Pew research reports that 85% of people over 65 have cell phones, and almost half are smart phones. It’s no surprise that more older adults are considering smart watches like the Apple Watch as well. And with recent innovations in the technology, there are now compelling health reasons to consider it as well.

When the Apple Watch first appeared, it was largely like having a remote control for a phone. It had features that would help you track your movement, and alert you to text messages or phone calls without checking your phone all the time – handy if you are in meetings, but not earth-shattering for most people. But in the most recent update, the technology has evolved to include sensors that are terrific to help track a variety of health issues.

New Health Sensors Can Make a Difference

heartbeatUp until now, the Apple watch has been great to track steps and activity levels, and giving you feedback on how close you are to reaching your goals each day. Now, the watch has a built-in Electrocardiogram or ECG monitor, that can deliver clinical grade ECG readouts, very helpful for people who have AFib or other heart rhythm issues. It’s even been cleared by the FDA to be used as a medical device, recognition to the accuracy and usefulness in health monitoring. There are also new additional tools in the Apple Watch 4 that recognizes when a user falls and can send automatic notifications to emergency contacts while also calling Emergency Services.

These new wearable devices, by Apple and other companies like Fitbit, are also experimenting with other sensors, to be able to do non-invasive glucose monitoring, oxygen level monitoring, sleep quality assessment and more.

Features Worth Considering

So is it time to get one for yourself, or give one to a loved one? CNN and other news and review sources are leaning towards yes.  Here are some of the features that Seniors in particular might find worth while:

  • The new watch has a larger and higher resolution screen, making it easier to use. The screen may be small, but the new OLED-type display is crystal clear and easy to read. In OLED screens, each pixel has its own illumination, which basically leads to incredibly sharp displays with great color contrasts, and this new type of screen is being used more and more on high-end TVs and other screens, producing amazing results.
  • The emergency SOS feature is easy to use, and can let a user call for help, even if you don’t opt for one of the newer models that has cellular service built into the watch itself.
  • The Apple watch can monitor heart rate and alert users when its very high and offers statistics on resting heart rate, useful when diagnosing arrhythmias.
  • The new Series 4 Apple watch will allow users to record an ECG, to detect signs of atrial fibrillation, which can lead to blood clots and stroke if not treated. Up until now, you needed to buy an additional device to be able to record an ECG from home, like Kardia.  While the final Apple app for this feature is being polished, it has been approved by the FDA and you’ll be able to take an ECG by just touching the crown on the watch!  

For owners of older Apple Watches, you can “retrofit” older watches with a watch band from Kardia that lets you take an ECG with a touch on a special pad embedded in the band- it costs about $100.

Kardia watch band

  • If you fall while wearing your series 4 Apple Watch, it will tap your wrist, sound an alarm and display an alert , allowing your watch to contact emergency services, or dismiss it by tapping “I’m ok”. If you remain immobile for a minute and don’t respond, there’s a 15 second countdown, and then the watch will automatically call emergency services, and send a message to your emergency contacts about your location, that it has detected a hard fall and has alerted emergency services.   Lifehacker has an easy tutorial to help you set it up here.  Or, click here to read Apple’s tutorial on setting up fall detection and health alerts is available.
  • On your iPhone, you can set up health information on the Medical ID tab, and add emergency contacts who should be notified if you’re ever in an accident or have an emergency.

apple watch standWhile the Apple watch now has 18 hours of battery life, it still needs to be recharged every night, so getting a bedside stand that allows it to be close by is an important accessory to consider as well.

Between the fall detector and heart rhythm monitors, the Apple Watch is becoming a very useful device to help Seniors with more than their step totals and simple reminders. It’s a device that can bring families much needed peace of mind, while helping loved ones maintain their independence. And let’s face it- how many medical devices are cool? Instead of a fall alert button on a lanyard, Grandma can now sport the latest and coolest technology, while staying safe- something everyone in the family can appreciate!

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