Just as cellular phones have brought vast changes to telecommunications, cellular medical alert systems have innovated security systems for older adults. With at-home alert systems, both landline and cellular options are typically offered. Cellular systems tend to run about $5 to $10 more per month but sometimes offer features that landline systems don’t, like optional fall detection. In addition, fewer households use landlines these days, so a cellular option is a must-have.
The use of medical alerts’ cellular technology really comes into play with their on-the-go systems. For many older adults, the thought of being able to access immediate emergency assistance at the push of a button –– regardless of whether they’re in the grocery store, at church, or visiting a friend in another state –– gives them the confidence to remain active as they age.
With cellular systems, aging adults have the flexibility to choose the type of device they want to carry or wear, and medical alert companies have increased their offerings accordingly. This might come in the form of a smartwatch, a car alert, a belt attachment, or a neck pendant. And cellular medical alerts often are paired with other advanced technology, like GPS location detection and fall detection to further enhance safety.
And now, on to our top four cellular medical alert systems.
Bay Alarm Medical is an affordably priced cellular medical alert system that offers 24/7 protection for use around the home and while out and about. Bay Alarm uses AT&T Cellular for all of its seven cellular systems: one at-home, three on-the-go, and three hybrid. We have selected Bay Alarm Medical as the best overall cellular device because of its variety of options, long at-home range, and price point.
Because of its cellular connection, Bay Alarm Medical has been able to branch out and develop several unique on-the-go options. In addition to its traditional GPS help button, it offers the SOS Smartwatch and the Splitsecnd Car Alert. All three units enable an older adult to roam as far as their AT&T connection will take them while still having the security of 24/7 monitoring available.
After reviewing Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch, it became clear that the watch is great for the older adult who wants something with an appearance that is fashion-forward, discreet or techy. The Car Alert is a good layer of protection for an older adult who is often in the car. And the GPS help button is a traditional mobile device. All three on-the-go systems include two-way talk and GPS location detection. The GPS help button offers optional fall detection.
What we really love about Bay Alarm is that even though they offer cellular products with advanced features and variety, they manage to keep their prices low. Monthly Bay Alarm Medical prices for on-the-go systems start at just $24.95.
Bay Alarm’s cellular at-home system also enables an older loved one to wander a short distance, perhaps to the mailbox or garden. However, with a 1,000-foot range, they might extend their reach to their neighbor’s yard. The monthly price for this system starts at $29.95 and includes optional fall detection and two-way talk.
Medical Guardian made our list of Best Cellular Medical Alert systems because of their high-quality mobile devices. Their systems operate with either AT&T or Verizon cellular service, depending on the product you choose. You will pay a few dollars more each month as two of their products have equipment fees, and their monthly fees range from $39.95 to $44.95; however, you will be getting high functionality from a company that has been around since 2005.
Like most medical alert providers, Medical Guardian offers a cellular at-home system, the Home Guardian, and it gets the job done. However its starting monthly price is $34.95, which is a few dollars more than most other systems, and its 600-foot range could be better. See our Medical Guardian pricing guide for more details.
Where Medical Guardian really shines is with their four on-the-go options and multitude of accessories. We have discovered that Medical Guardian has created four unique cellular devices, ensuring that nearly everyone who needs a good cellular system can find a good fit. While distinct, all of the devices have two-way talk, location detection, and optional fall detection.
Leading the way is the Active Guardian, which is waterproof, has a battery life of up to seven days, and uses both Wi-Fi and GPS for precise location detection. The Mobile Guardian is another high-functioning option with the added benefit of a lightweight, waterproof help button that can be worn on the wrist or around the neck. When we reviewed the system, we learned of its 350-foot range of protection between the mobile device and the help button.
For those who want cellular protection in a more discreet form, the Mini Guardian is a flat device that measures 1 ½” x 1”, which is about the dimensions of a raffle ticket and weighs only 1.3 oz. That’s what we call discreet! It also comes in three colors and has a five-day battery life. And then there is the Freedom Guardian, which is a cellular-based smartwatch. This watch is for active seniors who want to monitor fitness and activity. It also features reminders and alerts for medication and appointment management. If you are wondering if this might be the right cellular system for you, read more in our Medical Guardian review.
Cellular technology has ushered in many on-the-go systems that provide a variety of options to choose from, including advanced features. Aloe Care Health is one of the few that has innovated at-home cellular systems. Its centerpiece is the Smart Hub, which provides optimum communication between caregivers and their loved ones. Aloe Care Health uses AT&T 4G LTE.
As the name suggests, the Smart Hub is Aloe Care Health’s at-home central command. It works in conjunction with a caregiver app. Together these two pieces enable everyone in “the care circle” to easily communicate with each other about things like transportation to doctors’ appointments, prescription refills, and changes in your loved one’s health. Caregivers connect through the app on their phone and the older adult communicates (both to caregivers and the monitoring center) through the Hub itself.
After performing a complete analysis of Aloe Care Health, we discovered that their system allows caregivers to receive real-time feedback on their phones from the Hub. For instance, through its motion sensors, you can determine if your loved one is up and moving around. Or through its air quality and temperature sensors, you can find out if their environment is healthy.
Other Aloe Care Health smart devices like smoke detectors, water leak sensors, and stove monitors can be purchased to help keep your loved one safe while aging in place. Any of these products can also be integrated into the caregiver’s app, allowing for central control by all caregivers. These advanced features, which provide peace of mind, would not have been possible without cellular technology.
Although we liked what we saw, Aloe Care Health prices could put a small dent in your wallet. The company offers three packages, and the monthly fees start at $29.95, which is reasonable for an at-home system. However, the cost of the equipment begins at $149.99 and runs as high as $299.99 for a hybrid system.
