Medical Alert Systems vs. Mobile Phones for Seniors

Medical Alert Systems vs. Mobile Phones for Seniors

time icon 4 min read update icon Sept. 17, 2019


Many people mistakenly believe that mobile phones can replace medical alert systems for seniors. It is true that mobile phones are handy devices to have in the event of an emergency, but there are pros and cons to both methods. Ideally, a senior would benefit from having both a mobile phone and medical alert system.


In today’s often fast-paced, tech-driven society, more and more people are turning to smartphones. The New York Post reported that Americans check their cell phones every 12 minutes on average. With the baby boomers retiring at a rapid rate, seniors have never been more tech-savvy. A recent Pew Research report revealed that 77 percent of all seniors own a mobile phone.

However, despite having a phone, many seniors are still opting to use a medical alert system. One of the key reasons why a medical alert service comes out ahead of a mobile phone is that everyone, regardless of age, misplaces their cell phone occasionally.A senior wears a medical alert pendant 24/7, so as long as they don’t take it off, there is no risk of losing the device.

Medical Alert Systems or Cell Phones for Seniors?

When considering whether cell phones or medical alert systems are a better choice, you need to weigh the pros and cons.

Cons of Cell Phones

  • Cell phones can be complicated for some seniors to learn how to use.In a medical emergency, they may become confused with the many steps required to dial for help.
  • The monthly expense of a cell phone often exceeds that of a medical alert system.
  • Cell phones require frequent charging.
  • Phones can be easily misplaced or lost.

Pros of a Cell Phone

  • Cell phones are mobile, so a senior can take them anywhere.
  • Many modern cell phones have services or apps that are similar to medical alerts.
  • The cell phone is multifunctional.

Cons of Medical Alert Systems

  • Many seniors are shy about wearing a medical alert pendant.
  • Medical alert systems do charge a monthly bill.

Pros of Medical Alert Systems

  • The medical alert pendant is waterproof and can be worn 24/7, so there is less of a chance of misplacing or losing the device.
  • Medical alert systems are highly affordable, and there is usually one for every budget.
  • The senior only has to press a single button to be placed in immediate contact with a trained operator.
  • Some medical alert pendants feature fall detection components and global positioning systems (GPS), so if a senior becomes lost, first responders can readily locate the senior.

Deciding on whether to go with a medical alert system or a mobile phone depends on a senior’s unique needs and preferences. Ideally, it is prudent to have both a cell phone and a mobile alert system. However, finances may make both services unaffordable for some. When deciding which service best meets your needs, you should evaluate the pros and cons of each device.

Kimberly Sharpe - Senior Advisor

Kimberly is senior researcher with Grandfolk® providing in-depth product and service reviews to empower senior buying decisions.