An Easy-to-Use System with Loads of Custom Options
LifeFone’s first product was launched back in the 1970’s, when my parents were wearing bell-bottom jeans and listening to The Who (yep, my parents are cool). And just like fashion and music, LifeFone’s products have evolved considerably over the last forty years. While the medical devices of yesteryear were tethered to a landline, the newest systems have GPS and run on cellular networks. For this year’s review, we tested LifeFone’s latest equipment, the On-the-Go GPS with automatic fall detection, and also the At Home Cellular unit.
LifeFone’s medical alert device comes as a pendant, which is worn around the neck, and a wristband that looks a little like modern wearable technology (which it basically is). LifeFone is recognized by many of the leaders in senior health, including The National Council on Aging1 and the American Stroke Association2. After our test, we can give it the same stamp of approval for usability and also for the price (no upfront costs like activation fees or equipment fees as you get for Medical Guardian and GreatCall). From sign-up and saving to setup and testing, here’s everything you need to know to decide if LifeFone is right for you and your family.
When choosing the LifeFone system that will be best for your needs, the first thing to consider is whether the subscriber spends most of their time at home, on the go, or a mix of both. From there, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions. For users who are mostly homebodies, do you have a landline connection? For on-the-go users, do you want a base station for at-home use, or would you prefer an all-in-one wearable pendant that can be used both in and outside of the home? Answering these questions will help you choose which product listed below will be best for your needs!
At-Home Landline is for seniors that (you guessed it) have a landline, and do not need coverage beyond 1,000 feet or so from the base station (the signal technically extends 1,300 feet). One nice perk is that it comes with a 32-hour back-up battery in case you lose power. The base unit also has a high-output speaker and a sensitive microphone for clear two-way communication. Plus, the necklace allows the wearer to call for help and speak to an operator through the necklace from anywhere in the 1,300-foot range, so there’s no need to feel rushed to get to the phone.
At-Home Cellular is essentially the same system as above but doesn’t require a landline – instead, it uses AT&T’s cellular network. If you have a landline and intend to keep it, then choose the landline option.
For seniors that head out of the house frequently on their own, LifeFone’s At-Home and On-the-Go GPS system is a fine option. With an at-home base unit and a mobile device, this system is like having two systems for the price of one. Both the at-home and mobile units use a cellular connection, making it perfect for seniors who are on the move. Just like the other systems, the at-home base unit comes with crystal-clear two-way speaking, but this one covers a 600-foot radius. However, this can be extended by the mobile unit, which covers a 350-foot radius. Keep in mind the mobile unit will need to be charged once a day, just like a cell phone.
I tested the mobile system when I was out running errands, and it worked like a charm. I simply pressed the button and was connected to their response center in about 30 seconds. I could hear the responder loud and clear and she could hear me. Nice and easy. I should mention that the mobile unit is small and lightweight; I forgot I was even carrying it!
The Voice in Necklace system is convenient in that this system’s base unit is in the necklace. All you have to do is take the pendant with you. This system is as streamlined as it is low-maintenance; it works through LifeFone’s AT&T and Verizon cellular services and can hold a 30-day charge (or five to seven days if using Fall Detection). The necklace features a high-tech two-way speaker and comes in two colors: white for AT&T coverage3 and black for Verizon.
Since the necklace comes with a Device Location Finder built-in, caregivers can quickly access the location through a text to LifeFone or the LifeFone mobile app. I need this feature for my kids!
LifeFone is easy to purchase through the web site or over the phone. I called to understand the various discounts and am glad I did. LifeFone does not have AAA discount like Bay Alarm Medical does, they do have a modest monthly discount for AARP or veterans. Make sure to call to take advantage of this. I also asked about the lifetime warranty (it’s best-in-class), which covers wear-and-tear. It doesn’t cover damage, but there is a $5 monthly Protection Plan option for that.
Overall, the customer service team was awesome! The Better Business Bureau4 gives LifeFone an A+ rating, which is based in part on interactions with customer service. I can see why after my interactions with their friendly team (and the very short hold time I experienced on the customer service line).
Buyer's Tip: LifeFone offers a great referral program to help you save. For every customer you refer, you and your referral will receive a free month of service.
The systems arrived the next week, and I unboxed the base station, a wall plug, wristband, and pendant. There is also a charging cradle with a mobile device and carrying case, and an instruction manual. It’s very easy to set up. Essentially, you just need to plug in the base station and put on the pendant to get going. The base station I tested was the Cellular version, and there is a digital display that says how many “bars” you have, just like a cell phone. For the mobile unit, just place it in the charging unit and let it fully charge. If you press the “Emergency” button on the base station or the button on the pendant or wristwatch, you’re connected to a representative who will ask if there is an emergency. Just inform them you’re making a test call.
I mentioned above that there are a ton of add-on services with LifeFone (12 by my count), which can be daunting. Here are a few that you might consider:
Here are the other add-on services available:
In our view, LifeFone is a solid choice for a medical alert device. It does what it’s supposed to quickly and easily at home (or outside the home, assuming you’re using one of the mobile units). From the standpoint of “the overall cost of ownership”, LifeFone is a winner with its lifetime warranty and no upfront costs or activation fees. You can also try it out for 30 days and return it if it’s not right for you or the user. There are a ton of add-ons with LifeFone, so my advice is to start only with fall detection, and then see if the others are really necessary after using the system. And don’t forget to tell them about your AARP membership or status as a veteran to knock a few bucks off your annual bill.
Depending on which product you go with and how you would like to pay for service, the pricing will change. Prices start as low as $22.87 per month when you pay annually and range up to $43.95 per month for top tier packages.
LifeFone allows you to cancel service at any time, for any reason. There are no long-term contracts, and you will receive a refund if you paid for your service in advance.
Since LifeFone’s At-Home Cellular Service uses AT&T’s network offered by LifeFone, you do not need to have your own cell phone.
If you push the button and LifeFone’s Care Agent can’t hear you, they will call your home phone. If they can’t reach you there, they’ll follow your Emergency Care Instructions and dispatch emergency services to your location.
Regardless of how long you will be relocating for, all it takes to change your system’s location while on vacation is a simple phone call to LifeFone’s emergency response center. If you use the At-Home Landline system, you just need to make sure your new location has a landline.
Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt