February 18, 2023

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June 30, 2021

Setting up iPhone for Vintage Users in a Dignified Way

basic iPhone home screen
I was a guest on Allison Sheridan's Chit Chat Across the Pond where we had a great discussion about how to help inexperienced smartphone users of an advanced age group by setting up a new iPhone for them or optimizing the one they already have.

I hope you enjoy listening to the show as much as I did helping to make it. Allison and I could talk for days on this subject and I think you'll be able to tell. :)

Here are the show notes I composed for this episode. It's super long and I've modified it to add some new tips I thought of after the recording, but I hope it can be used as a reference guide for those who might be struggling or need some additional tips when working with their loved ones or assisting a friend in need.

Sunday, August 8, 2021 edited to add: We re-released this interview on Geekiest Show Ever — 361 CCATP Meets GSE to reach more listeners. Thanks to Allison for sharing it with us!

Alternative HTML5 Audio Player

Problem to be Solved: simplifying a complicated device to meet the basic needs of a user with limited touch interface skills while helping to preserve their autonomy in the process.

Recurring things I have observed to be helpful
If it causes more problems than it solves, it’s time to reevaluate.

This is not a complete list and it can take days or even weeks of tweaking, exploring, and experimenting to get someone’s device set up to be the most optimal for their needs, but it’s a good place to start thinking about the most necessary features and settings. Start by doing the initial setup and then make adjustments as the person you're helping gains more confidence and experience. If there is something they don’t like, take time to listen to their needs.

In the beginning it can be really hard for them to ask for help when they don’t know what something is called in order to phrase the question effectively. Aim to reduce whatever is causing friction by asking them what task they’re trying to accomplish. Maybe the text is too small or the screen doesn’t stay lit long enough for them to finish their question, but they weren’t sure how to convey that to you. 

Always check and ask for consent as you go. They might not understand what it is they are consenting to though, so try to explain your intent to help them be more secure with their new device and how the setup is intended to help them use it more easily and securely. Trust is paramount and they’re relying on you to help.

Account Management & Access

Apple ID

If you are setting up a brand new iPhone for a vintage person and they have little to no touchscreen device skills, chances are they will need help with either setting up a new Apple ID account or recovering access to an existing account. Most people these days already have an email address, but in the case of people who were born in the 30s or 40s, it’s still possible that this may not be the case. If they do have an email address, they may not know the password or they might not accurately remember what their email address is if they had prior “help” (note the air quotes here) setting it up and haven’t made much use of it because they didn’t really understand what they were being helped into. Many people mean well and have the best of intentions when assisting a senior citizen who came into the public library asking for help, but then there is a lack of follow up and so retention of information and skills becomes a challenge or barrier to success.

Once you’ve created their Apple ID or accessed it from https://appleid.apple.com, go to the Security section of the Apple ID and enter your mobile number as a “trusted number” and your email address as a “notification email.” This way, any verification codes or security alerts can be routed to you so you can be of assistance. Do not take this responsibility lightly. Only add your number if you're going to commit to making yourself available when a verification code is needed. They could get locked out of their device if they need to ask someone else for help later on. Teaching a vintage user about 2-Factor Authentication and why security is important can earn you a glazed look instead of a donut, so tread carefully here and try not to overwhelm.

On their iPhone, enable all the iCloud services you think they might use. It wouldn’t hurt to enable them all and that way if you decide to teach them how to use a new service down the road, all your hard work will be backed up in iCloud. It would be a real shame if you spent a lot of time getting them set up only for their device to become lost and in need of a replacement and then you have to start all over again.

External Email Account or iCloud Mail?

Consider the needs of the person you are helping. Do they have a lot of email history or are they a good candidate for using only Apple’s iCloud Mail service? Is the free 5 GB plan going to be enough or do they need more?

Option A

If they do not have an established email account and are a good candidate for using only Apple iCloud Mail, then don’t lose the email account you used for setting up their Apple ID — just don’t configure it on their iPhone and this way they only have one email address to deal with if this is the only email address you use with them to communicate. Store their external email login credentials in your password manager in case there is a need to access it, but for the most part, they can just use their iCloud email and it’s fine. You can save the hassle of needing to optimally configure Mail Settings for use with Gmail and also avoid the additional password authentication pitfalls by just sticking with iCloud. (More on that later.)

