Everything You Should Be Doing Right on Your Senior Parent’s Smartphone

Adult kids doing family tech support know this practice. Your parents call about a problem with their smartphone, maybe a spam text or something wrong with Facebook. You try to talk to them by fixing it remotely, with mixed results and mutual disappointment.

Next time you see your parents in person (and in fact, you should visit more often) do everyone a favor. Take 30 minutes to borrow their phone and clean house. A little maintenance now can prevent future problems with security, scams, confusion or misinformation. You’re going to clean out the old junk, fix any minor problems, and optimize it to make it a little easier for them to see and understand everything.

This is advice for adult children whose parents or other older relatives use smartphones, but anyone can try to perform these maintenance tasks on their own devices.

“The first thing I do is check the check engine lights,” says Abby Ritchie, founder and CEO of the tech-support company. senior lover. “I specifically look for the red notification badge in the Settings app.”

Apple and Google regularly release minor updates and annual major updates for their smartphone operating systems, iOS and Android. Even if you’re worried about adding confusing new features, don’t avoid them. They often include major security patches and bug fixes. If you do a major operating system update, set aside time to walk them through the new look and options.

Set the phone to automatically run software updates in the future.

Delete and rearrange apps

Look page-by-page and ask your parents what they use and don’t use – you’d be surprised how many of us have installed apps we can’t remember. Remove anything suspicious, fraudulent or misleading.

Move the apps they use the most to the first screen of your device. Richie recommends placing your four most-used apps in the dock at the bottom of the screen and any other large ones in the top left or right corner. Move apps they don’t use often but that are useful into clearly labeled folders, then archive those folders on the last page of the Home screen.

Ask them if there’s anything they want to do on their phone but can’t, like online banking. Install new apps if necessary, but keep it simple and walk them through setting up anything that requires a log-in. Enter any new password!

make the screen easier to see

As we age, our eyesight decreases and it can become difficult to read even the biggest phones. Smartphones are packed with accessibility settings you can dive into, but to start let’s make everything a little bigger and brighter.

In Settings, increase the text size and make it bold. You can turn on a setting like iOS’s Display Zoom, which makes everything a little bigger across the board. Finally, turn the brightness up all the way and show them how to control it themselves. Experiment with toggling between light and dark modes and see if it’s easier for them to see.

Richie also suggests giving your parents more time before their phones are locked. Instead of 30 seconds or a minute, bump up the auto-lock up to between 3 and 5 minutes.

Turn on emergency and health settings

Add any medical conditions and allergies to the phone’s built-in emergency settings. On an iPhone, go to Medical ID in Health Settings. On an Android device, you can go to the Security & emergency settings. Add emergency contacts, which include close people as well as immediate relatives. Make it so that this information can be seen in an emergency, even if the phone is locked.

Many smartphones have built-in health monitoring options. For example, on the iPhone, you can turn on the notification for walking stability, which can come in handy to avoid falls in the future. If they want you or someone else to stay connected with their health, you can set up to share health information.

cut down on misinformation

If you’re worried that your parents are falling prey to misinformation or being radicalized online, you can make some small changes to make things better. Choose a reputable news outlet or app and move it to a prominent place on your home screen. Apple News and Google News both do a great job of covering a wide range of trustworthy news sites. Place a shortcut to a fact-checking site like Snopes on their home screen so they can quickly view any story or social media post. Walk through their social media accounts with them, if they will allow you. Ask if you can unfollow any Pages or influencers that drive traffic to disinformation or promotions.

How to avoid falling prey to and spreading misinformation

reduce fraud attempts

Seniors are a popular target for scammers. There are a few settings you can change to reduce the effort. We walk you through all of them here, but start with sending unknown calls directly to voicemail (Settings → Phone → Silence Unknown Callers on iPhone), filtering out texts from unknown senders and any spam filters. turn on or turn on the detection offered by their phone. cell carrier.

Check out their friend list on Facebook and Instagram and remove any fake accounts, including people they don’t know and accounts that mimic other people. You can find more settings to change on their smartphones and messaging apps here.

Yes, It’s a Scam: Handy Tips to Help You Detect Online Fraud

check their membership

Make sure they aren’t accidentally paying for anything, like an app they subscribed to or a fraudulent “tech support” service. First look at their Android or iOS subscription, then ask if they’d like to review their most recent bank account statement.

Turn on automatic backup, especially for photos. If they have a full phone, you can set it to delete photos or videos from the device to free up space. If their device is ever lost, stolen or broken, they will still have all their data and memories ready to use. You can find more storage instructions for Google Drive and Apple’s iCloud here.

It can be more difficult to navigate a smartphone screen as people lose dexterity and their vision deteriorates. Android and iPhones have a great built-in shortcuts that can help seniors: voice assistants. Tell them how to activate Siri or Google Assistant by writing a list of starter commands for them to use, such as dictating a text.

Let your parents show you what they need

“I always ask my clients, ‘Show me what you mean,'” Richie says. Something that may be difficult to explain to you over the phone can be clarified by walking them through the process. For example, Richie had a client who was struggling to send text messages. It turned out that they were holding the finger on the send arrow too long, accidentally bringing up the special effects option in Messages.

If your parents are struggling with cognitive decline of any kind, you can discuss using stronger controls on their devices so you can access or block things remotely. You can also ask them to share logins and passwords, or store them anywhere for easy access. This must be done with their consent and a full understanding of what you will be able to access.

Write down anything new you tell your parents so they have something to reference. If you live too far to provide frequent tech support, find a reliable local computer store to call home or hire another tech-savvy relative. Richie says to be prepared for more phone calls and questions, and that’s okay.

“Be fully prepared that they may need to show you how to do it over and over again, lovingly.”

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