You might already know that LifeFone is a longtime leader in helping seniors remain independent. But did you know that since 1976 they’ve managed emergency alerts, and for years they’ve provided remote caregiving services like friendly daily phone calls and automated “Take your medicine” reminders?
We recently tried LifeFone for in-home and on-the-go backup. From the start we were impressed by how smooth they made the experience. Their customer service is strong, and their equipment is surprisingly well made. We came across a few features we think you’ll enjoy, like their emergency mobile app. With this option, LifeFone emphasizes that emergency alert coverage can be practical for anyone with a smartphone.
But we did find a few drawbacks that you should know about, such as spotty service in the backyard (with the in-home pendant). And there are a few other minor factors you’ll want to consider. But don’t worry — we’re sharing everything you need to know about LifeFone today. Let’s kick it off with the pros and cons!
LifeFone launched in 1976 as the US was celebrating our bicentennial. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and disco topped the Billboard 100. How times have changed! But all the while LifeFone has been a stable partner for seniors. They’ve been registered with the Better Business Bureau for decades, and we were surprised to see how few BBB complaints they have: just three!1 Meanwhile, some competitors have received hundreds of grouchy reviews.
The company is based in White Plains, NY, with monitoring centers in NY and Corona, California. We like how LifeFone owns and operates its call centers; they can’t “pass the buck” if service starts to suffer! And for decades LifeFone has prided itself on fielding calls with expertise. In our research, we found that they have earned confident recommendations from hospitals, home health care agencies, and related organizations.2 All right, now that you know more about LifeFone’s history and culture, let’s see how these devices performed for us!
Signing up with LifeFone took us just five minutes online. But you can also call their 800 number to hear all the different options (LifeFone offers lots of options!). We chose a plan with medical alert equipment for at home and on-the-go. We ticked a box to add fall detection, which added $5 per pendant (most companies charge $10 for fall detection). Next were options for discounts. This was a nice surprise! We found that LifeFone monthly rates dropped when we chose a long-term plan. This requires paying for multiple months up front, which is never fun. But thankfully we could cancel anytime and get a prorated refund.
Some LifeFone alternatives would lock us into a contract… only allowing cancellation if we moved to assisted living or passed away. So we found LifeFone to be customer-friendly in this regard. Also, we’d get a free lock box with an annual agreement, which gives emergency responders access to a house key.
Finally, the last step was choosing any extra equipment, like a vanity pendant or a wall button… and upgrading with remote caregiving features like medication reminders. Overall, we thought signup was pretty fast and easy. And a few days later the equipment arrived on time. LifeFone promises delivery within five business days if you order before 3 pm EST.
FYI: With a quarterly or annual LifeFone deal, you can cancel monitoring anytime. You’ll get a prorated refund if you return equipment early.
Getting LifeFone ready to use was easy. For service over our landline, we plugged our phone line into the LifeFone console. Another cord, which LifeFone sent, connects our phone to the system. The LifeFone base unit also plugs into a wall socket. It has a 32-hour battery in case power’s lost.
If you don’t have a landline, setup is even easier: The cellular unit arrives pre-programmed, and it’s ready to go after you connect it to a wall outlet.3 This system includes AT&T 4G LTE cellular service, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Next we turned on the base unit, then pressed its HELP button. Soon we heard a helpful agent with an accent like the folks back home. We explained “This is just a test” and were on our way. We also like how LifeFone’s in-home buttons offer long range coverage of 1300 feet, which is the best in the business. A gripe though is that the great reception might really be in-home only; it was spotty when we tested from outdoors. So you’ll want to keep this in mind.
In our experience, LifeFone equipment is easy to use. With the exception of LifeFone wall buttons, all the equipment has a nice black-and-white design. Devices for some other medical alert companies make us a little nervous with their huge red HELP buttons!
For the in-home plan, we were able to summon help through the base station button or by pressing the wearable. Note that pressing the button activates two-way voice communication through the base station, which allowed us to speak directly to emergency response agents (calls can also be placed automatically with a fall detection pendant).