If this person will be using email regularly, consider adding them to your Apple Family Sharing Plan (you get 6 slots) and be sure to have the storage to accommodate it. It begins at 200 GB and is plenty for most small families of 2 to 3 users. If you don’t think this person will use email regularly, then keeping them independent on the free 5GB tier is probably ok for someone who will primarily use this iPhone to make phone calls and send texts with the occasional email verification link that needs to be clicked to authenticate account access.

Whenever you do an iPhone Checkup with them, check their Settings > Apple ID > iCloud > Manage Storage area on occasion and see if they are filling up their “cloud.” Photos will likely be the first to start taking up space. If you send them GIFs on a regular basis and their iMessage is set up to keep them all, well, that could be another storage piggy, so be mindful when reviewing that.

Option B

If they already have an established email address and use it regularly, you will need to configure mail settings more optimally compared to the default configuration. What gets tricky about this is two main things: server behavior and password timeouts. In the case of a Gmail account, the default settings are for emails to be archived and not deleted. If the person you’re helping gets easily overwhelmed and they do not manage their email because they receive a lot of solicitations emails, then never deleting and only archiving can lead to running out of free space in a short time.

There may be times in the future when an iOS update prompts a re-authentication request from Google. We have seen this happen before. There will be a teeny, tiny blue line of text at the very bottom of the Mail screen that says there was an error. It instructs the user to tap it to open Settings and re-enter the password for their Gmail account. This is a very confusing dance for many. They usually give up and try to reset their Google password which causes other problems.

If they have multiple devices it creates a mess because they don’t understand how to follow up and change the password in the account settings on each device that uses Gmail. Sometimes that little message goes away. Sometimes it takes a while for the next screen to come up. It will automatically launch Safari and load a login page for Google, but the lag time for this to occur is not intuitive so it’s really easy to miss. Worry sets in when emails they expect to receive are not coming through. This is where many a vintage person has gotten confused because they do not understand what Google has to do with their Apple iPhone or why it says Google and not Gmail and what’s the connection, let alone the password. This was supposed to be sooooo easy, right? (insert sarcasm here)

Recommended Settings for Mail with External Accounts

Settings > Mail > Accounts
Be sure that only Mail is enabled unless you know for certain they really do use the calendar service. I do not recommend enabling Notes here either. Use Apple’s Notes app with iCloud instead, again, unless you know for certain they have important notes stored with that email service. I rarely find this to be the case.

Next, tap Account > Advanced. This is the area where you want to make sure email isn’t stored locally on their iPhone and that when they want to discard an email, it goes directly to the trash on the server and isn’t just archived which will eat away at their free storage.
Under Mailbox Behaviors, Drafts should be stored in the Drafts mailbox on the server and the same for Trash. For Archive Mailbox, I just select [Gmail] since we won’t be using the archive feature.


Settings > General > iPhone Storage I have now lost count the amount of times I have helped a client who got talked into upgrading to a brand new iPhone with too much or too little device (internal hard drive) storage. Please be mindful about their needs if you're the one assisting them with the purchase of their iPhone. Currently 64 GB is the smallest storage option. If they are a casual user, this will be plenty. To give you an example, I am a pro-user and my iPhone is currently 128 GB in size and it's only half full. I have over 70k photos in iCloud Photos. I still have room if I want to download a bunch of music. For the amount it costs for a larger hard drive they may never make use of, the money would be better spent on an iCloud subscription, a glass screen protector and a really nice iPhone case.

Configurations — Purge & Simplify

Begin by purging unneeded apps. For example, someone in an assisted living facility will most likely not need the Home app for automation stuff. Be mindful about installing additional apps. You will need to be able to support those apps compared to the stock apps from Apple which are supported by automatic app updates and/or a call to Apple for help. There might be some great list-making app you love, but sometime later, maybe the developer abandons it or your loved one just isn’t as interested in Instagram as you thought they would be. I recommend deleting all of the apps that can be deleted that you’re sure won’t be utilized — at least not immediately. It’s much easier to re-download an app if it becomes needed later than to deal with the frustration of accidental taps and questions about apps that aren’t of use and just get in the way.


