With 3 in 4 retirees hoping to age in place,1 it's more important than ever to find new ways to stay safe. If you're looking for a medical alert system to do just that, you know how many options there are.
LifeStation, one of the more experienced providers on the market, is a family-owned, privately held company that's been around for over 40 years. The provider has multiple monitoring centers that are Five Diamond certified by The Monitoring Association (TMA),2 an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau,3 and UL-listed equipment. While LifeStation's prices for top-tier packages are pretty high, and the company doesn't have many add-on features, they do offer a variety of high-quality at-home and on-the-go systems you can rely on. For this year's review, I tested the At Home and Sidekick systems. Read on for a firsthand look at my experience!
LifeStation's prices and product features are clearly listed online, but if you have questions or prefer to talk with someone before purchasing, you can easily reach LifeStation representatives by phone. I had a few questions, so I decided to give LifeStation a call.
FYI: The average response time in the medical alert industry is 15-45 seconds. LifeStation's average response time is 20 seconds, so they're on the fast side for the industry!
After dialing and listening to a piano concerto for a few minutes, I was connected to a friendly representative named Corey. There was no sales pitch, and Corey answered my questions patiently. I asked Corey how much fall detection costs, and he let me know it was an additional $9.95 per month. I also wanted to know LifeStation's average response time. Corey said their average response time is just 20 seconds after you press your help button. Impressive!
My At Home system came with a beige base unit, a round gray and black pendant, phone cords, and a manual. Setup is simple, but customer service is happy to walk you through each step if you encounter an issue.
To set up the system, I located a phone jack near an electrical outlet. For the landline system, this step is important, as the base unit must be connected to both. Next, I unplugged the phone jack from the wall and plugged it into the bottom of the base unit in the slot marked “phone.” Next, I plugged the unit into the wall jack and electrical outlet, flipped the switch on the bottom of the base unit to “on,” and put on my help pendant.
Setup advice: The best spot to set up your in-home system is typically in a high-risk area or a central location of the house, like on the nightstand or in the living room.
To test my system, I pressed the button on my help pendant. An electronic emergency sound came through the speaker. Then, it took about 20 seconds for a loud voice to identify herself as a LifeStation operator. I told the operator that I was just testing the system, and she said I was welcome to test as much as I needed. I tried the same test again with the pendant in a room farther away from the base station to test the coverage range. I found the two-way speaker sufficiently loud, and I could hear the operator without moving closer to the base station.
To set up the Sidekick mobile unit, I plugged in the charging cradle, placed the unit on the charger, and pushed the power button for an initial three-hour charge. I knew the unit was fully charged when the battery light stopped blinking red. To test the unit after it was done charging, I pressed the silver SOS button on the front of the pendant. I heard a sound alerting me that a call was in progress and was connected to a live operator in no time.
FYI: LifeStation's pendants are water-resistant, so you can take them right into the shower and bath.
LifeStation offers a lifetime warranty for all equipment that covers normal wear and tear and product defects. If the system is damaged or lost, you'll have to pay for the replacements. If you buy the protection plan for $5 per month, you'll receive two complimentary help button replacements or one system replacement every year. LifeStation doesn't have long-term contracts, so you can cancel your service at any time.
|Specs||At Home||In-Home No Landline||Sidekick||Sidekick Smart|
|Starting price||$22.95 per month||$32.95 per month||$37.95 per month||$55.95 per month|
|System type||In-home landline||In-home cellular||On-the-go cellular||Cellular smartwatch|
|Range||500 feet||600 feet||N/A||N/A|
|Fall detection||$9.95 per month||$9.95 per month||$9.95 per month||N/A|
|Equipment protection plan||$5 per month||$5 per month||$5 per month||$5 per month|
Starting at $22.95 per month, At Home is LifeStation's most affordable system, making it a great choice for budget-conscious shoppers. Fall detection costs an additional $9.95 per month, which is similar to many other companies' rates, like ADT Health's prices.
The At Home system comes with a base station featuring a two-way speaker and a wearable, water-resistant help button that weighs just half an ounce. After a while, I hardly even noticed I was wearing my help button! The system is simple, and there are no parts to charge, as the pendant's battery lasts three years. The system has a coverage range of 500 feet from the base station to the help button, which is suitable for small and midsize homes. This system is a bit of an eyesore, but it will keep you protected, which is what matters most.
FYI: Concerned about coverage range? Think of the At Home's 500-foot base-to-button range as the size of two football fields.
This system runs on a landline, so it's best for older adults who spend most of the day at home or who don't have reliable cellular service. LifeStation's monitoring center offers 24/7 support, so all you need to do in an emergency is press the help button on your pendant or base station. During my tests, I had no trouble connecting to the monitoring center throughout my home, and I found that the operators were always friendly and quick to help.
Starting at $32.95 per month, In-Home No Landline is $10 more expensive than the At Home landline system. This is pretty standard for cellular systems. For comparison, Medical Guardian's monthly prices start at $34.95 for a cellular at-home system.
