In the United States, 10,000 people turn 65 every day and the number of older adults is going to increase dramatically over the coming decades. Technology is helping seniors age gracefully by giving people more assistance with tasks at home, support at work, and greater social connection.
Wearable technology has grown in popularity in recent years because it has applications in medicine and other fields. It is growing in use among seniors because it’s an easy way to monitor a person’s health and is able to alert others if that person experiences a fall or an injury. Another advantage of wearable technology is that it allows seniors to age gracefully at home and gives their families peace of mind. This article will explain what wearable tech is, its applications for seniors, and what wearable tech will look like for seniors in the future.
What is wearable tech for seniors?
Wearable tech is more than just Apple Watches and Fitbits. It’s a category of electronic devices that can be worn as accessories, embedded in clothing (eg. women’s bras), implanted in the body, or tattooed on the skin.
Wearable technology isn’t new and can be argued to have existed since eyeglasses were first invented during the 13th century, however, modern wearable tech is defined as having an internet connection and a microprocessor.
Popular forms of wearable tech today include smartwatches, fitness trackers, and VR headsets. For seniors, there are devices that can be worn to check for irregular heartbeats and fall detection tools to alert emergency services if they slip over.
Growth in the wearable tech sector
Markets and Markets released a report in May this year that the global market for wearable healthcare devices is projected to reach USD$46.6 billion by 2025. The preference for home healthcare will boost the growth in this market as remote monitoring will be able to provide up-to-date access to health records, quicker diagnosis, and treatment of conditions.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have added to the eagerness for people to adopt wearable tech as elderly people are most at risk of contracting the virus. Smartwatch sales increased during the first quarter of 2020 with 13.7 million units sold and many people have been monitoring their health and fitness during the lockdown.
What are the benefits of wearable tech for seniors?
There are many benefits of wearable tech for seniors. Below we have outlined the three main ones.
Data can save lives
The data collected from wearable tech is beneficial not only to healthcare professionals monitoring a patient but the person wearing the device. People are able to monitor their heart rate, their activity levels, and track daily trends. For seniors, wearables can even send alerts to take medicine and allow for more proactive care from caregivers.
Data can indicate if a senior is at higher risk of contracting an infection, such as urinary tract infections (UTI) and activity data can tell caregivers whether the patient is at higher risk of falling due to low muscle strength or other reasons. This data can anticipate accidents before they happen so it can reduce the number of accidents that occur in elderly people. By reducing the number of falls we can lower the number of hospital visits. One in four people aged 65 or over falls each year, and less than half tell their doctor.
Another advantage of data from wearable tech is that the more people who use it, the more care facilities know about older citizens in the broader population. If caregivers are aware of common problems faced by seniors, they can lower the risk by creating a safer environment for their patients.
Seniors feel more independent
Wearable technology gives seniors a greater feeling of independence because they are more in control of their health. They can set alerts for medication reminders, keep track of their blood pressure and heart rate and always have assistance on hand if they need it. GPS tracking also allows seniors to leave their house to go for a walk or go grocery shopping, so family members don’t have to worry.
Customisable to the senior
Wearable tech allows a more customisable experience for seniors based on their healthcare needs. Some devices allow two-way communication with an operator if they need help or have a question, which adds to their sense of independence. Seniors can seek help through their wearable devices rather than relying on family members or doctors on a daily basis.
Concerns about wearable tech data
When it comes to healthcare, there are always concerns about data security, privacy, and access to data. Security measures must be implemented by wearable tech companies and make people feel confident that their personal data isn’t being shared by third parties who may use the data to their advantage.
Another issue is the accuracy and consistency of data. While wearable tech can generate a lot of data, not all of it is necessarily useful. That’s why when choosing wearable tech for an older adult, it’s better to purchase a device that is specifically designed for senior healthcare rather than everyday wear.
What wearable devices are on the horizon?
Companies are developing many solutions to help seniors from sensors embedded in clothing to whole homes that can help in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Imagine if your ceilings could monitor your heartbeat? Well, the ‘Platform House Concept’ designed by Japanese homebuilding group Sekisui House does just that. Sensors in the ceiling monitor a person’s heartbeat and if that person went into cardiac arrest the home would call for help and unlock the doors after a response from emergency services.
From smart bras that monitor women for cardiovascular health issues to ‘e-skin’ pyjamas that track sleep conditions and detect falling, new technology is alerting older adults to health conditions and accidents before it’s too late.
Although smartwatches aren’t new, the technology is constantly being updated. A smartwatch doesn’t draw too much attention either and has the added benefit of having the functions of a regular watch. Smartwatches designed for seniors are great for detecting falls, monitoring heart rate, and have GPS technology. Smartwatches are ideal for seniors living alone and people with disabilities. Many smartwatch models offer 24-hour assistance in the unlikely event of a fall or cardiac arrest.
In closing, wearable tech offers elderly people many benefits that have been outlined above including valuable data to help the lives of seniors, more independence and customisable features to suit the wearer. Not only does wearable tech help seniors, but also caregivers can use the data to provide better care. While there are privacy concerns surrounding the data from these devices, hopefully we will see governments address these issues as wearable technology becomes more common.