Senior Safety

1/27/2023 | By Kari Smith

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

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 you can dismiss if all is well. If the watch doesn’t sense any motion or get dismissed within 60 seconds after the fall, it will immediately 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 55. Later models iPhone 14 and 14 Pro also send notifications to emergency services via satellite, when available, 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 a feature called Emergency SOS 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 further 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 you take, 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. Be sure to enable this feature by opening the Health app on your iPhone, tapping your picture at the top right, tap Medical ID, tap Edit, scroll to the bottom, and turn 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.

Apple’s Health app comes pre-installed on iPhones; it works with the Apple Watch to gather, record, and track health data. Apple Watch models Series 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, or Ultra also have a built-in electrical heart rate sensor. While the sensor is pre-installed, you do have to download the app to take readings. Once you install the app, it can record your heartbeat and rhythm and display the data as an electrocardiogram (ECG) on the watch. The models listed also work with the ECG app to record an electrocardiogram representative of the electrical pulses that cause your heart to beat. After simply touching the watch crown for 30 seconds, the app will give a result of sinus rhythm, atrial fibrillation, low or high heart rate, or inconclusive. The watch stores this medical data for you, your caregiver, or your doctor to view. Be sure that you have a snug fit on your watch band to ensure the best reading.

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

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.

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