Thanks to people living longer and longer, there is an overall trend of more people choosing home care vs hospital care. People also value connectivity and community as they get older. Meredith Oppenheim, Founder and CEO of Vitality Society, believes that this demographic will be a big market for wearables.
With them, seniors stay connected to their loved ones, the wearable can track their health and immediately send data to their doctors, and they feel young and hip! This was said during a SXSW 2023 panel called “Get Ready for a 100 Year Life”, where our reporter Yue Xu discovered the startups focusing on healthy aging.
Indeed, talk to anyone who ever had to face aging parents to convince them of the need to watch their health and track major parameters – many will have anecdotes of their relatives refusing a certain device for fear of looking “old”.
And the wearables have to be cool (i.e., watches), as seniors, like any other demographic, expects discreet or fashionable devices instead of complicated medical devices with lots of wires.
That’s why Apple Healthcare is such a visionary step for the company, a move boosted in part by countless reports of Apple Watches saving lives. With countless health-promoting benefits and a fashionable look, it’s no wonder Apple Watch is always featured in “gifts for old people” guides. However,“old” is a loaded term and can mean something different for any person you talk to – how “old” is actually “old”? To prevent ageism and promote a more positive approach to healthcare, the senior tech branch of consumer tech that has risen in the past few years will always talk about “healthy aging” instead.
We took a look at the most exciting developments in this industry and created a small guide for the best tech that has the potential to help with the aging process. No, it’s not appliances for the elderly, though those are valuable tools, but those gadgets for seniors who want to remain independent.
Actually useful gadgets for seniors, with respect for their autonomy
Imagine being a grown-up for multiple decades, then having a 30 year old fretting and fussing over you, making you feel like you’re an infant incapable of making their own decisions. It’s an inelegant way to put it, but that’s exactly how many seniors feel about their loved ones’ attempts to help them remain healthy.
In that case, the best gadgets for seniors who want to remain independent include those gadgets that integrate seamlessly into their day to day activities and offer a “backup plan” in case things go wrong – think an Apple Watch worn for notifications that also has a fall detection feature, or a smart camera that keeps an eye on the yard but can also be used to call for help in case of an emergency.
Something as simple as a pill popper reminder can do the trick but for patients who want to live independently and have to juggle complicated prescriptions will benefit more from an automatic pill dispenser with reminders and alarms for missed doses.
Another gadget for seniors that’s usually overlooked can be something so simple as a smart-assistant powered speaker.
Voice assistants are fantastic gadgets for seniors, since they offer control via voice commands and users don’t have to learn complicated interfaces, or have to use their glasses to read displays.
“The overall first response to a voice assistant was positive, thanks to the simplicity of a speech-based interaction. In particular, a positive and polite response to complete the interaction with a voice assistant was prevalent, such as expressing gratitude or giving feedback about the quality of answers. Two predominant topics of commands made in the first interaction include asking health care–related questions and streaming music,” says a 2022 study on how older adults interact with a smart speaker for the first time.
Even something as simple as an Amazon Echo Dot speaker can be a wonderful gadget for a senior wanting to remain independent.
In 2021, Amazon launched Alexa Together, an elder care program, which lets users integrate Alexa-enabled devices with fall detection devices like the wall-mounted Vayyar Care.
“The activity feed and alerts from Care Hub are now part of Alexa Together. This lets a caregiver know that the person is up and going about their day by providing an alert in the Alexa app once the person being monitored first interacts with Alexa. It works with other Alexa-compatible smart home devices to register activity, too, including smart lights, thermostats, and motion sensors.This is a more privacy-conscious way of monitoring someone, without using intrusive technologies, such as cameras, and without revealing exactly what they are doing. For example, the caregiver can see there was an interaction but not what it was specifically. Another feature is that Alexa Together can alert a caregiver if there has been no activity by a certain time, so they can know to check in,” reported The Verge about the program.
Wearables for seniors
As for what ms. Meredith Oppenheim, the Founder and CEO of Vitality Society, told SXSW attendees this week, that seniors are a major demographic for wearables, it’s easy to see why.
With wearables, users get the peace of mind from keeping a close look on their vitals, and can also share that piece of mind with their caretakers or family members.
For those who aren’t fans of Apple Watches or smartwatches in general, not even the minimalistic Withings smartwatches, there are many gadgets for seniors that offer connected help and personalized health insights, from GPS tracking and other health monitoring tools.
For example, the GPS Smart Sole is designed for dementia and Alzheimer sufferers, offering discreet tracking and alerts for loved ones. The SmartSole can’t be easily forgotten at home, an essential benefit in the case of many aging patients, and it can send email or text alerts to loved ones in case it detects wandering.
Oura Ring 3, a wearable smart ring, can be another discreet senior gadget, as the features it offers integrate with most smart health platforms, including Apple Health.
Here, this discreet wearable is a valuable tool for tracking heart rate, blood oxygen levels, temperature, physical recovery and more. It even offers guided meditation sessions.
CPR Guardian is another smartwatch that works as a personal alarm, letting the wearer make SOS calls or share their location or health data with family and friends.
Medical alert necklaces and pendants are also another form of wearables for seniors, though many come bundled with medical or insurance plans.
The market for senior wearables is a large one and will only continue to grow, as many countries report aging populations. Features like fall detection, once available only in security cameras or complex home security systems, are now found in smartwatches from Apple, Garmin, Samsung and more.