There is this great strip for apps at the bottom of each iPhone called the Dock and it works similarly to the Dock on a Mac. It’s always there no matter which home screen you’re viewing. Apps you use most frequently should live here. On a Mac, when you hover over each app icon, the app name is revealed. Most vintage users overlook this, but it’s helpful to remind them of this feature from time to time. On the iPhone though, the app names are never revealed while they’re in the Dock. Apps that get stuck here become nameless and difficult to use as verbal cues when giving someone instructions.

For beginners or those with low vision needs, I recommend keeping only the Phone app in the Dock. At least that one needs no explanation. You can even say, “the green one at the very bottom” and someone will still know what you mean. Without words below app icons to tell an inexperienced user what they are, they will struggle to learn the vocabulary which can make it more difficult to ask for help.

So many people "do not know what Safari is" or understand that it's the name of the app they use to browse the internet because most of the time it’s placed into the Dock and they don’t learn how to move and rearrange apps unless by accident. They figure out easily enough through exploration that they need to tap the white square with the blue circular thing in it and then type in a search term, but when you try to give them verbal instructions and use the app names or technical terminology, you’ll get a blank stare or long silence over the phone. They’ll say, “I’ve never used Safari.” – or – “I don’t know what that is.” when in fact they use it all day every day and never knew what it was called or that it's even a compass icon.

Home Screens

Try to avoid putting apps with the same colors next to each other. This can get tricky, but give it a try. People with low vision tend to struggle with this because the colors may blend together if there isn’t enough contrast. It also makes verbalizing instructions a little easier when you’re using colors to describe which app to tap. If apps of the same color are near each other, it may take a little longer for the person to process your instructions.

Reduce Distractions

Invest time in the Settings app and explore them all. Cognitive decline and aging share a lot of the same challenges as ADHD. You can respect a person's neurodiversity and advocate for their mental health and well-being by managing distractions. Settings > Notifications — disable all notifications except those you feel are really necessary. News and weather apps can add a lot of notifications that stoke fear in unhealthy ways.

Sometimes weather apps will help themselves to the Mail Accounts settings and set up an alert subscription “feature.” I feel there is potential for abuse here and it can become a real nuisance. I’ve seen scam alerts come from rogue account subscriptions that scare the user into thinking they need to install malware. One of the first things I disable is Mail notifications. They are incredibly distracting when trying to give a lesson. The user tries to swat it away and they end up tapping on it instead or they get a mean case of FOMO and then they lose focus. Teach them to check their email with the Mail app regularly instead of relying on notifications alone.


Zoomed Display View

Settings > Display & Brightness > Display View = Zoomed
One of the first things I change is the text size to the largest it can be for the device so that words on the screen don’t become too truncated. I also enable bold text and Zoomed Display View. I’ve seen some people jack up the text size so large to the point where it creates more problems than it solves. Bigger is not always better in this case. Show the person you're helping the change you making to the text size and ask them what looks best. If text becomes truncated, show them how to tap on something to read the rest of the message.


I come from and work with a generation of people who were “doxxed by default.” As in, we come from a time when published phone books were the norm so I believe this is why vintage users might not take security as seriously as they should. Trying to tell people why they need all these extra security features and different passwords for every little thing can be a hard sell for this age group. “I don’t have anything hackers want.” “My life is an open book.” “I have my bank account password memorized and it’s all that is important to me.” I hear it from many of them, repeatedly. They are not too old or unintelligent, they just don't yet understand why they should care. Allowing them to learn the hard way could be costly or dangerous.

Remind them of what the fish named Gill said in Finding Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean.” Explain that their email accounts and devices all contain information that can be used to fake their identity and gain access to their bank account. I have seen it happen and it’s heartbreaking. If they care about leaving an inheritance, they should care a lot more about securing their iPhone and online accounts with better password hygiene. If you care about keeping your parents safer, keep harping on them. Keep reminding them why it’s important. All it takes is one scam phone call, email, or text message to lead them down a dangerous path. You might never find out if they then felt too ashamed to ask for help or tell you about it in time. Keep an open dialog going and offer to help regularly. Fraud is on the rise and we need to take this part much more seriously now. If they just want to give up on using a smartphone altogether because the security part is hard to digest, remind them of the other benefits like keeping in touch with family and keeping their brains sharp by trying to learn a new skill.

