An Important Tool
Without a doubt, cell phones have changed the way people communicate and interact with each other. From calling or messaging friends and family from far away to staying informed, entertained and active, a cell phone can be an important tool all people can take advantage of. For older adults and people with disabilities, a cell phone is another way to access vital services and supports.
The Benefits of a Cell Phone
A smartphone is capable of performing a wide range of services that can make your life easier. Generally, cell phones on the market can call and text, be used as a calculator or camera, record information and notes and keep track of important dates.
A data plan from a cell phone service provider is also usually needed to access the Internet and other services. Smartphones may also have an app store–a digital marketplace to purchase and download applications that can change or enhance your experience.
Older adults and people with disabilities can especially benefit from using a smartphone. Some benefits include:
- Arrange for a Ride: Ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft are best used with a cell phone for easy, immediate access. These services can alert the user in real-time when their driver is near.
- Shop Online: When transportation isn’t an option, a smartphone can be used to order groceries or home-delivered meals online. With the Internet, users can also purchase other essential items.
- Emergency Info: A cell phone can make it easier for an older adult or person with a disability to contact help in the event of an emergency. For example, if an individual falls in their home and no one else is around, they can call for assistance. Cell phones can be used to both call and text 911. Even if a phone is no longer connected to a service plan, as long as it can be powered on, it can be used to call 911.
- Schedules: Most cell phones have a built-in calendar and note-taking app. Individuals can use it for managing medication, arranging doctor’s appointments, therapy visits and daily activities.
- Improve Health: The app store is home to thousands of apps that serve a variety of needs. There are many apps specifically designed to improve physical and mental health. There are apps that offer exercise routines and keep track of health statistics or games that sharpen mental focus and boost concentration. Some apps require in-app purchases for full functionality.
- Peace of Mind: There are certain apps that can help friends and family members monitor the user’s location using ‘geofencing.’ Using this, friends, family and caregivers can be alerted when the person they caring for leaves the house or a designated location.
Affording a Cell Phone
Owning a smartphone can be expensive. Most retail outlets offer a choice of either a one-time payment or monthly payments. Additional costs may include activation, transferring data, maintenance and accessories. The cost of a data plan may vary on the chosen plan and is usually paid monthly. There are also services that allow individuals to only pay for the minutes, messages and data they use.
Lifeline is the FCC’s program to help make communications services more affordable for eligible consumers. Through Lifeline, eligible households can get free or discounted landline, cell and/or internet service.
To be eligible, individuals have to meet the following requirements:
- Household income is 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines
- Participation in one of these federal assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Tribal Programs (and live on federally-recognized Tribal lands)
The application process requires individuals to answer a few questions before Lifeline compiles a list of eligible local service providers, including steps to apply for service.
Visit Lifeline Support for more information and to find a participating company.