Free phone for seniors

Please Note: We do not provide a free phone for seniors or administer phone programs. You Must Verify Eligibility at the Lifeline website.

A free phone for seniors seems unlikely. In reality, though, many seniors can apply for and receive a free cell phone or home phone, along with a free monthly phone plan.


Seniors having a cell phone seems almost a necessity to many. Mainly, due to emergencies. Given that so many people have limited income (especially since so many older people are on social security), cell phones might be low on the list of things they can buy. That’s where the program that provides a free phone for seniors could be a real blessing.

The federal program called “Lifeline” was created to provide cell phones or free home phone service for anyone for emergencies; this is especially important for seniors. The Lifeline program provides a free cell phone and free minutes every month.

Free phone for seniors

Free phone for seniors

Anyone who is eligible can apply for the program. If you already receive assistance from the federal government or if your income is equal to or less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines, you can qualify for the program. This program provides a free phone for seniors or anyone else meeting these requirements.

Click Here to Verify Eligibility at the Lifeline website

The Lifeline program has many different carriers, which will offer different phones and monthly plans for seniors.

Free phone for seniors eligibility and restrictions

Requirements for a free phone for seniors may vary by state, but you must meet the income guidelines or participate in one of the following programs:

  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps or SNAP)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8)
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF)
  • National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally-Administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TTANF)
  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)
  • Head Start (if income eligibility criteria are met)
  • State assistance programs (if applicable)

As mentioned above, you have to qualify for a free cell phone or cell phone plan. In addition, there are rules that have to be followed to get and keep your free phone for seniors. For instance, you are not allowed to have more than one per household. And, you can use the program to get a cell phone OR a home phone, but not both.

The Lifeline program is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. It is funded by the Universal Service Fund. Please visit the website link below for the program’s full details.

Click Here to Verify Eligibility at the Lifeline website

Free home phone service

Lifeline also offers free home phone service. This program will cover the cost of your monthly home phone service. The free home phone service is particularly beneficial for seniors who are not interested in or cannot easily use a cell phone.

Free phone for seniors service providers

Some of the service providers for the Lifeline program are SafeLink Wireless, ReachOut, US Cellular, Assurance Wireless and many others. These and other providers offer a free phone for seniors who qualify, along with a monthly plan. Some providers may also offer upgrades or options for these plans. See the plan details at each provider’s website.

If you don’t qualify for this program and would still like to get a cell phone, there are other options available. Many phone companies offer prepaid or low minute programs, along with cell phones, for those that just need basic service.

History of Lifeline

The original program was created to provide free home phone service for low income families. Later, in 2005, the program was updated to include a cell phone and monthly cell phone plans. In 2012, the program was upgraded and improved.

Due in part to the Lifeline program, access to phone service has risen from 80% in 1985 to 92%.

Click Here to Verify Eligibility at the Lifeline website



Federal Communications Commission
Universal Service Administrative Company
image : Photocapy


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Mark Hager is an aging in place thought leader and advocate. He is the founder of, CEO of Age in Place Networks, a leading authority in the aging in place niche and a trusted voice for both consumers and business owners serving older consumers. Over the years, Mark has provided help for thousands of consumers, organizations and small businesses.


  1. Brenda Llanas says:

    I am a Senior Citizen who is on a limited income. But, according to the Lifeline guidelines my income is not limited enough to qualify. I would like to find a way to greatly lower my bills if possible. Thank you.

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:


      Try contacting some local agencies and organizations that provide services in your community. You could start with your local Area Agency on Aging or the United Way. They may be able to let you know about programs in your area to help reduce some expenses.

  2. Kaye cartnal says:

    My elderly neighbor who is hard of hearing has a life line phone. He lives about 20 miles from nearest relative and is unable to call long distance to get in touch with them. What can he do? Does lifeline supply long distance?

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:

      Kaye, have your friend call the phone carrier that provided his phone. They can provide the information he needs to get that straightened out.

  3. My husband needs a cell phone for when I am not home but he can not operate the new phones. We have tried to orient him with touch screens but to no avail. I can not find a lifeline program that can offer him a flip phone. Any ideas?

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:

      Candi, the only suggestion I could make is to try and find a flip phone he could use on Amazon or other retailer. Then, maybe you could get it activated by the local company providing Lifeline services in your community. Otherwise, you might find that the Straight Talk service (at WalMart) or another local service provider could activate it for a lower monthly plan. I would talk with them before you buy a phone to make sure you know which phones will work with their networks.

  4. Peggy L. Stevens says:

    Hi Mark, I just finished your informative and easy-to-read article about seniors and phones. Thank you so much for your article, it just made my life easier!

  5. Rita Miles says:

    I have an aunt (85), who us being challenged by ATT, for incoming international calls. She does not know the calling party but is being charged for the calls and for every month she doesn’t pay, she is being accessed fees. She us looking for a phone company that does not require internet service. She is not very adaptable to cell phones. She is an almost two hour drive from me.

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:

      Rita, I found some information that might help.

      “Call AT&T international services at 800-335-4685. Ask to put a ‘block’ on international calling. Takes less than 5 minutes to complete the process.”

      Also, AT&T has a flip-style phone that does not use the Internet. Here is a link:

      As far as the charges go, I’m sorry I can’t offer any assistance in that arena. Maybe if you call the International service number and tell them what is happening, they may be able to tell you a better way to dispute the charges.

  6. luc lochard says:

    i am 73 years old. how can i get a free cellphone from the government or Social security?

    • Mark Hager Mark Hager says:

      The Lifeline phone program is offered by the Federal government in conjunction with national telephone carriers. The way the program works is you have to meet certain criteria, then work with the local phone company (AT&T, Verizon, etc.) to get a phone and service.

      Your best bet is to call AT&T (or a major carrier in your area) and tell them you would like to get on the Lifeline program. They should be able to qualify you on the phone and tell you any other information they’ll need to get you setup.

      If you get it worked out, come back here an let us know! Good luck.

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