Smart watches are always making their way onto gift lists, but there have been new advances in these devices that could be incredibly helpful for the older population. Apple rolled out their latest watch in September 2018, and Fitbit followed soon after, and both manufacturers are turning their energy and attention to creating watches that can help with chronic conditions.
NBC News and McKnight’s Senior Living covered three main ideas related to how this technology is improving older adult wellness and safety: how to prevent and monitor falls, scans for irregular health conditions, and how to remove barriers to healthy behavior.
The Apple watch includes a fall-monitoring app, which uses sensors in the watchband to detect falls and is automatically enabled for wearers age 65 and better. Through monitoring the user’s gait, the watch can detect a fall and send the wearer a notification They then have one minute to report and deactivate the notification, or emergency services will be alerted. As NBC News points out, this is crucial, since fall deaths in the US have increased 30% in the last 10 years. That minute that the user has before emergency services are called is to help account for false alarms, like the watch slipping off someone’s wrist.
The other technological advance is an ECG monitoring app, which uses the same sensors in the watchband to monitor the user’s heartbeat and send alerts if it is going too fast or too slow. As the report points out, this will allow the user to be a more informed patient when they meet with their doctor to discuss their heart health.
The McKnight’s Senior Living report looked at Fitbit, which has always been a frontrunner in health and exercise. The company announced a new platform for users which offers virtual care and coaching. Fitbit’s Health Solutions Medical Director John Moore proclaims that this type of technology breaks down barriers people may have to quick and convenient help. In practice, these new updates allow coaches and participants to manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and depression.
These reports concluded with enthusiasm for the next step in smart-watch technology that could improve the wellness of older adults.
Bluth R. In grandma’s stocking: an Apple Watch to monitor falls, track heart rhythms. Kaiser Health News. https://khn.org/news/apple-watch-health-apps-track-fitness-falls-heart-problems/. Accessed January 4, 2019.
Bowers LA. New Fitbit platform aims to help people manage chronic conditions. McKnight’s Senior Living. https://www.mcknightsseniorliving.com/home/news/new-fitbit-platform-aims-to-help-people-manage-chronic-conditions/. Accessed January 4, 2019.