Find My & Location Sharing

Settings > Apple ID > Find My = On > Find My iPhone = On > Find My Network = On Send Last Location = On
Ask for consent first, but you might find it helpful to enable location sharing in the Find My app if this iPhone is for your aging parent. (This is assuming you've taught them to keep their iPhone with them as much as possible, especially if it's their only telephone.) Find My could be especially helpful if they have memory lapses and get lost or have not responded to your calls or texts. Follow the prompts in the app and send yourself the text invitation then accept it. Find My app > tap + Share My Location > enter your contact information

Any passcode is better than no passcode, even if it’s 4 digits from their phone number or house number. I know that sounds terribly insecure, but you have to start somewhere and try to find some balance in ease of use versus getting locked out and not being able to use the thing at all. Most of the security features in iOS require a passcode to be set, so it’s next to impossible to avoid. Entering this passcode needs to become muscle memory for the person you’re helping. When you go on a visit to help them months or years later and you ask them what their passcode is, they may tell you they never use a passcode because they have memorized it to the point they don’t realize they’ve been entering it all along. Try to encourage using something that isn’t publicly accessible information or at least not obviously so. It could be a house number to their childhood home, the numbers from an old license plate no longer in use or a combination of their children’s birth years. Some form of security is better than no security at all. Even if it's a weak password, it's still a deterrent for thieves — just don't make it so it's a deterrent to the person you're helping!

Story Time I once helped a 99-year-old who had been locked out of their iPad. The screen read that it would take some ungodly amount of days until a passcode could be tried again. Their nephew didn’t think that using the last four digits of their phone number was easy enough of a passcode so he changed it to six zeros instead. 000000 is an easy passcode to guess for a thief who knows how to use a touch interface to key it in, but this was not the case for the iPad owner. It turns out they could not unlock their iPad because they still didn’t understand how to key in a passcode properly by waiting the appropriate amount of time in between screen taps. By the time they got to the fifth zero, they lost track of how many times they had tapped which kept causing the passcode entry to fail. 

So, if a passcode is used at all — and in most cases, the security requirements from Apple deem it necessary — make it something the owner can type easily and successfully even though it may not be the most secure. It’s really tricky to strike a balance between secure and usable in these scenarios, but we must meet people where they are or they won’t make progress. Be sure to observe the person you're helping and make sure they can operate the touch screen. You might need to make adjustments if this is not the case.

Control Center

It’s such a handy feature when you understand what it is and how to use it. When that’s not the case, calls can go unanswered and communication is hampered because someone tapped something accidentally. This can happen all too easily unless you nip it in the bud and explain how important it is to understand what the symbols mean and how they should look so that communication is uninterrupted.

We take these things for granted, but I’ve met people who’ve missed important phone calls because they didn’t understand how Do Not Disturb became enabled. I’ve met people who’ve gone for weeks on end not being able to figure out why their screen no longer went into landscape mode. When I showed them how to unlock rotation lock, they were shocked to find out how easy it was to fix it. I know one person who became so paranoid about their cellular data plan that they disabled cellular service entirely and then didn’t understand why they couldn’t make phone calls when needed. I’ve seen someone with an Apple Watch that had the cellular service disabled because they swiped up into Control Center and didn’t realize they’d disabled it by tapping accidentally. Imagine the frustration their adult child felt when they specifically purchased that watch to help keep them safe and in contact for emergencies.

These small oversights can have significant consequences and defeat the purpose of having these devices for safety if the features become disabled by the user because they haven’t been adequately educated or trained on how to use them. Repeated instruction is necessary.

Reviewing the Control Center area is another opportunity to simplify the interface and disable any feature you think may become confusing or cumbersome. Make sure the person you’re helping knows what colors these icons should always be or not be in order for communication signals or modes to proceed. Check in with them frequently till you’re sure they understand how important it is. If Control Center is causing a problem because they keep accidentally engaging it and disabling something, you might consider disabling it from the Lock Screen or from within apps.

This is how Control Center should look

Settings > Touch ID (or Face ID) & Passcode > Allow Access When Locked > Control Center = Off
Settings > Control Center > Access Within Apps = OFF

  • The Airplane Mode symbol should never be orange (unless you’re actually on an airplane). It should always show as a little white airplane with a dark background.

  • The Cellular symbol should always be green. It looks like a lollipop with wings.

