Over 90 percent of adults, age 65 and older, want to stay in their home as long as possible, and 80 percent believe their current home is where they will always live.1 This desire for independence is often coupled with an increased need for safety precautions. Medical alert devices can provide safety, while those with a long range can often provide the freedom and independence that most of us want. After many hours of review and analysis, we have selected four systems that we think accomplish this goal.
In business for more than 70 years, Bay Alarm Medical has earned a solid reputation in the industry. Their systems are affordably priced and offer 24/7 nationwide coverage with AT&T 4G LTE. Bay Alarm provides excellent range with at-home systems and also offers three great options for roaming while away from home. Bay Alarm Medical demonstrates a commitment to the highest possible range regardless of the size home or lifestyle that you lead.
Bay Alarm Medical offers high-quality equipment that’s easy to set up and use. They offer both wireless and landline at-home options, multiple on-the-go options, and several affordably priced bundle packages.
Let’s begin with at-home systems, which are most appropriate if you or your loved one is homebound or seldom leaves the house independently. The range that Bay Alarm provides between its base station and pendant is, if not the best in the industry, pretty close to it. At 1,000 feet it will enable you to cross from one corner of your house to another as well as move about in your backyard.
In addition, Bay Alarm demonstrates their emphasis on range by offering three different at-home packages, depending on the size of your home. Those living in an apartment or a condominium can opt for a less expensive $19.95 per month package that includes just the wearable help button. Bay recommends two additional wall buttons for those in average-sized homes for a monthly price of $24.95 or a four-button pack for those in multi-story homes for $29.95 per month. In addition to offering a variety of packages to fit your home space, you may find that the cost of Bay Alarm Medical’s systems are hard to beat.
Or maybe you are an active older adult who likes to be out and about or enjoys travel? Bay Alarm offers several options in mobile coverage that allow you to travel where you please. In addition to its more traditional GPS help button, Bay Alarm also offers the SOS Smartwatch. The smartwatch provides you with most of the same safety features that you would get from other mobile devices but comes in a sleek-looking watch that looks nothing like a medical device. To learn more about this top-of-the-line product, read our Bay Alarm Medical review.
Founded in 2005, Medical Guardian has built a name for themselves in the medical alert system industry through solid customer service and a wide selection of at-home and mobile devices with advanced features. Medical Guardian hits the nail on the head with long ranges in one of its at-home systems, plus a long battery life on two of its four on-the-go systems. The winning combination enables older adults to meander as they like.
Medical Guardian offers a total of six different medical alert devices for at-home and on-the-go protection. In order to customize the device that you choose, they offer nearly a dozen products and services.
As far as their at-home systems go, if you are someone who is looking for the highest range possible, the Classic Guardian is it. It has a range of 1,300 feet which is about three and a half football fields end to end. One thing to note — the Classic Guardian operates from a landline, and unfortunately, their at-home cellular system, the Home Guardian, has a much lower range — only 600 feet. Both are priced a bit higher than other at-home systems, $29.95 per month for the Classic Guardian and $34.95 per month for the Home Guardian. For more details, read our Medical Guardian pricing guide.
In terms of range with on-the-go systems, one of the most important things to consider is whether the device brings you confidence — confidence that the system will provide adequate safety, and confidence that you will feel comfortable actually carrying (or wearing) the device.
With its TMA Five Diamond certified monitoring center, you should also feel secure knowing that the system will competently and quickly assist you if and when you need it. And, as we emphasize in our Medical Guardian analysis, with four different medical alert devices to choose from, you will likely find a model that fits your lifestyle and budget. With confidence, comes freedom.
All of Medical Guardian’s on-the-go medical alert devices use AT&T 4G LTE and include two-way talk and GPS location detection. In addition, all offer optional fall detection, except the Freedom 2.0, which is a smartwatch. One other detail to consider — the Mobile 2.0 comes with a traditional pendant that can be worn at home. If you want an on-the-go system but prefer wearing a smaller, lighter device while at home, the Mobile 2.0 acts as a base station while you wear the pendant. Its range is 300 feet. The on-the-go systems range in price from $39.95 per month to $44.95 per month.
LifeFone, established in 1976, is an industry veteran. They offer quality medical alert devices complemented with a breadth of services. They made the “list of bests” in the range category, both for the extensive range found in their at-home systems and the stunning battery life coupled with two cellular carrier options in one of their on-the-go devices. These features allow you to stretch your wings, be it in your backyard, the grocery store, or trips afar.
In terms of range, LifeFone offers the best of the best in not just one, but both of their at-home systems. With 1,300 feet available between the base unit and the pendant, you can likely move to different floors of your home, the backyard garden, maybe even a neighbor’s stoop. The cost of the At-Home Landline starts at $29.95 while the At-Home Cellular starts at $34.95. Both are priced somewhat higher than other systems, but the exceptional range may make the price worth it. See our LifeFone plans and cost guide for help deciding.
