Recently I had the opportunity to offer Jitterbug phones to two seniors tMary Ann and her Jitterbug phoneo use for a few weeks and share their feedback.  While I was pretty unfamiliar with the Jitterbug phone, both of my trial participants (Mary Ann and Sharon) had heard of the phone after seeing ads in their respective AARP magazines.  They were excited to give these phones a try.  Here’s one story:

Mary Ann K. is 70 years old.  She lives with her husband Baylor in south St. Louis city.  While she’s had some health issues, overall she’s independent.  Her two daughters are informal advocates for her health care and other important decisions.  Mary Ann has a home phone, and a cell phone that she turns on and carries in her purse when she is out and about.  She pays $79.99/month for her basic cell phone plan, which includes two phones (one for Baylor).  Wow!  That seems like a lot to pay for a part-time cell phone (especially since Baylor has never used his in the three years they’ve had it), but at the same time I am not surprised: cell phone plans can be confusing and misleading.  If you are 70 and go to purchase a cell phone and plan without help from an advocate (as Mary Ann did), this process can be overwhelming and you just might be convinced to buy more than you need.

Mary Ann immediately commented on the feel of the phone.  It felt big, but not too big, in her hand and the subtle rubberized slip-proof grip on the sides helped her feel like she could hold it securely.  She also really liked the large screen with bigger print and the larger keys including the simple “yes” and “no” keys, which are used in conjunction with clear commands on the screen: “no to hang up”, “select?”, “call?”, etc.

Mary Ann received all the newest offerings available from Jitterbug to try, including the LiveNurse and Wellness Call.  While she thought they were “cool”, she didn’t find she would need them, or use them regularly.  With help (customer service will do this for free, or you can call the operator for a five-minute deduction from your current available minutes), the phone’s MyCalendar (a standard option) can be updated as needed.  This will reinforce her current system of writing things on her wall calendar.  The Medication Reminders ($10/month) may help in the future, but she’s not ready to switch from her current system that works for her.  It’s nice to know she has options like these available as she needs them.

Mary Ann seems like an ideal candidate for the “People Who Want a Little Less” plan options.  The phone is $99, and she can purchase “Add-on Minutes” that are good for one year to apply as needed (she can check her minutes by simply clicking “Yes” on Phone Info).  She can share hers with her husband Baylor.  At 71, he’s more comfortable and willing to use this phone than his previous model.

Finally, Mary Ann became handy at texting her long-distance daughter, who lives on N. Padre Island, Texas.  This is a fun, modern way for her to keep in touch with her tech-savvy daughter (10 cents/per text).  Her latest message?  “Guess what, I’m going to buy the new JITTERBUG.  love, MA”!

This phone was a winner for Mary Ann!  It is simple and straightforward.  The Jitterbug’s flexibility (there’s no contract, you can switch plans at any time, there’s a variety of add-on services) enabled her to customize her plan to her current needs, and ensures she can continue to do so if her needs change. 

Next we’ll see if the Jitterbug was also a match for Sharon, an educated and savvy consumer.  At 62, her needs are different than Mary Ann’s.  Will she also choose the Jitterbug?  Check back in a few weeks to find out!

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