Although we could hear the operator clearly, the speaker on the in-home system might not be loud enough for folks with a hearing impairment. Some other brands we’ve tested have speakers that are loud to the point of shrill… and for good reason! They’re meant for ears that have been around the block a few times. For the LifeFone GPS Voice-In-Necklace pendant, on the other hand, we were able to set the volume perfectly.
Did You Know: Fall detection technology isn’t 100% accurate with any medical alert brand. So, if you do happen to fall, remember to press the call button immediately, if possible.
What’s it like to wear a LifeFone button? We considered comfort, practicality, and “coolness” or style. We found that LifeFone scores slightly above average in all three areas:
With LifeFone we didn’t have to pay for equipment unless we upgraded to the vanity pendant or a beaded chain. LifeFone charges are actually for the 24/7 monitoring, not the devices themselves, but note that this is pretty common for the industry. When pressed, our alerts go to the main LifeFone dispatching center in White Plains, New York. However, when call traffic is heavy, we might reach a LifeFone emergency operator in Syracuse or in Corona, California.
In our tests, LifeFone didn’t have the overall fastest response time on average. We found top-rated systems like Medical Guardian and Bay Alarm Medical to be more responsive when it mattered most. Still, with LifeFone, you can count on expert help within a minute and sometimes much sooner. An agent told our team that 25 to 60 seconds is the norm.
We like how the operators were friendly and efficient, starting with “Hello. Do you need help?” If we did need help, we wouldn’t need to specify our location, as the operator could see our home address.
FYI: If we accidentally press a medical alert button, that’s OK! LifeFone doesn’t charge per alert. In fact, most medical alert companies encourage you to occasionally test their systems.
In our experience, friendly and respectful service is one of LifeFone’s strengths. This held true when we were potential customers making an inquiry, and thankfully after signup, too. We appreciate how the sales agent didn’t pressure us at all; she simply answered our questions without seeming to have a commission in mind. We found this to be refreshing.
We also found lots of companies in the pro-LifeFone camp. For instance, LifeFone scores 4.5 out of 5 stars at TrustPilot, where more than 700 customers have shared their LifeFone reviews. And here’s one of the best ratings of all: The Better Business Bureau gives LifeFone an A+ for transparency and other aspects of customer service.
LifeFone customer service lines are open Monday through Sunday from 8 in the morning to 10 p.m. EST. These hours are more generous than what other medical alert companies offer, and especially on weekends. We were also able to reach customer service by email and get a response the same day. And of course, emergency alerts get fielded 24/7. LifeFone did well in the customer service category, but it was nothing truly exceptional.
LifeFone gives you a choice of home-only and on-the-go buttons (some of their plans combine the two!). Here we show regular prices for their monthly monitoring subscription. You’ll want to remember that the basic equipment is provided for free, and the monthly monitoring charge stops when you return the free equipment.
|At-Home Landline||At-Home Cellular||At-Home & On-the-Go GPS||At-Home & On-the-Go Voice in Necklace|
|Connection Type||Landline||4G LTE Cellular||4G LTE Cellular||4G LTE Cellular|
|Range||1,300 ft.||1,300 ft.||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Two-Way Talk||Using Base Unit||Using Base Unit||Using Base Unit||In Wearable|
|Fall Detection Available||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cost||$24.95 per month||$34.95 per month||$36.95 per month||$39.95 per month|
We like how the in-home medical alert buttons don’t require recharging. The batteries can last for up to five years, and LifeFone replaces buttons when battery power gets too low.
Meanwhile, the home-only base stations use a normal power outlet. And they have 32-hour battery backup in case of power outages. This is good, but some brands like Medical Care Alert really deliver here with a 72-hour battery backup.