As far as cellular medical alert devices go, Lively can lay claim to top-of-the-line equipment. At the same time, their prices (especially for the phones) come at a good value, considering that you will be getting a multifunctional device. All of their devices are on the go but could be used in the home just as easily. Lively, which was formerly known as Great Call, is powered by the Verizon Cellular Network.
When most people think about cellular devices, cellphones are what usually come to mind. Lively takes it a step further by offering a cell phone and medical alert system wrapped into one. Of their four systems, two are cell phones, the Jitterbug Smart3 and the Jitterbug Flip2. The Jitterbug Smart3 is a Samsung Android phone with 16 GB of storage and a 5 ½-inch screen. Other features include voice dialing/texting, a 13 MP camera, Brain Games, video chat, and mobile internet access.
The Jitterbug Flip2 is a folding mobile phone, also made by Samsung. It’s easy to use and has a simple large-print menu and big keypad buttons, with a red emergency help button at the bottom of the number pad. Added perks, designed especially for older adults, include dialing and texting by voice, an 8 MP camera, Brain Games for mental sharpness, and a reading light with a magnifier.
Add to this are the safety features on both phones that we have come to expect in a medical alert system: access to a 24/7 monitoring center, location detection, optional fall detection through the addition of the Lively Wearable2 (a help button that can be worn as a watch or neck pendant), and a caregiver’s app.
Given that these high-functioning devices serve as both smartphones adapted for older adults and medical alert devices, Lively prices are much lower than you would expect. The equipment fee is only $149.99 for the Jitterbug Smart3 and $99.99 for the Jitterbug Flip2. Monthly fees are a low $24.99, which beat (by far) the majority of on-the-go cellular systems. Want to learn more? Read our hands-on Lively tests and review.
A benefit of all the medical alert systems we tested was that customers could use the medical alert company’s cellular service rather than their own. This means there was no need to pay extra for a cellular plan; the cost is included in your monthly fees. And you can travel as near or as far as the cellular service provides coverage.
Still not sure which service suits you? Take a brief quiz on how to choose the right medical alert system and get matched with the system that suits you best.
With at-home systems, it is important to determine if the area in which you live is covered by your provider’s cellular service. With on-the-go systems, it is important to remember that coverage could be spotty depending on where you travel. Luckily, in recent years, these areas have become fewer and farther between. Learn more about the best mobile medical alert systems.
Pro Tip: Some providers sell their equipment while others rent their equipment. If you rent the equipment, the cost is absorbed in your monthly fee, and this is typically the only cost you will be required to pay. If buying the equipment, you will have a one-time equipment fee along with monthly fees. For further explanation, read our Medical Alert Systems Buying Guide.
Before choosing a cellular medical alert device, make sure it has the features that you need and want. Here are some of the most common features of medical alert systems.
The cellular medical alert systems on our list each come stacked with 24/7 emergency response. This is a must-have feature that ensures reliable help at the push of a button. But remember, not all monitoring centers are created equal. Look for one that provides adequate training to its associates. A TMA Five Diamond certification designates the best of the best in monitoring centers. And the faster the response time, the safer you’ll be.
No landline? No problem. Medical alert systems are powered by the same cellular technology that powers your cell phone — so you’re free to roam with peace of mind. In the case of at-home systems, this could be the backyard or garage. In the case of on-the-go systems, this might mean across town or across the country. Wireless connectivity is especially helpful for active seniors. Keep moving; you’re covered.
Falls happen: at grocery stores, at the community center, and other places away from home. So it’s wise to get fall detection with your cellular alert system. The sensors detect a fall and automatically contact the response team on your behalf. This is important because sometimes a fall can render you unconscious or unable to communicate. While it’s normally offered as a paid upgrade, it’s worth it. We’re talking $10 per month for priceless peace of mind.
If you’re looking for a simple setup, then cellular alert systems are your perfect match. In fact, some cellular devices can be up and running in less than five minutes flat. This feature is particularly attractive as there’s no fuss, no headaches, and no problems. Directions are often provided in quick setup guides and reinforced through voice prompts. But often, it is just plug and play! Easy setup is a fantastic feature for the DIY crowd.
Battery life matters, especially with cellular medical alert systems. Most on-the-go devices have a 24-hour battery life and need to be recharged daily. This is not such a bad thing because it forces you to get into the daily habit of placing your device in the charger. Some devices have longer battery lives of five to seven days. We have even seen one with a 30-day battery! But extended battery lives on mobile alert devices are the exception, not the rule.
With nationwide coverage, most cellular alert systems will work (almost) anywhere you go in the United States. Remember, you will be using your medical alert provider’s service, not your own. However, before purchasing an at-home system, it is a good idea to check the coverage of the provider’s cellular service in your area. You don’t want to risk dropping calls with the monitoring center during an emergency.
Get on-the-go monitoring with GPS location services. GPS location detection tracks your whereabouts whether you’re at home, out for a walk, at the library, or hitting the trails. Help is always close at hand. Many systems are now providing access to location detection to caregivers through an app that works in conjunction with the medical alert system. If you are concerned about an older loved one, you can check their whereabouts quickly and easily.
After earning a degree in journalism, Jenny Wisniewski spent much of her professional life in education; however, she returned to writing in earnest in the senior care space, acting as caregiver to her mother. She has hand-tested the industry’s top medical alert systems, writing nearly 50 in-depth articles that help seniors age safely in place. Jenny also covers caregiving, Medicare, assisted living, memory care, and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Previously, she’s written for national publications such as Country Magazine and Sierra Magazine. Jenny holds dual bachelor’s degrees in English/Journalism and Political Science from Miami University in Oxford, OH. She currently resides in Milwaukee, WI.