Remember the life alert “I fell and can’t get up?” portable device for the elderly? It was a way to stay connected to emergency services if something happened to the person wearing it. Well we’ve come a long way baby. Today, wearable health devices are more than a string around the neck, and they monitor more than just a drop.
Wearable health monitors will encourage you to exercise (take those steps!), sleep better, and monitor your standing and water intake goals. They also monitor your heart rate and blood oxygen levels. When something goes wrong, they can help emergency personnel diagnose and treat you.
“What matters to me as an emergency physician with your health monitors is what’s abnormal,” said Dr. Albert Villarin, vice president and chief medical information officer at Nuvance Health. “For example, let’s say you passed out half an hour ago and your heart rate monitor detected a pause or acceleration that caused you to pass out. So wearing a device, say a watch Apple, is how we get that information. Rather than saying, ‘I’m fine, nothing’s happening,’ we want you to trust the device and what it does for you.”
And the over 60 age group seems to understand the benefits of these devices. Statistics show that at least 3-5 million Apple Watches have been purchased by adults aged 65 or older. Other popular brands include FitBit, Samsung Health, Whoop, and Garmin.
Wearable devices can also help seniors achieve their fitness goals. “Your watch can nudge you to get out and walk two miles instead of feeling lonely at home, and you can also have other family members monitor your progress,” he said. “It feels like you’re doing something to prevent injury and prevent disease, but also to increase longevity and enjoy life.”
Villarin also encourages seniors to sign up for their practice’s patient portal. “The app connects you to your electronic medical record,” he said. “The portal not only gives me access to patient information, but also your caregivers.”
Villarin says watches can be tricky for the older generation due to the size of the numbers and information, being too small for them and therefore difficult to read. “But some of the devices can link specific things like heart rate, oxygen level, etc., to the person’s phone, which is bigger so they can manage it,” he said. .
Getting used to new technology isn’t always easy, but Villarin suggests sticking with it because, over time, using the device becomes a positive habit. “It creates a fixed action pattern of normal behavior such as exercise, diet information and interacting with people.
“On the phone or tablet that you are connected to, there are card games to stimulate the brain. So we can stimulate the brain, the body and the emotions, all through one device. That’s where I think we need to embrace this technology.”
Devices can be a bit pricey, especially if a senior is on a fixed income, so shop around. “There’s a company, like FitBit, that does a really good job of compact size, good connectivity, and low price. Look for more options,” he said.
Hopefully, you won’t need more help from the app than seeing how many steps you’ve taken during the day or the calories from the burritos you’ve eaten. However, if necessary, the watch could save your life.
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