iPhone basics for seniors: 7 valuable tips and settings

iphone basics for seniors

Phones and mobile devices are essential tools for use in our day-to-day lives. People can use these devices to connect with friends, listen to the radio, play games, surf the internet, and do many other activities.

Hence, it would be beneficial to familiarize our older loved ones with the technologies that can help them connect with friends and family remotely using a mobile device, such as an iPhone.

The iPhone brand lineup is straightforward, making it a perfect smartphone choice for older persons. However, despite its simplicity, the technicalities of navigating some mobile interfaces can be pretty challenging.

At Seasons Retirement communities, our staff are always ready to help residents with their queries. They have the tech-savvy awareness to help answer fundamental questions regarding mobile devices like iPhones. We have a helpful article that answers many questions you might have on suitable tablet mobile devices for seniors here.

This article focuses on iPhone basics for seniors and provides seven valuable tips and tricks for older adults to have a better user experience when using their iPhones.

1.   Display Zoom

The ‘Display Zoom’ function is a great option to help our parents and grandparents see the text and visuals on their phone’s screen more clearly. This feature, which the user can activate in Settings, enlarges the selectable icons on the phone to be more prominent and legible while also making them easier to press.

Here’s how you can enable this feature:

  • Go to Settings and tap Display & Brightness.
  • Under the ‘Display Zoom’ header, select View.
  • When prompted to choose between ‘Standard’ and ‘Zoomed,’ select the latter and tap ‘Set’ to confirm your selection.
  • Restart the phone to implement the change.

2.   Increase font size

Display zoom enlarges every item on an iPhone screen, but you can still do more to facilitate better reading options for your loved ones. This is where increasing font size comes into play.

To increase the text size on an iPhone:

  • Select the ‘Accessibility’ option in settings.
  • Open Display & Text Size.
  • Tap ‘Larger Text.’
  • Then, move the slider to choose the preferred text size.

Here’s what to include in your iPhone cheat sheet – if the largest text size isn’t enough for clear visibility, you can activate the ‘Larger Accessibility Sizes’ option to increase the text sizes further.

3.   Use Speak Selection

If the screen text isn’t very legible or you’re looking for an audible option instead, you can activate the ‘Speak Selection’ feature on your loved one’s iPhone to allow text to be read out loud.

To enable Speak Selection:

  • Open the ‘Accessibility’ option in settings.
  • Under the ‘Vision ‘section, click on ‘Spoken Content.’
  • Enable Speak Selection.
  • Ask your loved one to select a text and click on the ‘Speak’ option that pops up afterward to use the feature.

Additionally, you can enable the ‘Speak Screen’ feature to read out the screen’s content after making a gesture – swiping with two fingers from the top of the screen.

You can adjust your options for a more customized experience, including the ‘Highlight Content’ setting to follow the text being read out and the ‘Speaking Rate’ setting to control the speed of the voice.

4.   Ringer Volume and LED Alert Flashes

It can be helpful to increase ringer volume on the mobile device; by doing this, your loved ones are less likely to miss calls, texts, and notifications. A higher volume level is recommended as part of seniors’ standard and ideal iPhone settings.

To increase ringer volume:

  • Go to Sounds & Haptics on the iPhone’s settings.
  • Adjust the ‘Ringer and Alerts slider to the desired volume.

You may also choose to disable the ‘Change with Buttons’ feature to disallow the volume buttons on the side from controlling the volume of calls and notifications and media sounds.

Furthermore, it can be a good idea to turn on the ‘Vibrate on Ring’ and ‘Vibrate on Silent’ features, as they also help to reduce the chances of missing a notification on the iPhone.

Here is another one of the iPhone tips for seniors – for visual signalling, you may want to enable the ‘LED Flash for Alerts’ feature to allow the camera light to flash when there is a notification.

To use the ‘LED Flash for Alerts’ feature:

  • Head to the ‘Accessibility’ option in settings.
  • You’ll find the function in the ‘Audio/Visual’ section.

5.   Favourite Contacts

Customizing ‘Favourite Contacts’ is another essential item on our list of iPhone basics for seniors. Keeping a Favourites list makes it easier for your loved one to find frequently used numbers and quickly get in touch with them when necessary.

To add important contacts to an iPhone Favourites list:

  • Go to ‘Phone.’
  • Select ‘Favourites’ on the bottom bar.
  • Tap the ‘+’ icon at the top-left corner of the screen to display the contacts list.
  • Select a contact to add to the Favourites list.
  • Then, choose your preferred method (audio call, video call, or message) of contacting the individual.

You need to repeat the process for every contact you wish to add to the Favourites list.

6.   Siri Voice Dial

Siri is the iPhone’s assistant. It is a program that allows one to give voice commands to a smartphone without touching the screen.

Instead of manually dialling a phone number, Siri can help your loved one place a call by simply using the ‘Voice Dial’ feature.

To enable this feature:

  • Head over to settings.
  • Depending on the iPhone version, tap ‘Face ID & Passcode’ or ‘Touch ID & Passcode’ depending on the iPhone version.
  • Enter the current password to proceed.
  • Activate Voice Dial.

7.   Emergency SOS

The SOS feature, which can act as a Medical Alert System, is an essential tool for emergencies that older adults can use. As part of the iPhone basics for seniors, the SOS feature is programmed to alert emergency services and contacts when your loved one needs help.

To activate the Emergency SOS on the iPhone 8 and later versions, press and hold the side button and one of the volume buttons for a few seconds. Meanwhile, press the side or top button five times for earlier iPhone versions to activate the SOS function.

This action brings the Emergency SOS slider to the screen, and your loved one only needs to drag the slider to complete the emergency call.

The iPhone 8 or later users will place the emergency call by holding the side button and one volume button for about 15 seconds.


Having read through this iPhone tutorial for seniors, you may notice that most of these tips fall under the ‘Accessibility’ tab in settings. Exploring this tab in more detail will let you discover additional features to adjust so your loved ones can find their iPhones easier to use.

Adjusting these settings to what works best for you and your loved one, using a mobile device like an iPhone can be highly accessible and convenient. For any further questions about specific features or settings on iPhones, you can contact our staff for further assistance.

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