  • The Wi-Fi symbol should always be blue. It looks like a slice of pizza.

  • The Bluetooth symbol should always be blue. It looks like an ancient rune or a sideways bowtie.

  • The Rotation Lock symbol should never be red unless you really want your phone view to be locked into portrait mode. It looks like a padlock with an arrow circled around it.

  • The Do Not Disturb icon should never be purple unless you really want your phone in this mode. It looks like a moon.

Hardware Buttons & Dexterity

Make sure they can operate the Ring/Silent switch, volume, Side, and Home buttons (if their iPhone has Touch ID). Demonstrate how these work for them so they can understand what each button does, what swiping gestures to use, and how long to press onto the screen for certain maneuvers like rearranging Home Screen icons. If you can’t be there in person, this is where video tutorials come in handy. If you have an iPad, you could record yourself performing the gesture on your own iPhone then send them the video. Go. really. slow and repeat steps. Have them practice and master the difference between a tap and a long press. Length of hesitation is important and it can be different from device to device depending on how responsive it is.

Links to tutorials:

Ring/Silent Switch & Volume Buttons

This seems so simple, but it's incredibly important to make sure the person you're helping knows how to work the hardware buttons of their iPhone. The Ring/Silent switch can be very confusing so make sure this is addressed in the very beginning then review it periodically to be certain the skill is mastered AND maintained.

There are several ways to tell whether or not the iPhone will ring when a call comes through. You have to know where to look for these visual cues and it may not be obvious to the person you're helping so you must point it out. It's important for them to learn which way is the best method for them to know at all times what their ringer status is. If they do not master this simple operational skill, it could result in missed calls and unnecessary worry.

If the Ring/Silent switch on the left is flipped forward towards the front of the iPhone screen, the ringer is ON. An alert slides down from the top of the screen with the word "Ringer" and a grey swinging bell animates on the front of the screen as the switch is flipped forward. This notification also indicates the volume level with a line. If the Ring/Silent switch is flipped towards the back of the iPhone, the ringer is OFF. On the front of the screen, a notification glides down with the words "Silent Mode On." This is where most get confused because they know they're toggling the switch into the Ringer OFF position yet the message on the screen has the word "on" in it because it refers to a feature called Silent Mode. The Ringer is OFF but Silent Mode is ON — get it?! The volume level is indicated here along with an animated swinging red bell with a line through it in case that's still confusing. You may also feel a haptic feedback vibration while flipping this toggle switch back. Teach them to pay attention to this. If you look at the physical Ring/Silent switch on the side of the iPhone while Silent Mode is on (muted/ringer off), you will notice a thin, red line down in the recessed area where your fingernail goes. We usually associate the color red with stop, so you could explain that if they see this red line, it means ringing is stopped while the switch is in this position.

This is not the best method, however, for a Product Red iPhone since this indicator is the same color as the phone's body. It also won't help if a protective phone case covers the Ring/Silent switch. Please think carefully about iPhone cases and make sure they do not make it more difficult for arthritic fingers to press volume and side buttons or flip the Ring/Silent switch.

There is one last method for checking to see if an iPhone will ring when called and that's by pressing the volume up or down buttons while looking at the Home Screen. As the buttons are pressed, the volume level notification is present and shows a red bell for Silent Mode On and a grey bell for Ringer. It doesn't say the Ringer is on, it just says "Ringer."

Apple is trying really hard here to visually communicate whether our iPhone will ring or not by using multiple indicators, yet for some reason or lack of trying, people still miss calls because they don't pay attention to these cues. You must point out that they need to be able to simultaneously flip the Ringer/Silent switch while looking at the front of the screen or else they will miss out on all these other visual reinforcement indicators. Observe how your loved one holds their iPhone in their hand and watch what they do when you tell them to flip the switch. Nine times out of ten they will very carefully study that Ringer/Silent switch but not once will they look at the front of the screen while they do it unless you instruct them to. You get bonus points if you're assisting an arthritic leftie with a red iPhone!