LifeFone’s At-Home and On-the-Go GPS comes with an at-home base unit and wearable button plus a mobile device. The range between the base unit and help button is lower than that of the at-home systems, but at 600 feet, still not too shabby. This comprehensive system is competitive in price at $39.95 per month. The one drawback is that fall detection is only available through a separate pendant, which makes for lots of moving pieces.
FYI: One thing that LifeFone can not lay claim to is a TMA Five Diamond certification, the gold standard in monitoring center certifications. If having this certification is important to you, read our Life Alert pricing page. Just be warned, Life Alert is one of the most expensive alert systems in the industry, and their terms and conditions are fairly strict.
On the other hand, the Voice-in-Pendant is a sleek, lightweight, all-in-one device that enables you to travel where you wish. It has the best battery life that we have seen for a mobile device — 30 hours. It also comes with two options for cellular service, AT&T and Verizon, which we think will give you optimal coverage, and therefore, the confidence to go where you please. Bear in mind that the cost of this package starts at $43.95 per month, which is a bit on the pricey side.
In our review of Lifefone, we also found that they offer many extra services — some free and some with an additional monthly fee. For example, LifeFone offers medication reminders, daily check-ins by the monitoring center, and location tracking. These extras can make a difference in providing peace of mind for caregivers so that older loved ones can continue to lead independent lives while remaining safe.
Established in 2006, MobileHelp is a comprehensive medical alert system that addresses the safety and health of older adults as well as the needs of caregivers. Their two at-home systems (landline and wireless) provide excellent range at an affordable price, and their on-the-go and hybrid systems offer several great options depending on your family’s needs. With the variety of systems that they offer, it is likely that you or your loved one will find a fit.
Not one but two of MobileHelp’s at-home systems have the best range in the business. They made it to our list, in large part, because of this stand-out-in-a-crowd feature. The MobileHelp Wired Home, their landline-based system, boasts of a range of up to 1,300 feet with fees that start at $24.95 per month. The MobileHelp Classic, a wireless system, offers an even better range of 1,400 feet with monthly fees that start at $19.95. Both come with a waterproof help button. You can find more details about at-home system range and cost in our MobileHelp plans, packages, and pricing guide.
Finding a system that you feel comfortable using consistently is essential for older adults who wish to continue exploring, traveling, and playing. MobileHelp offers a wide variety. The MobileHelp Solo, at the reasonable fee of $37.95 per month, runs on AT&T 4G LTE and includes two-way talk, 24/7 monitoring, and location detection. At this time fall detection is offered through a separate pendant, but the system will soon be upgraded to include an all-in-one device. For more on the Solo system, read our MobileHelp review.
In addition, Mobile Help offers: the Mobile Duo, which consists of two mobile devices for spouses or two members of the same household; the MobileHelp Duo, a hybrid at-home and on-the-go system; and the MobileHelp Touch Duo, which includes a tablet and mobile device.
MobileHelp’s extra services also provide an extra measure of security to on-the-go older adults and their caregivers. Their online portal provides location detection for caregivers, medications reminders, and an easily accessible place to store health vitals. For a small monthly fee, they also offer a telehealth service for customers.
The importance of range in a medical alert device depends on your lifestyle and how your medical alert device will be used.
If you are one of the approximately 2 million older adults who rarely leaves home,2 you probably won’t need nationwide coverage or the GPS location tracking feature. However, if you frequently spend your time in your yard or garden or have a large home, you will want to find an at-home medical alert system that has the longest range possible. You will likely see ranges as high as 1,400 feet and as low as 300 feet, and everything in between.
Did You Know: A typical city block in Chicago is 660 feet in length. This means that if you lived in Chicago and used an at-home medical alert system with the highest range possible, you could walk nearly two blocks and still be covered with emergency protection.
The on-the-go medical alert systems, also referred to as mobile medical alert systems, use a cellular signal to communicate; therefore, they have nationwide coverage often with a GPS location tracking feature. This means if you have a mobile medical alert system, you can freely travel anywhere in the country, and you will have long range protection wherever your chosen brand has network coverage.
When shopping for a medical alert device, if you buy a system that doesn’t include a large enough range to fit your needs or your space, you could unknowingly be left without access to medical assistance if you are outside of the coverage area. Another issue could arise if your system lacks the range that you need — you may become frustrated and tempted not to use the system at all. Be sure to do your homework before purchasing. A great place to start is with our analysis of the best medical alert systems.
The range of an at-home medical alert system is determined by the signal capability between the base station and the medical alert device itself. You can determine this by placing the base station in a centrally located area in your home. You can then wear the medical alert device around your neck, on your wrist, or attached to your belt. The range is the distance you can go before your medical alert device would no longer be able to communicate with the base station; this, in turn, would impact communication with the monitoring center once the help button was pushed.