As you might guess, the At-Home Landline system works with a home’s already-installed landline. The base station offers a long range to keep track of our pendant, plus it has a built-in button for emergency help. It can connect with a LifeFone wall button, too. Pressing the wall button will activate the base station speaker. At $24.95 per month, we think it’s an affordable option for at-home coverage. Here are the main features:
For homes without landlines, At-Home Cellular gives a 24/7 emergency connection with its own cellular chip. This system looks identical to the At-Home Landline system and offers the same benefits, including a temperature sensor. The white and black base station has a big emergency button, and the unit can monitor wall buttons as well as wearables. We recommend cellular units over landline units; we’ve found cellular connections to be faster and more reliable. At $34.95 per month, the coverage is reliable and affordable. This system features:
Let’s be honest… most medical alert buttons aren’t exactly Vogue quality. But in the past several years, some medical alerts companies have started dressing up their neck pendants with inspiration from fashion jewelry. In fact, we’re really liking Bay Alarm Medical’s options in this category. But LifeFone’s vanity pendants are also some of the best we’ve seen. Naturally, at $89, it’s also the priciest pendant we’ve seen; but we think it’s worth the extra money if it means Mom will actually wear her medical alert necklace and not “forget to wear it” because of, you know, vanity.
So we could drive to the dog park, put the unit in our pocket or purse, and get protection if a Doberman knocked us down or a bad guy approached. But if we’re going for a walk, the GPS button with the small base station doesn’t feel so convenient. We’d rather bring our phone with the LifeFone emergency app.4
Back at home, the on-the-go pendant has a 600-ft range from its base unit (keep in mind, the home-only unit offers more than double the range at 1300 ft.). The base unit plugs into the wall and has 30-hour battery backup in case we lose power. As with the home-only units, we can also add fall detection for $5 per month. Some other features to note:
Back at home, the on-the-go pendant has a 600-ft range from its base unit (keep in mind, the home-only unit offers more than double the range at 1,300 ft.). The base unit plugs into the wall and has a 30-hour battery backup in case you lose power. As with the home-only units, you can also add fall detection for $5 per month. Some other features to note:
Pro Tip: LifeFone likes vacations. We can temporarily transfer our in-home alert service to our weekend getaway or anywhere with a landline. Making the change is free and quick.
If you’ve been searching for a medical alert system, you’ve probably seen that countless companies are competing for attention. LifeFone tries to distinguish itself by offering top-notch customer service along with special features for remote caregiving. Options include:
|Services & Add-Ons||Price|
|Fall Detection||$5 per month|
|Activity Assurance||$6 per month|
|Medication Reminders||$6 per month|
|Daily Phone Call||$19 per month|
|Location Services||$9 per month|
|Wall-Mounted Button||$39.95 each|
|Vanity Pendant||$89 each|
|Beaded Lanyard||$21.95 each|
|Lock Box||Included in Annual Plans or Up to $39.95|
Unique special features help make LifeFone one of our favorite medical alert systems. However, we didn’t find anything especially innovative about LifeFone in this category, as many of these options have become standard in the industry. Read on for details about free and paid upgrades.
Free Monitoring for Another Person
This deal for in-home alert systems can make LifeFone twice as affordable as its competitors. Of course, both users need to share an address. LifeFone only charges a one-time fee, about $35, to give coverage for your spouse. Note that One Call Alert is another safe bet for couples and affordable spouse monitoring.
Lookin’ good! We were surprised by the quality of LifeFone’s beaded lanyards. Each is handmade with a string of black and white or all-black beads. And with practicality in mind, the stainless steel chains have magnetic closures. At $21.95 each, we think they’re stylish upgrades to regular pendant lanyards, which are simple black cords.
Remote caregiving features from LifeFone can help seniors feel safe at home. Activity Assurance is mostly an automated option, and it costs $6 per month. You’ll choose a 15-minute window for daily check-ins, such as from 7 a.m. to 7:15 after waking up. We tested it, and with notice we were able to change the schedule… and if we didn’t check in, LifeFone was sure to get in touch. Depending on your instructions, they can call emergency workers right away or try your personal contacts first. It’s a nice upgrade, but it’s not for everyone.
Also at $6 per month, this remote caregiving service is automated and works with an in-home base station; the unit beeps and a text message scrolls across the data window. By pressing a button, we confirm that we’ve seen the medication reminder. Subscribers and caregivers can set up to four medication reminders per day, and we can adjust the instructions whenever needed.
Daily Check-in Call
While automated caregiving services can give peace of mind, we prefer the personal touch of a daily check-in phone call. This costs $19 per month and is especially important if a senior (or anyone with health issues) is physically isolated from loved ones.