Touch ID & Home Button

Try it if you think the person has really great circulation and no health issues that require blood thinners or medications that alter their pulse, but in general —for this age group— leave it off. Do have them practice it first, but disable it if it’s not working. I have tried for many years now to teach vintage people how to use Touch ID and it fails more than it works. The skin on their fingers is either too cold, too dry or they have lost the ridges in their fingerprints. They wear a LOT of lotion and that interferes with the home button disc. They can have essential tremors that make it difficult to rest a finger tip on the disc long enough for the Touch ID to register. They think the little red fingerprint icon that shows on the screen is where they need to put their fingertip instead of resting it into the indentation in the glass. It just doesn’t work reliably enough for me to recommend it. It ends up causing more problems than it solves. Most everyone I see who struggles with this would rather type in their passcode. Try to encourage a six-digit passcode if you can, but know that it might be asking too much.

The Home Button seems to be the most elusive of buttons. Even just talking about it is a challenge. It’s nice to be able to use the vocabulary term “Home Button” while instructing, but what makes more sense most of the time is “The circular indentation at the very bottom of the phone. It looks like a disc. That’s your Home Button.” It may also help to get a Home Button sticker for this reason so it stands out better. It can be really hard to see when the iPhone body and front screen are black.

Most of my clients have Home Button iPhones yet, but I’m starting to see more Face ID iPhones. This presents a whole other set of challenges with gestures and swiping too fast or with too many fingers at once and I’m only starting to encounter it with my users. I look forward to addressing these needs like any others.

Side Button

This button goes by many names because it has several functions: sleep/wake, on/off, lock/unlock, and silence a call. "Side Button" now covers them all. What I run into a lot in the field is people who ignore its existence because they weren't taught what it does or when to use it. Observe what your loved one does when they are done using their iPhone. If they just set it down onto a flat surface, they might turn it over and put it face down and never notice that it goes into sleep and lock mode on its own. "Side Button? What Side Button? I never need to press it. What does it do?" is a refrain I hear over and over when teaching skills to clients. You might also see them stuff it right into their purse and not realize they've inadvertently handled the screen in such a way that "Jiggle Mode" has been activated and then they wonder why some of their apps have gone missing. Or they may "butt dial" you because they didn't first lock their screen before stuffing their unlocked iPhone into their pocket not realizing that the Phone app was the last app they used and you were the last number they dialed. Have you ever received a mysterious voicemail from someone where you can tell they don't know they've dialed you and left a message? It's most likely because they didn't press their Side Button before putting it into their purse. Teach them that they need to lock their iPhone before putting it "away" or setting it down somewhere where it won't be safe.

Many people think they are powering their iPhone off each time they do press the Side Button. They usually don't realize they have to press and hold the Side Button in for a moment while waiting for the "Slide to Power Off" message to appear. I always tell people to never power off their iPhone unless directed to do so during troubleshooting. Pressing the button once is enough for locking it and putting it into Sleep mode.

One last thing on the Side Button is to teach them to use it as a matter of etiquette. Many times I observe novice iPhone users who get a phone call and let it ring and ring because they simply don't know they can politely send the call to voicemail by pressing the Side Button. I know they feel embarrassed by this and I believe it's why so many of them resort to putting their iPhone into Silent Mode because they're afraid of being scorned. The problem then is they miss important calls.



Make sure the protective case you choose does not hamper their ability to use hardware buttons. Some cases can make the buttons really hard to press. My dad got a great Otter case, but it makes the home button harder to work and he rarely uses Control Center because the plastic is in the way. It’s a tradeoff. He’d rather have the extra hardware protection over using Control Center.


I am seeing more and more lanyards on iPhones and I think it’s a good thing because then their iPhone is always close in case they fall. A wristlet is handy for those who tend to drop things. It can add a level of security in knowing they won’t lose or drop their iPhone.

Keepers & Third Party Apps

  • Messages
  • Camera
  • App Store
  • Settings
  • FaceTime
  • Health
  • Photos
  • Contacts
  • Mail
  • Password Manager
  • Safari
  • Notes
  • Files
  • YouTube
  • Zoom (until iOS 15 SharePlay is available)

Phone & Voicemail

Review how to use the Phone app thoroughly and have them practice over and over how to retrieve their voicemails and review missed calls. The targets for interacting with voicemail are tiny and very challenging for arthritic fingers. I wish this wasn't the case. They also get confused about how to listen to a voicemail using the speaker phone or when it's appropriate to do so. This is easy for so many to overlook because we take it for granted.


