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Setting up an iPhone for a senior

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setup iphone for a senior
  • A few tweaks can make all the difference when setting up an iPhone for a senior
  • You can change the text size, and rearrange the home screen
  • Adding home screen widgets lets you make the iPhone even easier to use
  • Adding contacts can make it far easier to keep in touch

Apple’s iPhone is by far the best choice for seniors – and setting it up an iPhone for a senior can make all the difference.

While the iPhone is easy to use, setting it up can be complicated (trust me, I’ve set up dozens and still sometimes get stuck).

We think the iPhone SE is the best choice for seniors, but if that’s out of your price range, we’ve got a guide to buying a cheap iPhone that can help you bag a bargain, and a guide to the best cellphone for seniors.

It’s also worth checking out our guide to the best iPhone accessories for seniors, as having some extra power cables, a decent case and even a wireless charger can make all the difference.

If you’re not comfortable, you can always ask a relative to follow this guide for you. Either way, there are some really simple tweaks you can make to your phone, even if you’ve been using it a while, to make it even more straightforward.

If you are reusing an old device, there are some limitations – for instance, group FaceTime video is not supported in older devices including anything earlier than the iPhone 6s or iPod touch (7th generation).

There’s more information on that here (and some earlier models can join group calls, but only using audio).

If you have any more hints or tips, let us know in the comments or our Facebook Group.

So, if you’re ready to go, here’s how to set up an iPhone for a senior:

ERASE AND UPDATE YOUR DEVICE

The instructions here all relate to the latest version of iOS, called iOS 14, so make sure you update the iPhone to this. You’ll be getting all the latest security updates and enhancements as well.

Updating is simple, go to Settings > General, then tap software update, and download and install. If you need more help, Apple has an easy to understand guide.

If you need more in depth instructions, Wikihow has a good guide with easy to follow pictures here.

If you’re reusing an older iPhone, they also have a guide to wiping your phone clean of all your own data and settings so you can start with a fresh ‘out of the box’ iPhone.

If you hit any problems, AppleInsider has a decent video tutorial explaining all this, and some of the pitfalls here.

It may also be worth disabling the passcode on the iPhone, as this can add a layer of complexity for users – instructions for doing that are here. Do be aware of the security risks though.

CHOOSE YOUR APPS

Be really careful what you download – usually a game or two, a banking app and some entertainment apps are a good start (remember messaging and video calls with FaceTime are built in). 

You don’t want to overload the phone, but there are also an astonishing range of apps out there, so don’t be afraid to try new ones – although we’d recommend deleting them if you decide you don’t like them.

A great way to get used to the phone is by playing some games, like Candy Crush or Words with Friends.

Video and music streaming apps are also a must – and it’s worth taking the time to to set them up with favorite stations, shows and movies. We’d recommend TuneIn for radio

Messaging is a tricky one, and really depends on the person. Even email can be a step too far for many people – perhaps suggest just using iMessage instead. However, many seniors are fans of WhatsApp, especially its ability to set up groups for families to stay in touch.

It’s also worth investigating streaming fitness apps to keep people active.

The NHS (Britain’s National Health Service) is also a goldmine of information and even has its own virtual workouts here. It’s also got a good guide to fitness for seniors here. Healthline also has some senior workouts here.

The National Institutes of Aging also has some great resources, including online workout videos, here.

Grocery shopping is another great use of a tablet at the moment, and you can download and set it up with favourite items already in the app. They’re a pretty high chance your grocery store has its own app, so download it.

Medical apps are also particularly useful, and in particular something like a medication reminder app. Healthline has a list of the best ones here.

SET UP CONTACTS

Setting up a small number of contacts such as close family and friends is a good idea if you want to set up an iPhone for seniors, as it can make keeping in touch easier.

It’s also worth calling/messaging each of them, so that when the app is opened, there are messages ready and waiting to restart the conversation.

In iMessage, it’s also worth enabling the Show Contact Photos option so that everyone’s faces in Messages are shown.

USE THE ACCESSIBILITY SETTINGS

Apple has built a whole host of accessibility settings into the iPhone, and you can tweak them depending on the needs of the user.

These range from everything from making the text size larger, to voice control.

You can invert colors, reduce white point, enable grayscale, or choose from a range of color filters to support different forms of color blindness or other vision challenges.

Apple has a great, easy to understand overview of all these features, and how to set them up.

To get to the settings, go into the Settings menu on the iPhone, then Accessibility.

TWEAK THE TEXT SIZE

The one tweak you’ll almost certainly want to use to set up an iPhone for seniors is Display and Text Size, which you can find in the accessibility menu.

There are several options here, from making all the text bold, to making text larger across the system. This is hugely useful, and it’s even worth (if possible) going throughb a few different sizes with your user to find the best one.

If reading the text is still a problem, there are a host of other features you can try, from the built in screen magnifier (Zoom in the accessibility menu) to Speak Screen, which you can use to read your email, iMessages, web pages, and books. 

To use this, turn on Speak Screen and swipe down from the top of the screen with two fingers, or just tell Siri to Speak Screen and have all the content on the page read back to you.

If that’s not enough, VoiceOver is a gesture-based screen reader that Apple has developed to let people use an iPhone if they can’t see the screen at all. 

For more details, Apple has an easy to understand guide.

REARRANGE THE HOME SCREEN

Once you’ve set up the accessibility features and downloaded the apps you need, rearranging the apps on the home screen to keep them to a minimum is critical to setting up an iPhone for seniors. 

If you’re not sure how to move apps, Apple has a good guide here.

Move everything you don’t need into a folder and move it to the second screen of the homepage to hide it.

Don’t forget you can also add links to webpages to the home screen as well.

To do do this, open the link in Safari, and tap the Bookmark icon at the bottom of the screen (it looks like a box with an upward-pointing arrow).

Then, simply tap ‘add to homescreen‘ – you can even type in your own name at this point for the link. Tap Add, and it’ll appear on your home screen just like an app would – but instead of launching an app, it’ll take you to the webpage.

You can also add ‘widgets’, large panels (see the picture).

There’s a guide to adding them here, but from the Home Screen, touch and hold a widget or an empty area until the apps jiggle, then tap the add button in the upper-left corner to select what you want.

Also make sure the most used apps are in the dock so they’re easily accessible.

DECLUTTER THE DOCK

The dock at the bottom of the screen displays suggested and recent apps along with those that you put there yourself.

To make life simpler when setting up an iPhone for seniors, disabling the feature is a good idea. Here’s how:

  1. Open the Settings
  2. Tap Multitasking & Dock.
  3. Turn off the toggle for Show Suggested and Recent Apps from green to white.

SET UP FAMILY SHARING

Apple’s Family Sharing can be a godsend, making it easy for up to six family members to share App Store purchases and Apple subscriptions, including an iCloud storage plan without having to share an Apple ID. You can also set up permissions remotely with Screen Time, and approve spending and downloads.

Apple’s own guide to using it is great, read it here – and predictably they’ve even made a video to explain it.

ACCESSORIES

We’ve got a full guide to the best iPhone accessories for seniors here.

A stylus can often be a great add on for users who aren’t used to a touchscreen or struggle with one.

It may well also be worth investing in a case and a stand – while iPhones are fairly sturdy, they probably will get dropped/knocked over a little.

If you’re feeling particularly flush, we’d also highly recommend Apple’s Airpod Wireless headphones – they’re just great.

CHARGING

It’s also well worth buying an extra long power cable to put near your favorite chair, we recommend this.

It’s worth setting up charging points, complete with long cables, not only next to the bed but next to a favorite chair.

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