Critter Corner: How Wearables Contribute to the Well Being of Older Adults

Dear Rune,

I have read in many places the benefits of exercise, including staving off dementia and living longer. I decided to dust off my sneakers and get back out there. My son and his wife both have Apple watches and my granddaughter wears a FitBit. What are the benefits of wearables, such as fitness bands or Apple watches, for seniors? 

Thanks!

Bena Fitz

Dear Bena,

I first want to commend you on your decision to get fit. Can you believe that 32% of baby boomers today get no exercise whatsoever, according to the CDC? However more than 50% are striving for 30 minutes per day and want feedback about how they’re doing. Today’s wearables have functions that can help provide such feedback.

Track your exercise

Are you planning on walking, running, swimming or doing an exercise that devices can detect as motion — and even count, as with steps? Do you have goals you’d like to achieve as part of your fitness program? Whether you are doing the exercise to lose weight or become and stay fit, the combination of motion and measured heart rate can help determine if you are meeting your fitness goals, pushing yourself too hard, or taking it too easy. Depending on your device, the coaching feature may even display encouragement as you move and as goals are achieved.

Get help if you fall

Fall detection is a relatively new feature of wrist-worn wearables such as watches, but from a safety standpoint, may turn out to be one of the most useful for seniors. These devices have a built-in accelerometer and gyroscope which may be activated in a fall. Depending on whether the feature is available and also turned on, the device may place a call to emergency services.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

Checking for heart arrhythmia is an even newer feature of wearables, and is included in the Apple Watch Series 4 and likely in a future Samsung Galaxy Watch Active. For individuals who are worried about abnormal heart rhythms, or AFib, which mostly affects those age 65+, the device could be useful.

Help you find where you’re going

We have grown increasingly dependent on GPS location-tracking to tell us where we are going, often trusting it over common sense. GPS location can be enabled in newer wearables, and a GPS-enabled device can even prove to be a lifesaver. When enabled and integrated with a service, for example, it can enable responders to find your location and display it on a map. And if you lose the watch, its GPS location capability can enable the watch to be found with a Find my Phone feature.

Hope this is helpful and your new fitness regimen goes well, whether or not you decide to go with a wearable. Always remember to check with a doctor before starting an exercise program.

Wishing you wellness and good health!

Rune

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