A medical alert system can alleviate caregiver concerns and give older adults the confidence to live independently. But how do you choose the right provider? Lively and Medical Guardian are two of our top recommendations. They offer reliable, discreet protection, and we are impressed with their long-standing reputations for excellent customer service, specifically tailored to older adults.
Lively is an ideal provider for seniors looking to turn their current mobile device into a medical alert system. You'll want to be aware of Lively's activation fees, which we will get into later. Medical Guardian offers high-tech features like a smartwatch-style device and discreet on-the-go systems, but the monthly service fees are some of the highest among leading medical alert providers. If you're wavering between the two companies, we've dug into the product details and analyzed the fine print to give you a comprehensive comparison. Let's dive in!
If you're familiar with the popular senior-friendly flip phone, the Jitterbug Flip2, then you've probably heard of Lively, formerly known as GreatCall.
The well-known company was established in 2005 by entrepreneur and investor Arelene Harris with the mission to make technology more accessible to seniors.2 Not only does Lively offer senior-centered cell phone service, but they also provide flexible, lightweight medical alert protection with their Lively Mobile Plus and Lively Wearable2 devices. In the last few years, Lively's medical alert devices and cell phones have become available for purchase in multiple stores nationwide, convenient for seniors who prefer to avoid online transactions.
We like that Lively also offers the chance for your caregiver or loved one to check in with you through Lively Link, a free smartphone app that lets them monitor the wearer's safety and health.
Geoff Gross, founder and CEO of Medical Guardian, was inspired in 2005 by his grandmother, who needed protection at home after experiencing multiple falls. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the company provides medical alert protection to 200,000 U.S. customers. With high-tech features, sleek equipment, and highly-trained call center representatives, Medical Guardian checks all the boxes of a top-tier medical alert provider.
If you're budget-conscious like us, price is a major factor you'll want to consider when selecting a medical alert provider. Both Lively and Medical Guardian have competitive rates compared to industry standards, but Lively's basic plan is a few dollars cheaper than Medical Guardian’s base packages.
FYI: Keep in mind that Medical Guardian’s most inexpensive option is not a mobile system, which means it only monitors the wearer in the home. Since Lively's devices are all mobile, seniors have medical alert protection both in the house and on the go.
|Monthly service fee||$19.99 – $39.99 per month||$29.95 – $49.95 per month*|
|Device fee||Yes, for all systems and phones||Yes, for select systems|
|Activation fee||$35 (one time)||None|
|Shipping fee||Free standard shipping||$12.50 (waived on annual plans)|
|Automatic fall detection||Available on Ultimate Plan at $34.99 to $39.99 per month||$10 per month|
|Other available add-ons||Choose from a Basic, Preferred, or Ultimate Plan, each with various features.||Monthly protection plan, extra help buttons, On Guard emergency notifications, and wall help buttons.|
*Monthly rates vary based on your chosen payment plan
Lively has three Health & Safety Packages to choose from: Basic, Preferred, and Ultimate. Each package comes with various health and safety features; we like that Lively offers different monitoring levels, so you can choose the plan that's right for your budget and lifestyle. Prices for each package will vary between phones and standalone devices.
FYI: You can purchase Lively devices in-store at Best Buy, Rite Aid, Amazon, or Walgreens. This is great for older adults who prefer in-person purchases as opposed to online!
Though Medical Guardian costs slightly more, the company provides more variety in devices and add-ons than Lively. Medical Guardian has six systems to choose from and offers both on-the-go, in-home, and hybrid monitoring. When purchasing a Medical Guardian device, you'll have the option to select a monthly, quarterly, or annual payment option. The quarterly and annual options offer discounted rates, and we recommend going with the annual payment plan because you'll receive a free month of service. Plus, they throw in free shipping, a lockbox, and a second help button. What a deal!
Buyer's Tip: Lively and Medical Guardian run specials throughout the year. To make sure you're not missing out, call their customer service line and ask if they are currently running any special deals or discounts. Representatives will make sure you get the best rate and may even throw in some freebies!
Your monthly rates with Medical Guardian will vary depending on the system and payment plan you select, but they typically range between $29.95 to $49.95 per month before add-on features.
Between Lively and Medical Guardian, there are eight medical alert systems to choose from. Lively also offers two cell phones that double as medical alert systems. We'll take a closer look at each system below.
