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Page Reviewed / Updated – October 13, 2020

Medical alert systems offer seniors a quick and easy way to call for help in case of an emergency. These devices can be installed in the home, in the car, or worn out and about. Their specialized technology ensures that users can communicate with trained emergency personnel with only the click of a button. Choosing the right device with the features that meet your needs can be a challenge. Our side-by-side comparison of major medical alert systems is designed to simplify the process and help seniors decide which system is best for them.

In comparing GreatCall and LifeAlert, we found that both companies have up-front equipment and activation fees, which is uncommon with many of their industry competitors. Despite this, GreatCall has lower monthly monitoring fees and no long-term contracts. Its range of modern offerings, including senior-friendly smartphones, smartwatch-style help buttons and a caregiver tracking app, make it the winner in this comparison.

Category Side By Side Comparison GreatCall

Life Alert

COSTS
Up-Front Equipment $49.99 $50-149
Monthly Monitoring $24.99 – $39.99 $49 – $89
Activation Fee $35 $95-189, includes shipping and installation
Contract No contract; month-to-month plans with no cancellation fees and prorated refunds if canceled early Long-term contracts starting at 3 years that can be broken at no penalty if users are moving to a long-term care environment
Optional Monthly Add-On Services Device protection – $5 Caregiver tracking app – up to $5 depending on the device N/A

FEATURES
Water-Resistant Wearable Devices Pendant or wristband Pendant or wristband
Connection Cellular only (Verizon network) Landline or cellular
2-Way Voice Communication Enabled in all devices Via Lively Plus and Lively Wearable2
Range (From in-home base unit for landline service) Up to 1000′ Up to 800′
Battery Life Up to 24 hours of rechargeable battery life in the Lively Mobile Plus Up to 4 months in the Lively Wearable 2


Up to 72-hour backup battery life in home base stations and up to 5 days in GPS-enabled mobile call buttons Up to 10 years of battery life in shower wall button, although it is non-rechargeable
FALL DETECTION, LOCATION and RESPONSE SERVICE
Fall Detection Available only with the Ultimate Health & Safety Package Not available
GPS Locator Included with all devices Included with HELP On-The-Go in Life Alert Mobile devices
Coverage Away From Home Included with cellular-based devices Included with HELP On-The-Go in cellular and mobile devices
24/7 USA Call Center Yes Yes
OPTIONAL ACCESSORIES
Urgent Care, a 24/7 help line staffed by registered nurses who can offer health advice and refill prescriptions over the phone. GreatCall Link, a caregiver and family app that shares locations and activity levels with trusted users. Wireless help button for bathroom and shower Extra medical alert buttons

Overview of GreatCall

GreatCall, a subsidiary of BestBuy, provides an array of technological solutions for seniors, including classic medical alert systems, simplified smartphones and smartwatch-style alert systems that connect to users’ cell phones. Unlike many of its competitors, this company doesn’t offer any strictly landline-based systems, and it charges a one-time activation fee and equipment fees.

GreatCall’s basic medical alert system is the Lively Mobile Plus, a waterproof unit enabled with fall detection and enhanced GPS. This unit is available for $49.99 plus activation fees and monthly monitoring plan, which can range from $24.99 to $39.99 per month. The Lively Wearable2 can be worn on a pendant or as a smartwatch-style device. It’s equipped with a step counter, daily health tips and fall detection for a cost of $49.99 plus activation and monthly plan.

Pros:

  • A variety of technological options, including simplified smartphones that can be connected to the smartwatch-style Lively Wearable2
  • Users can cancel policies within 30 days
  • No long-term contracts
  • Devices operate without a home base unit

Cons:

  • No landline-based service
  • Up-front equipment fees and an activation fee
  • Fall detection is only available with the costliest plans

Overview of Life Alert

Established in 1987, Life Alert is one of the longest-standing medical alert companies in the nation. Unlike GreatCall, it does offer a landline-based service, as well as a waterproof button for the shower or washroom. Rather unusual for the industry, this company has minimum three-year contracts which can only be canceled if a user moves to a care facility.

Life Alert offers a basic landline system, a GPS-enabled mobile system and a waterproof shower help button. These devices have upfront costs ranging from $50-149, and monthly monitoring plans that range in cost from $49.99 to $89.99 per month. The company’s website can be difficult to navigate and requires buyers to speak with sales agents for complete pricing details.

Pros:

  • Offers a landline-connected service, unlike GreatCall
  • Trusted company serving the United States for over 3 decades
  • Discounted coverage for spouses and roommates
  • All wearable and all-mounted devices are fully waterproof

Cons:

  • High up-front equipment fees
  • Some of the highest monthly monitoring fees in the industry
  • Users are locked into long-term contracts
  • Unclear website and pricing structures

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Our Pick

Although Life Alert is one of the most established medical alert systems, it also has some of the costliest equipment and monthly monitoring fees in the industry. This, paired with its small range of device choices and difficult-to-navigate pricing system brings its competitor, GreatCall, to the winning spot.

GreatCall offers a variety of fully-mobile options for seniors, which include easy-to-use smartphones and medical alert watches that can be connected via Bluetooth. While this company charges equipment and activation fees, it’s far lower priced monthly monitoring plans can save seniors hundreds of dollars a year when compared to Life Alert. While GreatCall is the winner of this comparison, be sure to check out some other major providers for even more affordable options.

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