Top iPhone Hacks for Seniors - How to Setup for Elderly

You’re wanting to setup an iPhone for your parent, grandparent, or beloved senior citizen in your life. Great! But what should you do to make it easier for them to use it? Follow along and we’ll show you the top recommended tweaks you should make.

For our family, we decided to upgrade my mom to an iPhone. Honestly, she didn’t “need” an iPhone, she could make phone calls just fine. But we wanted her to have an iPhone. We live a couple hours away from each other and calling just wasn’t enough. Our children are growing up way too fast and we wanted Mom to be part of it as much as she could.

We had tried other video conversations in the past, but nothing compares to FaceTime from our experience. We have Apple products in our home, so it just made sense for Mom to have an iPhone so she could FaceTime with her grandchildren. This was the main reason we wanted her to have an iPhone. Yet, there are so many cool features that she would now have access to.

I will tell you, it has changed her life! She can send and receive photos easily. She can see and talk in real time to her friends and family with a click of a button. And she has learned to text which has been a hilarious adventure - thanks to autocorrect, ha! It has given her a sense of inclusion she never knew she missed.

So how can you do this for YOUR loved one? We’ve put together the “Top 10 Simple iPhone Hacks for Seniors” to help others who are struggling to help an elderly loved one stay connected to friends and family. Let’s dive in.

Set Larger Text and Display

For older adults, reading small text is near impossible and adds strain to their eyes. Thankfully, this can be solved with using larger icons and text found within the iPhone’s settings.

For adjust text size, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > Text Size. Move the slider on the screen to the preferred text size.

For greater brightness, go to Settings > Display & Brightness . You can adjust the slider for brightness, but can also turn on Night Shift and decide your window for warmer colors for nighttime use.

For larger display, go to Settings > Display & Brightness > View. Tap on Zoomed and hit Set at top right corner. It will ask to restart your phone at this point.

Increase Volume and Alerts

If your loved one has trouble hearing, it is imperative that you increase the volume on the iPhone. You can also setup LED alerts if the phone is on silent.

For Volume, go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics. I would consider selecting to vibrate on both Ring & Silent. You can also adjust volume with the slider. For the occasions the phone needs to be silent, make sure you show your senior the silent switch on the top left side of the iPhone. When orange is showing, this means the iPhone is on silent.

For Flash Alerts, go to General > Accessibility > LED Flash for Alerts. Turn them “on”. Make sure flash alerts are set for LED Flash for Alerts and Flash on Silent. This will ensure you are receiving visual alerts as well.

Hide Unnecessary Icons

You can either hide or remove unnecessary default apps on the iPhone (iMovie, Numbers, Stocks, etc). By doing so, you are removing clutter and can see only what is important to you.

To remove, simply press down on an app until the app wiggles and an “x” appears on the app. Tap on the “x” and you’re all set. Continue to do this with all apps you’d like to remove.

To hide, press down on an unwanted app until it wiggles and has an “x.” Continue pressing on the app and move it on top of another unwanted app. This will create a folder. Continue this process until all unwanted apps are in this folder. You can then move this folder to an empty screen. To do this, press on the folder until it wiggles, move it to the right until it moves to an empty screen. Now let go of the app. This will hide all unwanted apps inside a folder.

Setup Speed Dial Icons

To make it easier to make a phone call, you can setup picture icons on your phone’s Home Screen with your favorite contacts. To call your loved ones, simply tap on the icon. Having a picture as the icon makes it easy for senior citizens to quickly recognize who they are calling.

To get started, go to www.callmeicons.com. Follow the simple steps to add a favorite contact. Be sure to use a photo for your contact when setting this up. Repeat this process until you have an icon for all of your most frequent contacts.

Tip: You can setup icons to make a phone call, send a text message, or make a FaceTime call. For us, we like having both call and FaceTime icons for important contacts. If this is true for you, when entering the name of your icon, add “FT” to the end of the name to differentiate the icons. For example, if you have a phone call icon and a FaceTime icon for Rhonda, I would choose “Rhonda” for my call icon and “Rhonda FT” for my FaceTime icon.

Enable Find my iPhone

Being able to find your iPhone when it has been misplaced is a necessity even if you aren’t elderly! Setting up this feature will play a loud sound to help you locate your phone. In the unfortunate event that it is stolen, you can even erase it remotely.

To turn it on, go to Settings > [your name] > iCloud > Find My iPhone.

If you're using iOS 10.2 or earlier, go to Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone. Slide the switch to turn on Find My iPhone and Send Last Location.

Enter Emergency SOS and Medical ID

We all hope that an emergency never comes up, but in the case that it does, showing your senior how to use the Emergency SOS feature could be life-saving. 

The first step is to setup the Medical ID and Emergency Contacts. This will allow responders to know any medical issues. To do so, go to Settings > Emergency SOS > Set up Emergency Contacts in Health > Create Medical ID. Once you are there, you can fill in important information about your loved one. You can list medical conditions, allergies, etc. Now press the “add emergency contact ” at the bottom of the screen. You add emergency contacts from your contact list on the phone and select relationship.

To use Emergency SOS for iPhone 7 and earlier, rapidly press the right side button five times until the Emergency SOS screen appears. Simply move the slider to call emergency services. Once the call has been made, your emergency contacts are then notified via text with your current location. If your current location changes, they will be notified as well.

For iPhone 8 or later, press and hold the right side button and one of the left volume buttons. Once the Emergency SOS screen appears, immediately move the slider to call emergency services. If the slider doesn’t get moved, there is a countdown. If the countdown ends, emergency services will be notified.

Setup Wi-Fi

If your senior has never had a smart phone, this will be new to them. It’s important to setup Wi-Fi before handing over the iPhone. If your phone plan does not have unlimited data, you may want to change selections for data use.

To setup Wi-Fi, go to Settings > Wi-Fi. There you can find your network and enter your password.

Password Protected Purchases

If you have preinstalled apps that you think they will like OR if you think your senior will visit the App store, it is very important to disable in-App purchases!

To do this, go to Settings > Screen Time > Content & Privacy Restrictions.

Turn this on. Once on, go to ITunes & App Store Purchases, scroll down to In-app Purchases and choose Don’t Allow.

You did it! Completing these simple and easy iPhone hacks will help for a much smoother and less stressful transition for your beloved senior citizen.