The many advantages of wearable health devices
Remember the Life Alert 'I've fallen, and I can't get up?' wearable device for seniors? It was a way to stay connected to emergency services should something happen to the person who was wearing it. Well, we've come a long way baby. Today, wearable health devices are more than a string on the neck, and they monitor more than just a fall.
Wearable health monitors will encourage you to exercise (get those steps in!), sleep better and monitor your standing and water-drinking goals. They also monitor your heart rate and blood oxygen levels. When something goes awry, they can help emergency personnel diagnose and treat you.
"What I care about as an emergency physician with your health monitors is what's abnormal," said Dr. Albert Villarin, vice president and chief medical information officer with Nuvance Health. "For example, let's say you passed out a half-hour ago and your heart rate monitor picked up a pause or an acceleration that caused you to faint. So, wearing a device, say an Apple watch, 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's doing for you."
And the 60+ age group seems to be catching on when it comes to the benefits of these devices. Statistics show that at least 3 million to 5 million Apple watches have been purchased by adults 65 or older. Other popular brands include FitBit, Samsung Health, Whoop and Garmin.
Wearable devices can help seniors achieve fitness goals as well. "Your watch can push you to get out and walk two miles instead of feeling isolated at home and you can have other family members monitor your progress, too," he said. "That creates a sense that you're doing something to prevent injury and prevent illness, but also to increase longevity and enjoy life."
Villarin encourages seniors to sign up for their medical practice's patient portal, too. "The app connects your electronic medical record to you," he said. "The portal not only gives me access to patient information, but also to your caregivers."
Villarin does say watches can be tricky for the older generation because of the size of 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., onto 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 it out because, over time, using the device becomes a positive habit. "It creates a fixed action pattern of normal behavior such as embracing exercise, diet information and interaction 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."
The 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 very good job for a compact size, good connectivity and low price. Look for more options," he said.
Hopefully you won't need more help from the app other than to see how many steps you took for the day or the calories from the burritos you ate. However, if needed, the watch just might save your life.