If you have a mobile medical alert system, you won’t need to worry about how far away you are from the base station in your home. A mobile, or on-the-go medical alert device, uses a cellular signal to communicate. So your most important concern with a mobile device is knowing where your provider has network coverage. For example, if your provider uses the AT&T cellular network, then you will have a signal anywhere AT&T has network coverage.3
One thing we are seeing with some systems is the use of two cellular networks. When traveling, this feature will ensure that you do not have interruptions in coverage, which will likely help you feel more confident. To learn the ins and outs of cellular systems, take a peek at our review of the best cellular medical alert systems.
Battery life is also something to consider with on-the-go medical alert systems. Most mobile devices have a 24-hour battery life, which means they need to be charged daily. The need to be close to an outlet could possibly hinder your movement while travelling. We have, however, seen longer battery life in some mobile devices, usually up to five days.
Pro Tip: The best battery life that we have seen in a mobile medical alert is a whopping 30 days! LifeFone’s Voice-in-Pendant takes this honor; however, if fall detection is added, the battery life decreases to about five days (which is still better than 24 hours). Other brands with a five-day battery life include Life Station and Medical Alert.
What other features should you expect in a medical alert system besides a decent range? We have summarized each below.
The central function of any medical alert system is 24/7 emergency monitoring and assistance. Here’s how it works: When you press the help button, a monitoring center agent will communicate with you either through a speaker and microphone on the at-home base unit or the on-the-go mobile device. The agent will assess your needs and immediately send medical assistance if necessary. One thing to look for is a TMA Five Diamond certification, which is the gold standard in monitoring center certifications.
With at-home medical alert systems, the base unit runs off of your home’s electrical system and should include a backup battery (usually with about a 32-hour battery life) in case of a power outage. The help buttons that accompany the base unit use their own batteries and typically have a battery life of a year or longer. With on-the-go systems, the mobile device will have a rechargeable battery. Most need daily recharging, but some last up to five days or longer.
Two-way voice is accomplished through the equipment’s built-in speaker and microphone, enabling you to communicate directly with the monitoring center. At-home systems include this feature within their base unit. When moving away from the base unit, you are able to maintain safety with a wearable help button, which typically does not include two-way talk. Most mobile devices also include two-way talk, so you can roam nearly anywhere and still have the ability to communicate directly with a monitoring center agent.
Mobile monitoring requires the use of an often free companion app that can be downloaded onto the cellular phone of a family member(s) or other caregiver. These apps provide a variety of features, including medication reminders, emergency alerts, location tracking, and more — all managed and monitored from a caregiver’s smart phone. Approved access from the subscriber is necessary. These functions assist caregivers (and provide them peace of mind) and enable older adults to remain independent in the least restrictive environment possible.
Cellular monitoring refers to how the medical alert device communicates, which in this case is by connecting with a cellular network. At-home systems use both cellular and landline monitoring. You will find that cellular monitoring is usually slightly more expensive. On-the-go systems use only cellular monitoring. Using it, you will be covered inside and outside of your home and anywhere your brand's chosen network has coverage. Note that you will be using your provider’s cellular connection, not your own.
We have found that most medical alert systems provide nationwide cellular coverage, but the network that your chosen alert system uses can make a difference in its reliability for you. Most systems (but not all) use AT&T 4G LTE. If you live in an area that does not receive a strong cellular connection from a given network, you will probably want to look at other at-home systems. In addition, if you are active or frequently travel, your mobile medical alert could be impacted by the system’s network.
Fall detection is a recently developed technology that employs sensors to detect a change in acceleration, planes of motion, or impact. The sensors send a signal to the monitoring center when you move quickly from an active state to a still, prone position. In at-home systems, fall detection is embedded within a pendant, ideally worn around the neck. With on-the-go-systems, fall detection is usually included in an all-in-one device. Expect to pay an additional $5 to $10 monthly fee for this beneficial service.
Most on-the-go medical alert systems include GPS location services. When you press the help button, the monitoring center can immediately determine your location. Some systems include advanced GPS location that utilize other technology, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, enabling emergency help to pinpoint more precise locations. For example, if a person were to have a medical emergency inside an office building, GPS would likely identify the location of the building but not your exact whereabouts inside it. Advanced location detection would likely be able to accomplish this.
AARP Public Policy Institute. (2011). Aging in Place: A State Survey of Livability Policies and Practices. AARP.
Alexander, Roberta. (2019, Aug 1). Researchers Say Number of Older ‘Shut-Ins’ Is a Major Concern. Healthline.
AT&T. (2021). Wireless Coverage Map.
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.