other alerts.

Head to Settings > Sounds & Haptics and adjust the Ringer and Alerts slider to set your preferred volume. You may want to disable the Change with Buttons slider; with it turned off, the physical volume buttons will only change the volume for media, like music and games.

You'll also likely want to enable the Vibrate on Ring and Vibrate on Silent options to reduce the chance of missing calls. Make sure the selected ringtone is clear and distinct.

Finally, for a visual cue, it can help to turn on the LED Flash for Alerts feature, which flashes the camera light for incoming alerts. To do this, go to Settings > Accessibility > Audio /Visual (under the Hearing header). Enable the LED Flash for Alerts slider; you can choose if it displays when the phone is on silent or not, too.


5. Set Up Medical ID

Inside your iPhone's Health app is Medical ID, which is akin to a digital medical identification tag. This lets paramedics know of existing health conditions that need immediate attention, medications you take, and similar. It's particularly useful in cases where the device owner is unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate.

Set up Medical ID by opening the Health App, tapping your profile picture at the top-right, and choosing Medical ID > Edit. Ensure that Show When Locked is enabled, which makes your information available for anyone to see on the lock screen in case of emergency.

Aside from medical information, it's wise to add some Emergency Contacts as well. These people will be notified if you ever use your iPhone's Emergency SOS feature.


6. Configure Emergency SOS

The SOS feature alerts the emergency services and your emergency contacts when you're in trouble. While this is an iPhone feature everyone should set up, it's especially important for the elderly.

On the iPhone 8 and later, press and hold the Side button and one of the Volume buttons for several seconds to activate the function. If you have an iPhone 7 or earlier, quickly press the Side or Top button five times to activate Emergency SOS.

Once the Emergency SOS slider appears, drag it (or continue holding the buttons on an iPhone 8 or later). Your phone will contact the emergency number for your region, then reach out to your emergency contacts with your location.

You can't turn off Emergency SOS, but here's how to configure it:

  1. Go to Settings > Emergency SOS.
  2. Enable Auto Call if you want the shortcut to contact emergency services without using the slider. If you enable this, you can toggle the Countdown Sound, which plays an audible alert while calling.
  3. On an iPhone 8 or later, you can also enable the five-press Call with Side Button method if you like.
  4. Ensure that you have added Emergency Contacts in the Health app. You'll see them here and can tap the shortcut link to add more or edit the existing ones.


By Ben Stegner


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