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 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.
What We Like About Lifefone
- No upfront activation or equipment feesPros
- User-friendly systems
- Knowledgeable customer service representatives
- Best-in-class warranty
- Lifetime price guarantee
Things to Keep in Mind About Lifefone
- Signal strength of at-home system may not extend outside or in garage
- Many add-on options can be confusing
At-Home vs. On-the-Go: How to Choose a LifeFone System
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 (starting at $24.95 per month) or Cellular ($30.95 per month)
- Two-way speaker
- Long-lasting back-up battery
- 1,300-foot coverage range
- Emergency trouble indicator
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.
At-Home and On-the-Go GPS (starting at $36.95 per month)
- Two-way speaker
- Lighted display with time, date and ambient temperature
- Back-up battery
- Wearable mobile unit
For seniors with an active lifestyle, LifeFone's At-Home and On-the-Go GPS system is the way to go. Whether you're taking a morning hike with your dog or finally going on that cross-country road trip, you'll be taken care of by LifeFone anywhere that has AT&T coverage.
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 1400-foot radius. However, this can be extended by the mobile unit, which covers a 600-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!
At-Home and On-the-Go GPS, Voice in Necklace (starting at $39.95 per month)
- Two-way voice pendant
- GPS and Wi-Fi location technology
- 30-day battery; 5-7 day battery when using fall detection
- Uses AT&T or Verizon network
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!
My Shopping Experience: What You Need to Know When Buying LifeFone
How I Purchased, Set up and Tested LifeFone
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.
LifeFone’s Lineup of Add-ons Services and Accessories
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:
- Activity Assurance Caregiver Tool ($6 per month). To help caregivers that do daily check-ins, this allows a caregiver to pick a custom check-in time for the user. If they don't call within 15 minutes of that time, LifeFone will call them.
- Family Guard App ($9.95 per month). This is sort of like “Find My iPhone” for the user of the medical device, and is an app accessed through a caregiver or family member's smartphone.
- Fall Detection ($5 per month). This is an add-on for most systems, and usually, a good idea as sensor will automatically detect if a fall has occurred and page emergency services.
- Beaded Lanyard ($21.95). To continue with the iPhone theme, think of this as getting a case for your phone so it stands out from the crowd. Or maybe the user wants the device to appear less “medical”. Either way, you should look at the options to spruce up the look of the device and lanyard.
Here are the other add-on services available:
- Mobile Alert – alert options activated through an app on the user's smartphone.
- Complete Home Package – includes fire, smoke, and carbon monoxide protection.
- Daily Check-in Call – Same time each day, a call from LifeFone.
- Medication Reminders
- Lockbox – for storing a key for emergency services
- Wall-Mounted Help Button – Adheres to a wall or surface, often used in bathrooms.
- Vanity Pendant – spruces up the design of the pendant itself
- Location Services – A different way of accessing the user's location, through a web portal.
LifeFone Medical Alert Video Review
While there is a lot of material about LifeFone's lineup of products and services in this review, seeing is truly believing, as I get my hands on everything mentioned here in the LifeFone Medical Alert Systems Review from the Senior Living YouTube channel. Here, I go over everything in this written review and more! Plus, you get to see what these devices look like and how they function in realtime. Take a moment to check out this review before you make your final medical alert device decision.
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.
- How much does LifeFone cost per month?
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.
- What is the return policy for LifeFone?
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.
- Do I need a cell phone to use LifeFone’s at-home cellular system?
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.
- What happens if I push the button and I’m not able to communicate?
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.
- Can I take my device with me when I go on vacation?
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.