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Page Reviewed / Updated – December 10, 2020

Medical alert systems entered the market in 1975. The first system had a button to press in an emergency that would dial programmed numbers but offered no communication. In the 1980s, the earliest protocol for today’s medical alert systems was designed and included services such as allowing seniors to communicate with a live medically trained operator.

The early systems on the market were only useful when the transmitting device was worn within a certain distance from the home. This limited seniors to their home, garage and yard. Today’s systems range from products similar to the early models to advanced technology that incorporates cellular phone line use, wireless connections, GPS location service and assistive cell phone apps. Many devices come as a wearable pendant, wristband or smartwatch and provide mobile use for flexibility.

Shopping for a medical alert system for an elderly family member means researching many companies with lots of options. The following compares two reputable medical alert system companies, ResponseNow and GreatCall, to help seniors decide which one might fit them best.

ResponseNow vs. GreatCall

Feature ResponseNow GreatCall
PRICING
Up-Front Fee $35 activation fee waived One-time cost of $37.49 for Lively Mobile Plus $49.99 for Lively Wearable2
Monthly Fee $24.95 for In The Home system $34.95 for Belle $44.95 for Belle+ $24.99 for Basic $29.99 for Preferred $39.99 for Ultimate
Contract No contract and no cancellation fees No long-term contracts and no cancellation fees
Add-Ons GPS adds a small increase in the monthly fee depending on the device, a lockbox is $3.95 monthly, a care protection plan is $3.95 monthly, one hallway button is $2.95 monthly, add fall detection to the In The Home base for $11.95 monthly
DEVICE INFORMATION
Water Resistance Yes, for the Belle and Belle+ In The Home base unit is not water-resistant Lively Mobile and Lively Mobile Plus are waterproof Lively Wearable2 is water-resistant
Connection Type Belle uses AT&T’s cellular network service Belle+ uses cellular and GPS Wireless cellular network
Battery Life Belle, up to 30 days Belle+ up to 5 days In The Home base unit plugs into an electrical outlet and has a built-in 24-hour back-up battery 24 hours for Lively Mobile 80 hours for Lively Mobile Plus, Lively Wearable2 battery lasts up to 4 months
Fall Detection Belle does not Belle+ does have fall detection Available on all devices
GPS Belle does not Belle+ does have GPS GPS tracking with all plans
FEATURES
Included Accessories Choice of pendant or wristband call button for In The Home Wearable2 includes a step tracker and daily health tips
Call Center 24/7 USA call center 24/7 USA call center
500 feet N/A
2-Way Voice Communication Yes, including a SIM card with the Belle and Belle+ for two-way communication with call center Yes
Optional Extras Fall detector pendant Purchase accessories for Lively Mobile and Lively Mobile Plus: lanyard, belt clip, AC charger, and wristband. Lively Mobile also includes a protective carry case. GreatCall Link app for all cell phones

ResponseNow

ResponseNow employs well-trained call center responders who provide personal support and emergency response quickly. The average answer time when calling a ResponseNow call center is 30 to 60 seconds. System options include a land-based setup with the use of a landline or a mobile device system using the AT&T cellular network. The Belle and Belle+ devices only need a quick charge once every 24-hours but the home system plugs into an electrical outlet and has a built-in 24-hour backup battery.

Startup costs for ResponseNow are minimal with the equipment included at no cost and monthly plans often include discounts or complementary accessories. All equipment includes free repairs, service and replacement with a lifetime warranty. The Belle system works without a home base and as long as the user is wearing the device, they can call for help without the need to be within a certain distance of a base console. The call center response agent will communicate with the user through the actual device. The Belle+ also works without a base system and includes GPS for seniors on the go.

ResponseNow offers extras, and users who have the In The Home console can sign up for fall detection. There is a monthly fee of $11.95 for this service. Seniors who decide on ResponseNow will appreciate the minimal startup costs and ability to use the devices without being tied to an in-home base console.

Pros

  • Free shipping and no activation fee
  • No equipment cost
  • 30 day risk-free trial period
  • No contract
  • Discounts are given when monthly fee paid quarterly and yearly
  • Free lockbox when monthly fee paid for the year
  • No price increase ever — the system stays at the same monthly fee from when you signed up
  • Free service and repairs and battery replacement on equipment
  • Higher cost per month than other medical alert systems
  • Higher cost per month for fall detector than other companies
  • Distance from the base console is 500 feet, which may not be enough in a larger home

Cons

  • Higher cost per month than other medical alert systems
  • Higher cost per month for fall detector than other companies
  • Distance from the base console is 500 feet, which may not be enough in a larger home

GreatCall

Many seniors continue to travel, garden or exercise, making GreatCall a great choice. All products offered by GreatCall include modern technology and mobile options not requiring a home base unit. Utilizing Verizon’s reliable cellular network for all devices means seniors are protected wherever they travel. The Lively Plus device weighs only 2 ounces and can be worn with a lanyard or belt clip. With a press of the button, the user is immediately connected to a call center representative using two-way communication.

For seniors who’d like a more stylish device, the Lively Wearable2 has the look of a smartwatch and includes extra functions such as a step tracker and health tips that motivate seniors to stay active and healthy. The Lively Wearable2 connects to the user’s cell phone app and can be worn as a watch or on a lanyard. Every device offered by GreatCall includes built-in GPS so family and friends can locate their loved one at any time. If an elderly adult is traveling and doesn’t return at the time they said they would, family and friends can find them using the free GreatCall Link app that works on all cell phones.

GreatCall ensures seniors remain healthy with health and safety features including 5 Star Urgent Response, which connects seniors to emergency agents who have access to their personal health record, and Urgent Care, which allows them to speak with a registered nurse or board-certified doctor. The doctors can provide advice and issue prescriptions for treatment. All the agents at GreatCall are certified by The National Academy of Emergency Dispatch (IAED), the same training 911 operators receive.

For budget-conscious options, GreatCall offers less monthly fees than many other medical alert system plans and offers special deals and discounts regularly. GreatCall offers subscribers with AARP to receive $60 off each year on several health and safety packages. With free shipping and a 30-day return policy, GreatCall provides quality plans for less money.

Pros

  • No startup fees, no contracts
  • 30-day free trial period and free cancellation
  • AARP members get a $60 a year discount on preferred or ultimate plans
  • GPS location tracking with all plans
  • No home base console needed
  • GreatCall link app for caregivers to receive notifications and track loved ones
  • Urgent care option to connect users with professionals such as a nurse or doctor
  • Higher startup costs
  • Wall mount buttons and lockboxes not available

Cons

  • Higher startup costs such as device purchase, activation fee and shipping fees
  • Wall mount buttons and lockboxes not available
  • Fall detection only available with the highest-priced plan

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Our Pick

The best medical alert systems include safety and security for seniors at an affordable price and with options to fit their lifestyle. Both companies reviewed here have great options for medical alert devices with ResponseNow providing a home-based unit and mobile system. GreatCall only provides mobile options but with reliable communication and quick emergency call response time, a home base is not necessary.

Pricing makes a difference for some people and the free equipment from ResponseNow may be tempting, but the monthly fees are higher than GreatCall. For anyone shopping for a medical alert system they have to wear and live with every day, options, devices and service may be more important.

Our pick is GreatCall using mobile service with Verizon’s cellular network, a historically better service with more coverage in the United States than other cell phone companies. The mobile options work whether a senior stays at home more often or for those who love to travel and be on the go. Check out GreatCall medical alert devices for easy-to-use systems and reliable service.

Eldercare Financial Assistance Locator

  • Discover all of your options
  • Search over 400 Programs