Compared to decades past, people live longer, healthier lives and have little interest in moving to a nursing home before it’s necessary. In fact, an AARP survey found that 76 percent of adults 50 and older prefer to age in place.
The latest technology may help make that possible. Gone are the days when older adults need a clunky medical-alert necklace in case of a fall or other emergency. Today, smartwatches can do the job — and so much more — while also looking stylish.
Let’s look at some of the design options and features of smartwatches that can help older adults stay healthy, active, and independent.
The Rise of the Smartwatch
While a smartphone combines a phone and a computer, a smartwatch puts the power of a smartphone on a person’s wrist. This technology can give everyone, including seniors, access to health-related features and make it easier to contact help in the event of an emergency.
Many smartwatch makers are prioritizing the older adult market and offering features specifically to help seniors live active and healthy lives. In a 2015 AARP survey, 45 percent of older adults reported feeling more motivated to live healthier lives after wearing an activity and sleep tracker for six weeks. Since then, the capabilities of smartwatches have only grown.
Older adults are strapping on a smartwatch and enjoying freedom as well as potentially life-saving interventions. Here are a few of the ways new smartwatch designs cater to an older clientele.
Smartwatch Features Older Wearers Love
Today’s smartwatch makers recognize that many different people of different abilities will use their devices and have added design features that older adults may find especially useful.
Large Icons and Text
No need to squint to figure out the time, read a text, or get directions. Large text helps older adults use their smartwatches more effectively, and large icons make it easier for people to choose the apps they want to open.
Hearing loss is a common challenge for many, including older adults. It can make it difficult for to hear what devices say. Users can increase their smartwatch volume to high levels, which can help a lot when smartwatches offer directions, read texts out loud, play music, and answer questions.
Some smartwatch makers have optimized their devices for voice command. When a user is tired of tapping out texts on their phone or trying to do an internet search on a small screen, they can use voice commands to dictate an email or text message to their smartwatch. They can even ask their smartwatch to tell a joke or set a timer for the roast in the oven.
Long Battery Life
Many of today’s smartwatches can go for days without a charge, making it less likely that they’ll power down just when users need them most.
No need to unlatch a smartwatch every time a user takes a shower or washes their hands. Many watches can now stand a shower or dunking. Water lovers can even wear certain smartwatches in the pool or ocean.
The Smartwatch Capabilities Older Adults Love
The growing list of smartwatch features can make them great tools to help older adults stay safe and healthy.
Certain smartwatches can detect falls. If the user is immobile, the watch will automatically contact emergency services. It can also be programmed to send a message to designated family members or caregivers.
Many smartwatches can track a wearer’s heart rate by using special lights to monitor blood flow. Some smartwatches take this a step further and can detect an irregular heartbeat or a sudden fall in heart rate and notify emergency responders accordingly.
Blood Pressure Monitoring
If a person has high blood pressure, they need to monitor it. Certain smartwatches can monitor blood pressure to help the wearer better track and manage their condition.
Emergency Help Button
Most smartwatches include an SOS option that allows wearers to contact emergency services quickly and easily. Certain smartwatches may connect you with their own agents. This feature can alleviate concerns about being alone in an emergency.
GPS tracking allows a smartwatch user to share their location with designated people. It can also help emergency responders locate a person’s in the event of an emergency. This feature can allow peace of mind, especially for the roughly six million Americans living with Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, some smartwatches offer a geofencing feature, which can be especially useful if a wearer is at risk of wandering and getting lost. After programming a pre-defined “safe zone,” the watch warns the wearer if they exit the safe zone and helps them navigate back. It can also alert designated family members or caregivers of the wearer’s location.
This handy feature can inform users about their sleep patterns and help them learn how to get more and better sleep. Good sleep is an important ingredient in healthy aging, and improving it can help people feel fresher and more alert during the day.
Older adults can benefit greatly from adding exercise to their routine. A step counter makes it easy for wearers to see how active they’ve been during the day and to create and hit daily step goals.
Health Data Collection
Smartwatches collect a variety of health data from the wearer, including sleep patterns, heart rate, blood pressure, and even an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). All this data can be stored and shared with the user’s doctor and caregivers. This information can give doctors a more holistic understanding of their patient’s health and help caregivers provide the best care possible.
Health Tracking and Improvement
Smartwatch wearers can track their weight, calories, water intake, and more through their watch, usually with the help of a synced app on their smartphone. They can also access meditation apps and track specific types of exercise. When used consistently, these features can help older adults improve their health habits.
Is it Time to Buy a Smartwatch?
Smartwatches offer a lot of promising benefits for older adults. They can also give family members and caregivers valuable peace of mind.
Users can choose from many different smartwatches, including several brands specifically designed for older adults. When shopping for a smartwatch, they should consider their budgets and the features they deem most important. Then, when they’re ready, they can purchase a smartwatch, strap it on, and enjoy a whole new level of connectivity.