Free mobile phones are an option for senior adults living within a fixed income or a tight budget. Many seniors are reluctant to spend money for an item they are reluctant to use. Mobile phones, computers and even cable access fall into this category.
However, many seniors do not understand how much they will have to pay to have access to modern technology. Few have little or no knowledge of what equipment and software they will need. They think that access to modern technology is costly and beyond how much they are willing to pay for it.
Fortunately, the American federal government has a solution to providing a way senior adults can have access to free mobile phones. The Lifeline Assistance program was created under the Reagan Administration to help low income Americans, including those over the age of 65, to have reliable, modern phone service at no cost.
This helps to make mobile phone ownership more affordable, so that the older adult can stay in touch with family members and friends. They will also have phone access to vital support networks such as doctors and emergency medical assistance. Lack of an adequate way of reaching out for help when needed can prove to be hazardous to health and well-being of older Americans living alone at home.
Seniors interested in this program to receive free mobile phones are eligible for assistance if they meet pre-established criteria. To qualify they must either have a yearly income that is either at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty guidelines or are currently participating in a federal government assistance program.
Automatic eligibility is based upon receiving Food Stamps, or is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Participation in other federal government assistance programs includes Medicaid, Section 8 or Federal Public Housing. Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), National Free School Lunch Program or many other government programs.
In addition to limited spending budgets, senior adults have other reasons for not jumping onto the mobile phone technology bandwagon. The number of seniors interested in using the Internet has not kept up with the pace of younger adults. Seniors think they “didn’t need it,” either see the benefits of it, or didn’t know how to access it. Although once seniors overcome these objections, they become active Internet users. Starting seniors off with the simplest technology and step-by-step demonstrations is the best way to get senior adults interested in going online.
An elderly parent might object to using a mobile phone by saying, “Oh, I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll be able to learn to use it.” According to a 2008 government report, “Barriers and Drivers of Health Information Technology Use for the Elderly, Chronically Ill, and Underserved,” anxiety and intimidation were the main reasons why seniors are reluctant to try out new technology.
Older adults learn best with one-on-one, hands-on show-and-tell. The more nervous and intimidated a relative is about using the technology, the more important it is to transmit information in small pieces. Let them learn by doing one thing at a time and practicing it many times before moving on to a new concept. The government survey found that older adults learn best when technology is delivered using equipment they are already familiar with.
Another objection of seniors to using a mobile phone is, “I’m always here, so why would I need a cell phone?” Studies have shown that for many seniors, isolation at home leads to social anxiety and fear. The risk of depression and other health related problems. According to a U.K. study by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Internet and mobile phone usage can be the key to helping senior adults stay connected and avoid loneliness.