Senior Safety

3/26/2024 | By Kari Smith

The smartwatch tops the wearable technology market, with the Apple Watch being the most popular. While you might think smartwatches are only for the tech-savvy younger generations, the newest version has many built-in features and available apps that make the Apple Watch for seniors a helpful option.

An Apple Watch for yourself (or for elderly parents, especially those living alone) guards health and safety, with the added bonus of giving caregivers peace of mind with access to medical events and other useful information. The Apple Watch, with its comprehensive features geared toward health, user-friendliness, and compatibility with other Apple devices, symbolizes independence for older adults.

Top features of Apple Watch for seniors

Fall Detection

Apple introduced fall detection with their Series 4 or SE 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 that the wearer can dismiss if all is well. If the watch doesn’t sense any motion or get dismissed in 60 seconds after the fall, it will call emergency services and emergency contacts, as well as share the person’s current location coordinates.

Fall detection is activated by default for customers over 65. Later models, iPhone 14 and 14 Pro, also send notifications to emergency services via satellite, if you’re outside of cellular and Wi-Fi coverage. Be sure to completely set up Medical ID, add emergency contacts, and wear the watch consistently for uninterrupted service.

Related: The importance of fall detection services for seniors

Emergency SOS

The Apple Watch includes an Emergency SOS feature that lets you quickly call 911 (or local emergency numbers outside of the U.S.) 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 notified of your location. You can also 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 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, allergies, emergency contact numbers, and blood type. This information can also be shared automatically during an emergency call and appears on the Lock Screen of the iPhone and Apple Watch. Enable this feature by opening the Health app on your iPhone, tapping your picture at the top right, tapping Medical ID, tapping Edit, scrolling to the bottom, and turning on “Show When Locked” and “Share During Emergency Call.”

Apple Watch models Series 8, Ultra, and SE (2nd generation) can also call emergency services and send an alert to emergency contacts when a severe car crash is detected.

Health monitoring

iPhone, by Ifeelstock. While many of Apple Watch features can be useful for people of all ages, Apple Watch for seniors provides extra safety and peace of mind.

The Apple Watch’s advanced health monitoring features include heart rate monitoring, ECG (electrocardiogram), blood oxygen monitoring, the ability to detect irregular heart rhythms, noise monitoring, medication reminders, and fall detection, information that could be critical for early health intervention.

Fitness tracking, reminders to stand and move, and exercise programs tailored to various activity levels encourage seniors to stay active.

At the same time, users can quickly call for help using the Emergency SOS feature, potentially life-saving in case of medical emergencies.

The Apple Watch can also monitor your sleep. In addition to creating bedtime schedules to help you meet your sleep goals, your watch can also estimate the time you spent in each sleep stage (REM, Core, and Deep) and tell you when you may have woken up. The Sleep app on your iPhone also records your sleep trends over the past 14 days.

Caregiver check-ins

Apps like ElderCheck Now (free on the App Store) let loved ones or caregivers quickly check in. They can see the person’s heart rate and location and request that the person check in through their Apple Watch and let the caregivers know they’re OK by pressing a button. Alternatively, caregivers and loved ones can request a phone call to let them know everything’s fine. It’s one of the many reasons individuals get an Apple Watch for elderly parents.

Medication reminders

Mango Health is a free app that enables medication and healthy habit reminders and serves as a health diary to log weight, blood pressure, glucose levels, and more. CareZone, a similar app and also free, includes some medication automation options, such as organizing delivery of prescription medications.

Related: The best smartwatches for older adults

Intuitive interface

Apple products are known for their ease of use, and the Apple Watch is no exception. Its simple and accessible user interface makes it easier for people who have less experience with technology. Newer models have larger displays with bolder text and a brighter screen, which is helpful for those with visual impairments. The watch straps are easy to open and close, ideal for anyone with conditions like arthritis.

Compatibility with other Apple devices

For those already part of the Apple family, the Apple Watch seamlessly integrates with other Apple devices, like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, offering a unified experience. Apple also provides extensive customer support, including in-person help at local Apple stores, which can benefit older adults needing assistance with their devices. Features like location sharing and the ability for family members to check on health and activity can provide peace of mind for users and their loved ones!

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 kids and grandkids, reading news articles, checking the weather, and texting or calling friends and family.

While many of these features can be useful for people of all ages, Apple Watch for seniors provides added safety and peace of mind.

Related: Other cool technologies for senior health, safety, and fun

Originally published January 2023. Updated March 2024 by John Levan.

Kari Smith

Kari Smith is a frequent contributor to Seniors Guide, helping to keep those in the senior industry informed and up-to-date. She's a Virginia native whose love of writing began as a songwriter recording her own music. In addition to teaching music and performing in the Richmond area, Kari also enjoys riding horses and farming.

Kari Smith