Should I Choose a Pendant or Speaker Style Medical Alert System?

Pendant-style and speakerphone medical alert systems are both popular with seniors, yet both have pros and cons. Pendant systems are a good choice for seniors who are homebound or are at risk of falling, since many pendants include fall-detection features. In general, pendants are lightweight and fairly discreet. Some devices are designed to look like fashionable jewelry. Base station ranges can be limited though— the in-home systems offered by both Alert1 and MobileHelp have a range of just 600 feet.

Speaker-style medical alert systems are useful for active seniors looking for a two-way communication tool that’s easier to use than a smartphone. Speaker phone systems have more features, including two-way communication and GPS technology, but the trade-off is that they can be heavier and less convenient to carry. Rescue Alert’s GPS offering weighs approximately 10 ounces, and can be worn in pendant form or on a belt clip.

Things To Consider When Choosing a Medical Alert System


Medical alert systems are a major, and often expensive, investment. Some of the best medical alert systems have flexible payment plans ranging from a one-time purchase with lifetime support to month-to-month billing, along with quarterly, annual and other contract terms. Some companies charge fees for installation, activation or cancelling a contract. Useful features such as fall detection, lockboxes or spouse monitoring often require paying an additional monthly fee. Because of this, it’s important for seniors to consider which features are most important, budget constraints and subscription periods.

Ease of Use

It’s also worth thinking about the ease of use of the system itself:

  • Can the device be used on the go or does it require the user to stay in range of a base station?
  • What’s the battery life of the alert system?
  • Is there a backup battery for the base station?
  • Does the base station require a landline telephone connection?
  • Is the alert system waterproof?
  • Is the alert system wearable, such as a pendant- or smartwatch-style device?
  • Does the user need to carry two devices with them at all times?
  • How bulky/heavy is the device?

Which Style Medical Alert System Is the Best Choice?

Medical alert systems all offer some degree of reassurance for seniors and their loved ones, and could indeed save the user’s life in the event of a fall or other emergency.

Most homebound seniors, and those who are at increased risk of injury from falls, would benefit from choosing a medical alert pendant equipped with a fall detection feature.

Active seniors who leave the house fairly frequently and tech-savvy seniors looking for a device with more features may feel a speaker phone system with built-in GPS is better suited to their needs. Some of the higher-end devices on the market include both GPS and fall detection, giving maximum protection and peace of mind.