Many of us have had to sweat out choosing an affordable cell phone plan for teenagers (who knew we’d resort to unlimited texting?) And while it might appear just as intimidating at first, finding a cell phone plan that works for your elderly family member can be a much smoother affair.
For one thing, most seniors don’t need the majority of services out there that the rest of us load our phones with, like apps, internet capability, or even texting! The majority of elderly users need phones for occasional calls or simply for the added security of 24-hour accessibility to loved ones. With over 90% of Americans owning mobile phones, the market is highly diversified and competitive, and offers a great number of low-cost and even free cell phone plans for qualified users.
No-Contract Plans: Prepaid cell phones, once known as pay-as-you-go, are a great option for low-use seniors needing just the basic services. There’s no contract, no credit check, no fixed monthly statement, and zero hidden costs that accompany traditional usage plans. With a no-contract arrangement, you basically buy a prepaid phone and then purchase a certain number of either calling or texting minutes to be used within a certain time period. Most of the major carriers like Sprint or Verizon offer these plans; there are also a whole host of lesser-known carriers called MVNOs, or Mobile Virtual Network Operators, who buy minutes from the larger carriers and rework them into their own (often cheaper and more flexible) packages.
Consumer Cellular is one MVNO that specifically markets to senior citizens, offering simple and easy to use phones and decent wireless coverage through AT&T. They offer a number of usage packages; their $15/month plan includes 200 calling minutes, which breaks down to about 7 cents per minute.
Free Cell Phones: If your parent’s income level is low enough, they may qualify for the government-sponsored Lifeline Assistance Program. The LAP subsidizes wireless companies who then provide free cellphones and roughly 250 minutes of free monthly airtime and texts to low-income Americans. The program details vary state by state – some charge a small monthly fee, for example – so make sure to check out your particular state.
To qualify, your loved one must demonstrate need through the receipt of certain types of government benefits, like Medicaid, Food Stamps, home energy assistance or SSI. Otherwise they would need to prove that their household income is at or below 135 or 150% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (these vary state by state). Full qualification guidelines are spelled out at www.lifelinesupport.org.
Regardless of what you decide on for cell coverage – or if you’re not ready to make this move just yet – rest assured that all residents of LCB properties enjoy full and unrestricted access to phones and email. Speak to any of our staffers anytime if you have any questions or concerns – we’re here to help!