The makers of smartwatches are now designing products for older adults. And they just may have come up with an acceptable alternative to the standard “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” pendant. Perhaps you’ve tried to get your loved one to wear a personal emergency response system (PERS) pendant—only to hear, “No. I don’t like it.” Many older adults consider the pendants ugly and stigmatizing.
The new smartwatches offer advantages:
- Unlike home-based emergency response systems, they work anywhere there is a cell signal.
- They are easy and natural to wear.
- GPS features enable using the watch as a locator device for persons with dementia.
- They can do dual duty as fitness trackers, measuring heart rate, number of steps, etc.
- They send and receive text messages. Some even handle phone calls.
- Apps are available for things like setting a timer for pill reminders, or scheduling appointments. Soon even EKGs for heart monitoring.
- They tell time!
On the downside:
- Will your loved one use all these features? Or will the apps just be confusing? The options are likely too much for those with memory problems.
- How useful is the watch in an emergency? Screens are small and several steps may be required. Practice may be necessary ahead of time.
- So far, the automatic fall detection apps still have a few bugs to work out.
- Not all smartwatches offer a companion service for 24/7 connection to a trained professional who can triage the need for help.
- Those with hearing loss may have difficulty hearing a respondent if the device isn’t held close to the ear.
- While smartwatches are definitely more stylish, they are still big. They seem to appeal more to men than to women.
- These devices need to be regularly charged.