Which cell phone should I buy for my grandmother?

Cell Phone Image Gallery The Clarity C900 cell phone has features that may appeal to senior citizens who normally avoid cell phones. See more cell phone pictures.
© Clarity

One of the great aspects of modern technology is how so much of it allows us to stay in touch with one another. Social networking sites like Facebook let us keep tabs on what's going on in the lives of our friends and family. Services like Twitter let us send a message to an entire collection of friends and make plans on the fly. And that's just the tip of the iceberg -- instant messaging, e-mail, voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) and video conferencing are accessible technologies that many of us depend on daily.

But there's one demographic that manufacturers traditionally have a hard time reaching: the elderly. And because manufacturers have a tough time getting a hold in that market, it's not easy for the rest of us to stay in touch with our older friends and relatives. The technology we rely on to keep us in the loop are the same gadgets and applications that older people seem to avoid.

The reasons why technology companies aren't marketing cell phones to older adults range from physical issues such as failing eyesight and hearing to cultural barriers. While companies view baby boomers as tech-savvy consumers, the oldest members of the baby boomer generation and people born during the previous generation may not be as comfortable with modern gadgets. They may think of such devices as intimidating or too complicated to use.

­­But a gadget like a cell phone could be a great benefit to an elderly person. It can help that person maintain his or her independence. At the same time, it may even reduce their sense of isolation. According to Jamie van den Bergh of Clarity, most elderly individuals cite a fear of being in a nursing home, not a fear of death, as being the worst factor of growing older. For some senior citizens, a cell phone may allow them to continue to live on their own.