Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any emergency help buttons for seniors (like the Lifeline) that work away from the home? I would like to get one for my 78-year-old mother, but would like to find one that’s not limited to the house. What can you tell me? – Searching Son
There are actually several new products on the market that give seniors the flexibility to call for help both inside and outside the home. Here’s what you should know.
Senior Help Devices
For years, emergency help buttons (also known as personal emergency response systems or PERS) like the Philips Lifeline, Life Alert and others have been popular home safety products for elderly seniors. By pushing a button on a pendant, seniors can call a 24-hour help service anytime they need it. But these devices have one major shortcoming. They only work in and around the house. If you’re in a distant location and need help, you’re out of luck – until recently. Today, there are several new products and services that can help seniors no matter where they are.
One such product is MobileHelp (mobilehelpnow.com, 800-800-1710), which provides many of the same features as a traditional home based emergency help button, but it also has a separate mobile device that can be used to summon help anywhere you go. To call for help, your mom would simply push a button, and a few seconds later an operator from MobileHelp is on the line to assist her. The other great aspect about this device is that it also contains GPS technology that can locate your mom wherever she is, which is critical in emergency situations. The cost for MobileHelp is $40 per month, or $35 per month if paid a year in advance.
Another more sophisticated option is ActiveCare’s Personal Assistance Link (activecare.com, 877-219-6628), which provides mobile one-button connection to their 24-hour call center to help your mom with a wide variety of needs, like calling for emergency services, notifying family members, coordinating roadside assistance, providing directions and much more. This device also comes with fall detection software that can automatically call for help without pressing the button, GPS locating technology, and it functions like a simplified cell phone so she can make calls. And, if your mom has dementia, the ActiveCare service let’s you set up a virtual zone area that notifies you if she wanders outside it. This service starts at $59 a month.
Also worth a look is the new LifeTrac MobileProtector from SecuraTrac (securatrac.com, 888-973-2872) that provides GPS technology, fall detection software, virtual border alerts and can operate as a cell phone. And coming in late 2011, a new device from Lifecomm which you can preview at lifecomm.com.
GPS Cell Phones
Another way to help keep your mom safe when she’s out and about is a cell phone with a built-in GPS tracking chip – many of today’s phones have them. Contact her cell phone provider to find out if her phone has it or if it can be added. With a GPS-enabled cell phone you can install free tracking software on it (at sites like buddyway.com, glympse.com or google.com/latitude) so you can know your mom’s whereabouts via your computer or cell phone. Or, if you’re a Sprint, Verizon Wireless, AT&T or Alltel customer, they all offer family locator services for a small fee. If your mom doesn’t have a cell phone, consider the AccuTracking (accutracking.com) “starter kit” that comes with a GPS Boost Mobile prepaid phone for $99, plus $16.50 for monthly service fees.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.