We like the comfort of knowing that someone will call just to ask how we’re doing. The operator can also give reminders about medications, appointments and so forth. We can also specify the best times to call. We like LifeFone’s daily check-ins, but if you’re really looking for that extra peace of mind, we recommend checking out Medical Guardian’s ‘Family Guardian’ plan. It’s not the cheapest plan out there, but it’s rock solid.
For an additional $9 per month, GPS Location Service is a helpful add-on for LifeFone on-the-go buttons. From a relative’s perspective, we like how it can confirm that Mom arrived home safe and sound from the market. Also, respect to LifeFone for ensuring that family members can’t go overboard with GPS tracking! With $9 service you’ll get about one check per day (30 location requests each month). If you want an average of two location checks per day, you’ll pay an extra $5. Not bad.
LifeFone Mobile Emergency App
When you don’t want to wear a medical alert system, LifeFone’s mobile app can offer a little peace of mind for $7.95 per month. Using the app, your phone screen will show three buttons: Panic, Medical, and Concern. We love the invention of “Concern” because it lets you keep an emergency operator on the line until you feel like you’re someplace safe. Again, it costs $7.95 per month for new subscribers, and $5.95 per month for current LifeFone customers.
LifeFone has three styles of lock boxes, all with space to store several keys. They range in price from, well, free to $39.95. If we call for emergency personnel, the dispatcher will share our lockbox code so that no one needs to break down our door like a Hollywood hero! With annual plans a lock box is free.
Did You Know: LifeFone reports that about 30 percent of customers with fall detection have at least one false alert per
Wall buttons make LifeFone more like traditional home security systems. Offered at $39.95 each, these allow you to push a button in case help is needed from emergency responders or others on your contact list. We found it easy to attach a button to the wall with removable adhesive and Velcro. But we’re not so wild about how it looks; with bold red, it isn’t discreet! But we do like how it helps us feel more protected in our home.
Fall detection can be lifesaving. We like how LifeFone makes it available for just $5 per month; most other companies charge double. Keep in mind though, fall detection technology isn’t perfect! That’s because people move in so many ways. (Think about dancing, for example, and yoga.)
Sometimes a fall isn’t detected automatically, so it’s always best to push the button if you can. LifeFone reports that about 30 percent of customers with fall detection have at least one false alert per month.5 The more active you are, the more likely you’ll trigger an alert. But as mentioned above, that’s not a huge problem; you can easily cancel the call.
Emergency Care Contacts
When we first started with LifeFone, we set up emergency protocols with this free feature. For instance, maybe we’d want LifeFone to call our neighbor before calling 911. With LifeFone, as well as most other brands, we were able to update our emergency plans anytime.
Leather Carrying Case for GPS Button
LifeFone is definitely among the more stylish medical alert brands we’ve seen, and their leather carrying case really showcases this. While our vegan team member isn’t a fan, most of us would treat ourselves! At $18.95, it’s not super-cheap. But, besides keeping the GPS button looking brand-new, we think it makes the system look more discreet.
We enjoyed trying LifeFone and would recommend this company to our loved ones. The company gave us reliable emergency backup for less than $1 a day. Of course, we racked up a bigger bill than we bargained for… so just be careful with all the add-ons and upgrades available.
It’s not a perfect system, but for in-home medical alerts, LifeFone is among our favorite companies. The systems have long range, and LifeFone has one of the best-looking in-home pendants for women. On the other hand we aren’t always crazy about the on-the-go GPS button; some competitors let you get away without a mobile base station. We figure that’s why LifeFone developed their mobile phone app for emergencies, and we do think that’s pretty comforting.
Overall we’re impressed by LifeFone’s mix of customer-friendly policies, high-quality technology, and remote caregiving upgrades. You can try a system free for 30 days, and most LifeFone deals are affordable and contract-free. But even with long-term subscriptions you can get a refund if your needs change. Overall, it’s a pretty solid system for the price.
LifeFone: Trustpilot Profile. (2020, April 13). Trustpilot.
LifeFone: Better Business Bureau® Profile. (2020, April 16). BBB.
LifeFone. (2020). Easy Setup System.
LifeFone. (2015). LifeFone Mobile Apps.
LifeFone. (2020). Frequently Asked Questions.