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Ask Sid: Searching for Cellphone Simplicity

Q. The technology of today’s cellphones intimidates me. Any advice?

A. Visit the website of the OASIS Institute, which offers free one-on-one classes on cellphone use for anyone age 50 or older. Instruction is provided by volunteer AT&T employees but is available to users of any cellphone service. If Oasis is not available in your area, contact your cellphone provider to see if they offer any classes for seniors.

Others share your angst, which is sometimes caused by the design of many cellphones, says Wendy Rogers, a Georgia Tech researcher on the use of technology by older people. “The buttons are too close together, and older users often have trouble understanding what icons mean or the recorded instructional prompts,” she says.

But the bigger issue, based on her research: Cellphones are loaded with features that many older users find both intimidating and unnecessary.

If the phone is the problem, there are models that stress simplicity in design and function. Jitterbug has several units that resemble traditional land-line phones, plus calling plans that are especially attractive for older customers. Some other recommended models include the ClarityLife amplified handset, usable by any carrier using the GSM phone standard such as T-Mobile and AT&T; the Pantech Breeze from AT&T; the Coupe from Verizon Wireless; and Sprint’s no-frills Samsung M220 and M320.

Sid Kirchheimer writes about health and consumer issues.

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