Review how to use the Messages app thoroughly with your loved ones because these days, a lot more could be happening in Messages app compared to the Phone app. Pin important conversations with emergency contacts to the top for easier access. Show them how to scroll back up to reread older text messages. Mastering this navigation skill could really help those with memory issues if they could review conversations that contain important instructions.

“It went away and I don’t know how to get it back,” is the common complaint I hear when it comes to teaching people how to obtain verification codes or when checking their text messages notifications. So many do not understand that you need to tap the Messages app to read the full text or to view it for as long as needed to get a verification code. Because they do not understand how to manage notifications, they think that when the Messages notification slip away then that’s it; they’ve lost the text. They do understand when they need to tap Messages in order to compose a text or read older text messages from people they recognize, but for some reason, they do not equate that as being the same place to check when an alert to a new text message came through. I have seen iPhone screens with high “unread” number counts because the user thought they only got that one chance to read a snippet of the text message and didn’t go back to the Messages app to read the whole thing. They are mostly unaware that they only read a preview and not the whole message.

Try these tips and see if they help to avoid missing texts:

1. Settings > Notifications > Messages — make sure all the switches are enabled and checkmarks are checked. Where it says Banner Style, change this to Persistent. At the bottom, set Repeat Alerts to Once or Twice. This may decrease the chances that a text message gets missed.

2.  Settings > Sounds & Haptics — set their Ringtone to something they can easily hear. Try out different sounds with them and see what they like best.

3. Ringtones & Text Tones for Contacts — edit your own contact card as well as the contact cards for other important people in their life so that there is a custom ringtone and text tone for each. For example, it could be the same ring tone for all family members then instruct them to always answer the phone if they hear that tone or song.

Password Manager

There are not many third party apps I recommend, but I do feel a password manager is a must. I’m a 1Password gal myself, but I know it might be tough for some on a fixed income to afford. I always find it uncomfortable to lecture someone on security and then also have to tell them they need to pay a monthly fee for it. I demonstrate with 1Password a lot and showing people how it’s worth it has gotten easier. If you get tired of finding scorpions in your house, you’ll pay a recurring fee for pest control to come out and keep you safe. These days, a professional password manager is becoming just as necessary for living a modern lifestyle. LastPass is another option with a free tier for one device for those who still need convincing or have a stricter budget. Affording an iPhone can be hard enough.
I use a 1Password for Families plan where I have my parents and other family members set up as vaults I’ve invited them to join. On their devices, I’ve made those vaults the default and unchecked their “Private” vault until they are comfortable using it that way. Even if the person you help never uses a password manager on their own, it will help YOU help them much more efficiently when it’s installed and accessible to you on their device.

Settings > Passwords > AutoFill Password > 1Password (or your password manager of choice here) may reduce the amount of password resets if you can show them how to tap autofill instead.

Here is another post from Allison where she interviews her Father-in-Law about using a password manager. Check it out: Octogenarian Talks 1Password


There are some great tutorial videos on YouTube that can help explain concepts in between the times when you can give lessons to the person you’re helping. If they already have a Gmail account (as mentioned before) then get them logged in and create some playlists of your favorite tutorial videos for them. Teach them how to access the videos. Show them how to play, pause, and rewind. Rinse and repeat as necessary.

Here is a link to a YouTube playlist I’ve put together. In it are some videos that show good demonstrations for how to navigate iPhone features: Tutorials & How To YouTube Playlist


Until we get SharePlay in iOS 15, Zoom has been an ok alternative for when I’m helping my parents remotely. I can send them an invite then direct them to broadcast their screen. From there they can show me something they have a question about and I can give them verbal instructions.

Lifestyle Apps

Shopping apps from stores like Amazon have become essential since the pandemic. Teaching users how to order supplies using these apps has become essential in helping to preserve autonomy when people live at home alone. The same is true of banking apps. Teach people how to check their transactions regularly by using the bank’s iPhone app.


One last thing I would recommend is shared albums in Photos. It’s an easy way to share photos with a loved one when they are connected through shared albums. They will need to accept an invitation from you. Tapping the link from an email is usually easier than trying to explain over the phone how to get to it in the Photos app. It depends on the person and the words you use. Show them how to add comments on shared photos because it can be a lot of fun. My dad and I have been sharing photos this way for several years and it sure beats getting sucked down a rabbit hole in Facebook.

