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Older Americans Now Can Connect for as Little as $7 a Month

Wed, 12/22/2010 - 5:42am
WASHINGTON, /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Thanks to a major price war that has broken out among wireless companies, older Americans can now purchase a "senior friendly" prepaid cell phone for less than $15 and get service for as little as $7 a month, according to an analysis conducted by the Senior Advocate Health & Safety Project of the independent and nonprofit Alliance for Generational Equality (AGE), which represents seniors as well as Americans in other generations.

  High prices have often been cited by an estimated 13 to 19 million U.S. seniors for not taking advantage of the health, safety and other benefits of owning a cell phone. In response, the Senior Advocate Health & Safety Project of the independent and nonprofit Alliance for Generational Equality (AGE) undertook a study of phones and plans offered by three leading "pay as you go" cell phone offerings aimed at older seniors:  GreatCall Jitterbug; Consumer Cellular (which offers a discount for AARP members); and SVC Senior Value Cell Phone by TracFone.

  AGE focused only on those nationally available wireless providers offering inexpensive prepaid plans and "senior friendly" phones with larger buttons, large-number readouts and hearing-aid compatibility. AGE is 100 percent independent and makes no commercial endorsements of any kind.  AGE's Senior Advocate Health & Safety Project has been created to provide older Americans with reliable information they can use to save money, be healthier and live safer lives.

Looking at the three wireless options, AGE found that SVC Senior Value Cell Phone (SVC) had no activation fee, the least-expensive option for service (allowing consumers to keep their phone active for about $7 a month, requiring only $20 in use or payment every three months), and the lowest-priced "senior friendly" handset, the Samsung T155G, for $14.95.

By contrast, both Jitterbug and Consumer Cellular require a $35 "start up" or "activation" fee for new service, impose higher entry points for consumers ($14.99 a month for 50 minutes on Jitterbug and $10 a month to maintain service on Consumer Cellular), and more expensive "senior friendly" handsets ($49-$79 for Jitterbug, even though its features are very similar to the SVC handset, and $25-$30 for Consumer Cellular's Doro handsets).

    On the other hand, the differences between the three services are less evident for higher-volume callers, with Jitterbug at $19.99 for 100 minutes, Consumer Cellular with $20 for 250 minutes and $19.99 for 125 minutes at SVC.  Even at these levels, the additional activation fee and higher handset costs would offset much of the differences between these plans, AGE noted.

All three services provide nationwide coverage with no roaming costs, with SVC also providing international calls to 100 destinations for the same price as local calls (the same as its sister TracFone brand).

David Herman, vice president and national spokesperson, Alliance for Generational Equity, said: "Expensive cell phone plans no longer need be an impediment to American seniors getting wireless. Older Americans who still don't have cell phones should think seriously about taking advantage of the aggressive price war now going on among wireless companies to get more seniors to take the plunge. And for seniors who are paying too much on pricey contract-based cell phone service and throwing away hundreds of minutes a year, it's a good time to think about switching to a cheaper prepaid plan."

Mac Haddow, senior fellow on public policy, AGE Senior Advocate Health & Safety Project, said:  "The current price war among cell phone plans catering to older Americans is good news for seniors and for those who may want to buy an affordable cell phone for a parent or grandparent.  What we are seeing here is basically the extension of prepaid cell phone prices savings to one of the huge markets out there – the 13 to 19 million older Americans who either don't currently own a cell phone or no longer have one. The key here is to be a savvy shopper and get the cheapest possible deal that meets your needs."

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