The smartwatch has officially taken over the wearable technology market, and the Apple Watch is by far the most popular. While you might think smartwatches are only for the tech-savvy younger generation, the Apple Watch has many built-in features and downloadable apps that are perfect for seniors.
Apple introduced fall detection with their Series 4 Apple Watch, released in September 2018. The watch’s built-in accelerometer and gyroscope help it detect falls. When it detects a hard fall, it displays a message which you can dismiss if all is well. If the watch doesn’t sense any motion for 60 seconds after the fall, it will immediately call emergency services and any emergency contacts. Fall detection is activated by default for customers over 65.
The Apple Watch includes a feature called Emergency SOS that lets you quickly call 911 (or local emergency numbers outside of the US) in a medical or other emergency. Instead of searching through apps and icons to make a call, you can simply press the button on the side of the watch until the Emergency SOS sliders appear. Emergency services are also notified of your location. You can further set up other contact numbers – caregivers or family members, for example – to call in an emergency.
In addition, an Apple Watch can work like a medical alert bracelet. The Health app also lets you set up a Medical ID, which lets first responders access your medical information from your Apple Watch. You can store information about medications you take, allergies, emergency contact numbers, and blood type. First responders can access this information without having to know your password.
Apple’s Health app comes pre-installed on iPhones, and it works with the Apple Watch to gather, record, and track health data. Series 4 Apple Watches also have a built-in electrical heart rate sensor. While the sensor is pre-installed, you do have to download the app to take readings. Once you install the app, it can record your heartbeat and rhythm and display the data as an electrocardiogram (ECG) on the watch.
The watch can detect low or high heart rate and you can configure the app to alert you if your heart rate stays above or below a certain rate per minute. If you have atrial fibrillation, or AFib, the watch can detect when your heart goes out of rhythm. The watch stores this medical data for you, your caregiver, or your doctor to view.
The Apple Watch can also monitor your sleep. While the built-in Health app can track how long you sleep, download an app (like the free SleepWatch app) to keep up with more detailed data. The SleepWatch app detects how long it takes you to fall asleep, how long you spend asleep, when your sleep is disrupted, and can monitor your heart rate as you sleep.
Apps like ElderCheck Now (free on the App Store) let loved ones or caregivers quickly check in on you. They can see your heart rate and location and request that you check in through your Apple Watch and let them know you’re okay by pressing a button. Alternatively, they can request that you call them to let them know everything’s fine.
Mango Health is a reminder app specifically for medication reminders. It’s free to download on the App Store. CareZone (also free) is a similar app, but has a few extra features like a place to keep track of blood pressure, pain, headache, temperature, and weight. Another medication reminder app is DrugStars. This app also lets you donate to health charities by earning “stars” every time you take your medications.
In addition to these helpful features and apps, the Apple Watch is connected to your iPhone, so most of the activities you do on your iPhone, you can do on your Apple Watch. Stay connected by checking Facebook to keep up with the grandkids, reading news articles, checking the weather, and texting or calling the kids.