Here is the link to the podcast episode where it originally aired: blog: CCATP #689 – Melissa Davis on Setting up iPhone for Vintage Users in a Dignified Way audio link: CCATP689 mp3 audio

audio link: Geekiest Show Ever — 361 CCATP Meets GSE

June 9, 2021

Geekiest Show Ever 359 – WWDC2021 Reactions

On Geekiest Show Ever episode 359, we cherry-pick our favorites from the slew of new software features that were announced at WWDC2021. It was held virtually on Monday, June 7, 2021. (I posted the original show notes here: https://www.geekiestshowever.com/gse359-wwdc2021-reactions/) Do you have questions about what you heard in this episode? Please send us your feedback. You can email us: podcast at geekiestshowever dot com. Follow us on Twitter for additional tips and conversation: https://twitter.com/GeekiestShow. We'd like to hear from you, so let us know which tech topics interest you most. Elisa can be found at https://twitter.com/senseidai/. Episode artwork credit: @DylanMcD8 on twitter Link to episode artwork credit: @DylanMcD8 on twitter

Here are Apple's links to more details about all the features that were announced:

iOS 15

iOS 15 Overview

Full list of new features available with iOS 15


iPad OS Overview

Full list of new features available with iPadOS

macOS Monterey

macOS 12 Overview

Full list of new features available with macOS Monterey

watchOS 8

watchOS 8 Overview

Conversation Boost is a feature I am really excited to try.
Check out this article from ai about it: Apple enhances AirPods with Conversation Boost, Find My integration, Spatial Audio for Apple TV — appleinsider

Check the Apple Security Updates page to see if your Apple gear is up to date.

Audio Link

May 31, 2021

Geekiest Show Ever 358 - Brett Terpstra

On episode 358 of Geekiest Show Ever, we got to nerd out with Brett Terpstra! We talk music, machine setups, coding, apps, user experience, accessibility, super power productivity, ADHD, mental health, and more! I posted the original show notes here.

Brett's Podcasts


Brett's Links

Look for ttscoff everywhere else :)

A Few of Brett's Favorite Mac Tools

BetterTouchTool: https://folivora.ai
Hazel: https://www.noodlesoft.com
CleanShot: https://cleanshot.com
Paletro: https://appmakes.io/paletro
Setapp: https://setapp.com
(affiliate link)

Music Recommended by Brett


Want to listen to these tracks for free? Try out an Apple Music subscription:

Try Apple Music
affiliate link

Thanks for all the music recommendations and resources, Brett. This conversation was a blast!


Check the Apple Security Updates page to see if your Apple gear is up to date.

Do you have questions about what you heard in this episode? Please send us your feedback. You can email us: podcast at geekiestshowever dot com. Follow us on Twitter for additional tips and conversation: https://twitter.com/GeekiestShow. We'd like to hear from you, so let us know which tech topics interest you most. Artwork for this episode is by Brett Terpstra. Elisa can be found at: https://twitter.com/senseidai Thanks to Brett for the episode artwork :)

May 3, 2021

Geekiest Show Ever 356 - Knock on Wood

On episode 356 of Geekiest Show Ever, we talk to Bob Wood of ThinkBob.com. Bob is also President of the Tucson Macintosh Users Group of which Melissa is a member. We discuss the value of user groups and how you can join or support one near you — or — not so near you since many are now online for virtual attendance.

Bob's Links

Bob's Notes

Mac User Groups

  • Apple Podcasters and pundits should become members of their local MUGs and volunteer to give presentations a couple times per year.
  • This would provide them with more listeners and readers, strengthen the Apple Community, and perhaps add to their advertising base.

Apple CarPlay

  • Easy and safe way to be more productive
  • Listen to podcasts instead of music (learn stuff)
  • Send and receive phone calls and texts
  • Bluetooth Apple CarPlay is not needed, wired is better
Check the Apple Security Updates page to see if your Apple gear is up to date.

Do you have questions about what you heard in this episode? Please send us your feedback. You can email us: podcast at geekiestshowever dot com. Follow us on Twitter for additional tips and conversation: https://twitter.com/GeekiestShow. We'd like to hear from you, so let us know which tech topics interest you most. Artwork for this episode is by Bob Wood. Elisa can be found at https://twitter.com/senseidai