Lively's two alert systems, Lively Wearable2 and Lively Mobile Plus, are both mobile units, which means they can protect users within or outside the home. If you're looking for an affordable mobile system, then Lively may be the provider for you. Keep in mind that mobile options need to be charged regularly, and they rely on strong cell service. The Lively Wearable2 is a watch that allows seniors to track their steps and turn their current smartphone into a personal medical alert device, so it's great for active users.
In addition to their two alert systems, Lively also offers a smartphone (Jitterbug Smart3) and flip phone (Jitterbug Flip2) for users who don't want a wearable alert system. Since 81 percent of older adults ages 60 to 69 use a smartphone and 62 percent of those over the age of 70 use one, this is an excellent option for tech-loving seniors.
|Lively Mobile Plus||Lively Wearable2||Jitterbug Flip2||Jitterbug Smart3|
|Monthly price||$24.99 to $39.99 per month||$24.99 to $39.99 per month||$19.99 to $34.99 per month||$19.99 to $34.99 per month|
|GPS location tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Fall detection available||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Battery life||80 hours||4 months||Up to 12 hours of talk time||Up to 12 hours of talk time|
|Best for||Seniors looking for one-piece on-the-go protection||Turning your smartphone into a medical alert device||Seniors who want a basic phone with medical alert features||Those who want a smartphone with safety features|
Medical Guardian has a diverse lineup of systems ranging in features and prices. One that stands out above the rest is Freedom 2.0. The sleek smartwatch-style alert device is excellent for tech-savvy active seniors who want some extra protection. The wrist-worn gadget can send text messages, set calendar notifications, and track activity. One downside to the Freedom 2.0 is that it is the only Medical Guardian device without fall detection capabilities since it can’t be worn as a pendant. The Mini Guardian, another standout system, is Medical Guardian's smallest device and great for seniors looking for simple, sleek protection on-the-go with optimal battery life.
FYI: Medical Guardian has launched Freedom 2.0, the second iteration of Freedom Guardian. It's currently available for preorder on the company's website.
|Mini Guardian||Freedom 2.0||Active Guardian||Mobile 2.0||Home 2.0||Classic Guardian|
|GPS location tracking||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||N/A|
|Fall detection available||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Battery life||5 days||3 days||7 days||5 days||32-hour backup battery||32-hour backup battery|
|Best for||Discreet mobile protection||Mobile protection for active seniors||All-in-one mobile protection||At-home and on-the-go protection||At-home protection with no landline||At-home landline protection|
*Monthly rates will vary based on your chosen payment plan.
When it comes to accessories and add-ons, Medical Guardian takes the cake compared to Lively. Medical Guardian's subscription packages are more customizable, while Lively doesn't have any add-on equipment per se. Instead, their add-on features are built into the three Health & Safety Packages. If you're looking for add-ons such as lockboxes, pendant jewelry, and wall buttons, then Medical Guardian is where you'll want to look.
Keep in mind that most of these add-ons will add a few dollars to your monthly service fee. For seniors who are content with simplified packages, Lively can deliver that.
Below, we'll take a look at the fine print, including warranties, return policies, and cancellation terms you need to be aware of before subscribing to Lively or Medical Guardian.
The good news is that neither provider requires a long-term contract. That means you can bow out of service whenever you need to without penalties. They will refund you for any unused months of service that you already paid for.
Money-Saving Tip: Medical Guardian and Lively have “refer-a-friend” reward programs. If you're a current subscriber and refer a friend who joins, you will receive $25. Ask a customer service representative for details.
We don't take on a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to medical alert systems. Each senior has a unique budget, lifestyle, preferences, and reason for purchasing a medical alert system. Medical Guardian and Lively are both excellent providers with A+ ratings4 from the Better Business Bureau.5 Though we do think choosing one over the other leans heavily on what exactly you're looking for. Below we've listed out which provider we recommend for various seniors.
You really can't go wrong with Medical Guardian or Lively. Though we aren't big fans of Lively's device and activation fees, their monthly prices are very reasonable, perfect for seniors looking for mobile monitoring. Medical Guardian has various devices that cater to active seniors looking for sleek equipment, along with more basic systems for homebodies. However, you'll want to keep in mind the more expensive monthly subscription price of their high-tech devices. With no long-term contracts, both providers offer flexibility for customers, which we appreciate!