Seniors who live alone often report feeling nervous about their risk of suffering an injury from falling or experiencing a medical emergency they’re unable to handle themselves. Medical alert devices help seniors feel more confident and safe in their homes, allowing them to enjoy independence and stay involved with the local community as long as possible.
Choosing the right medical alert device isn’t always easy. Comparing manufacturers fairly is difficult because of the wide range of monthly fees, up-front costs, added extras, features and contracts. Our side-by-side comparisons help seniors choose between some of the best medical alert systems on the market.
When comparing Life Alert and ADT, we found that both offer landline and cellular-based services. ADT is the most appealing of the two providers, thanks to the company’s lower fees, more flexible contract options and the availability of fall detection as an optional extra.
Life Alert vs. ADT Comparison Table
|Lowest Monthly Cost||$49||$29.95|
|Highest Monthly Cost||$69||$39.99|
|Long-Term Contract||No||$28.99 activation fee|
|Up-Front Fees||$95-$96 depending on package||None|
|Fall Detection||No||Optional extra for Plus and On The Go Plans at $10/month|
|Optional Extras||Wall-mounted waterproof help button||Spouse monitoring for $14.95 Lockbox Extra pendants and wrist buttons Wall-mounted help button|
|Base Station Range||800 feet||300 to 600 feet depending on package|
|Battery Life||10 years (non-rechargeable unit)||24-hour backup on base unit|
About Life Alert
Life Alert is a company with a lot of brand recognition. It’s best known for its TV advertisements with the senior saying, “Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” which have become iconic among the generation that’s now becoming old enough to consider using medical alert devices themselves.
While Life Alert is a respected brand, it’s been slow to adopt new technologies. It doesn’t offer fall detection, claiming the technology is immature and that seniors report feeling frustrated with the number of false positives it generates. Life Alert’s products are simple, relying on a non-rechargeable pendant with a 10-year battery life and additional wall buttons for high-risk areas, including an optional water-resistant wireless wall button intended for use in the bathroom.
The up-front costs and subscription fees charged by Life Alert are above-average for a single senior. However, the company’s pricing structure may appeal to couples who live together. Seniors can purchase a second in-home alert button for $49 and use that with their existing subscription, effectively getting two monitoring packages for the price of one. Doing this can help make the company’s fees more attractive compared to other brands.
Life Alert packages all have a three-year contract that can only be broken if the subscriber dies or moves into a nursing home. Most other companies offer month-to-month billing or a one-year contract term. Those who are considering moving into an assisted living facility or, perhaps, with younger relatives in the next year or two may prefer a more flexible contract.
ADT is a home security company that offers medical alert systems under the brand ADT Health. Unlike Life Alert, which makes its own hardware, ADT uses a third party that manufactures products for more than one company. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as the hardware ADT supplies is robust and reliable, although not particularly sophisticated.
The base unit supplied with the landline service has a 300-foot range, while the cellular base unit has a 600-foot range. Both are shorter than the range offered by some of the high-end brands. The unit uses utility power and has a 24-hour backup battery. There are landline and cellular options available. One interesting feature of the ADT Medical Alert Basic and Plus services is home temperature monitoring. This may be useful for families who fear a loved one is going without heat or air conditioning during extreme temperatures.
Automatic fall detection is available as an optional extra on most ADT plans. The cellular plans include GPS location tracking, giving users the confidence that responders can find them even if they’re not at home. The company offers flexible billing and contract options and has monitoring centers across the country.
For most people, ADT’s service is the logical choice thanks to the lower fees and more flexible contract terms. The company also offers some useful additional services, such as home temperature monitoring and fall detection. Given these benefits, it’s hard to justify paying higher fees over a longer period of time for Life Alert’s service. The one downside of ADT is the 300-foot range of the basic package. Seniors who live in large properties or enjoy spending time outside may find they often leave the coverage area of the base unit. In those circumstances, it may make sense to consider a higher-end device.