In-Home No Landline works similarly to At Home, and it comes with a wearable help button and a base station with a two-way speaker. One of the advantages of this system is that the base station can be put anywhere in the home regardless of where the phone jack is, as it runs on a cellular connection instead of a landline. The setup is so easy; it's basically a plug-and-play. You turn on the on/off switch at the bottom of the base station, plug the unit's power cord into an outlet, and you're finished. It takes about two minutes for the base to find the cellular connection, and then it's ready to use. This system works well for homebodies who don't have a landline or those who want the freedom to easily move the system anywhere in the house.
This system runs on AT&T's cellular connection, so make sure that AT&T has reliable service in your area. Other than the connection type, this system will operate just like the At Home system, connecting you to the 24/7 monitoring center at the press of a button.
The Sidekick system starts at $37.95 per month, comparable to other mobile units on the market. For instance, Aloe Care Health's prices for a mobile system start at $34.99 per month, while Medical Alert charges $37.95 per month.
The Sidekick is best suited for on-the-go users or families who want to keep track of their loved one's whereabouts. The Sidekick pendant is bigger than the At Home pendant, weighing under 2 ounces (like an egg) and measuring a few inches long. It's an all-in-one system with a built-in microphone, speaker, and emergency help button, so there's no base station or other equipment required except a charging cradle. You can wear the system like a necklace or put it in your pocket or purse. During my testing, I noticed Sidekick was smaller and more compact than some other mobile units, which I appreciate. I tucked the pendant into my sweater, and it was barely noticeable!
The unit is equipped with GPS, Wi-Fi, and AT&T cellular technology to update your location in real time, so help can be dispatched no matter where you are. The unit's batteries last for a full five days, meaning you won't have to worry about charging it all the time. Plus, it has voice prompts and will vibrate to alert you when it's time to charge the system.
Pro Tip: LifeStation offers perks like free shipping or a free month of service if you pay for your system quarterly or annually instead of monthly.
Sidekick pairs with LifeStation's Find My Loved One feature, which lets family members locate you by sending LifeStation a quick text. LifeStation will respond with your exact location pinpointed on a map. Best of all, this feature works with Amazon Alexa devices. All a user has to do is download an app called Alexa Skill and tell their Alexa-enabled device, “Alexa, locate Mom.” These high-tech features make it easy for family members and caregivers to keep an eye on their loved ones without much extra effort.
Sidekick Smart, LifeStation's latest smartwatch system, starts at $54.95 per month. I'll be honest: This is expensive compared to other popular smartwatch systems on the market. Bay Alarm Medical's monthly rates for a similar smartwatch start at just $29.95.
I was excited to see that LifeStation added Sidekick Smart to their lineup, as more and more companies are offering high-tech smartwatch systems. Sidekick Smart is a touchscreen watch that can track your steps and monitor your heart rate, making it an excellent option for active seniors. The system is water-resistant, with Bluetooth technology and a built-in two-way speaker. If you're hesitant to purchase a medical alert system because of the way it looks, know that Sidekick Smart is a discreet solution. It looks exactly like a regular watch, so no one will know it's a medical alert system!
Sidekick Smart runs on AT&T's network with GPS and Wi-Fi tracking. That means help can be sent no matter where you are, whether you're taking a jog, golfing, or running errands. If you need assistance, simply tap the “emergency call” button on the touchscreen or hold down the knob on the side of the watch to connect to the monitoring center.
Most of LifeStation's add-ons are typical for the industry. Though they don't offer more techy features like medication reminders, activity sensors, or a mobile app, they offer all of the essentials to keep you protected.
According to a study by the CDC, 36 million older adults experience a fall every year.4 For this reason, I think automatic fall detection is the most important add-on to consider. A fall detection pendant will automatically detect if you fall and send an alert to the monitoring station, even if you're unconscious or unable to press your help button. LifeStation's fall detection pendant costs $9.95 per month, which is average for the industry.
If a first responder or family member needs to enter the house during an emergency and doesn't have a key, this lockbox makes it easy. Instead of breaking down the door, causing expensive property damage, they will receive a code to unlock the LifeStation lockbox and retrieve a key. LifeStation charges $2.95 per month for this lockbox.
FYI: Visit our list of the best medical alert systems for older adults to compare LifeStation to the industry's leading providers.
With this protection plan, you won't have to pay the full price for lost or damaged equipment, which could save you hundreds of dollars. For $5 per month, you'll be eligible for two help button replacements or one system replacement every year.
LifeStation systems range from $22.95 per month for the At Home system to $54.95 per month for the Sidekick Smart. Add-ons such as fall detection ($9.95 per month) may increase your monthly costs.
Since there are no contracts, you can cancel your service and return your equipment anytime. With their 30-day return policy, the company gives you a full refund anytime within the first month of service.
The battery for the At Home pendant lasts about three years, at which time LifeStation will give you a reminder call and send you a new pendant. The battery lasts about five days for the Sidekick, and the system will audibly alert you when the battery is running low. The Sidekick Smart should be charged daily.
There is a wristwatch help button for the in-home systems. However, if you upgrade to the fall detection pendant, it must be worn around the neck to work correctly.
LifeStation’s in-home base stations have a 32-hour backup battery, so you won’t have to worry about a gap in service. If this battery ever gets low, the base speaker will notify you or the user.
AARP. (2018). Most Retirees Prefer to Stay Put.
The Monitoring Association. (2021). What is the TMA Five Diamond Program?
Better Business Bureau. (2021). LifeStation Inc.