Most of us think of wearables in terms of smartwatches and fitness trackers, gadgets that can help us be fitter and more efficient. But for some people, they’re far more important than that—these wearables are the difference between dependency and freedom. Wearables for seniors are fast becoming an essential way to keep them safe and healthy. There is some impressive technologically available—or on the horizon—to improve the lives of those later in life, and they are easy enough for even the most averse of technophobes to use safely and happily.
1. Keeping them safe
One of the best-known uses for wearables for seniors safely connects them to relatives or emergency services in the event of an accident, even if they’re unable to call for help themselves. UnaliWear’s KanegaWatch can detect falls and long periods of non-movement and raise the alarm. Working through voice control, the watch notices if the wearer has been immobile for a while and asks if they’re OK. If there’s no response, the device can contact designated people or the emergency services. It also records some location information so it can guide the wearer home if they get lost. The wearable even offers medication reminders at appropriate times, reading out dosage instructions if the user asks for them. Similarly, the CarePredict wearable monitors sleep, personal care and daily patterns, alerting caregivers if something seems out of the ordinary: If the wearer used the bathroom more than usual last night, for instance, or got up later than they normally do. Lively’s Safety Watch system goes a step further, using a home hub connected to a series of sensors around the home to check that medication’s been taken, meals haven’t been missed and the user is moving around as normal.
2. Keeping them nearby
To monitor seniors with conditions like dementia, a critical need can now be met through technology. The upcoming Proximity Button, invented by the daughter of a dementia caregiver, is designed to be an effective and affordable way to keep loved ones safe without intrusive tracking. Connecting to the caregiver’s phone with Bluetooth, the button simply sends an alert when the patient goes out of bounds. The Proximity Button will begin crowdfunding this summer through Indiegogo.
3. Saving them from falls
One of the biggest concerns for older people is the risk of falls. One of the more radical ways tech firms are addressing this is by developing wearable airbags that automatically deploy when a fall is detected. Products by companies like ActiveProtective and the Wolk Company are worn as belts, making them less intrusive and noticeable. Packed inside the ActiveProtective belt is a folded airbag, a fall-detection system and a gas inflation mechanism to quickly open the airbag when the wearer is falling.
4. Giving them freedom
Some of the health problems that can affect older people aren’t so easy to talk about. The Japanese manufacturer Triple W opens their Dfree website with the memorable words: “Two years ago I got sudden diarrhea and pooped my pants on the street.” While most of us would never speak of this again, in this case it led to the development of a device that claims to predict bowel movements, allowing users to plan ahead and get to a bathroom in time. Using an ultrasound wearable belted around your stomach, Dfree sends a notification to the accompanying app on your phone to let you know how much time you have. This could avoid the kind of incident that decimates older people’s confidence and makes them less willing to leave the house.
This is just a sampling of the variety of tech solutions for senior care that are now coming available—and we should expect more innovations in the years to come.