Senior Health

3/18/2024 | By John Levan

Wristwatches have stepped up their game. Though the wrist-worn devices may lack the luster of a Rolex or even a Timex, they’ve gained valuable new features – including some especially useful for older adults. Some even offer a sleek, modern look to rival luxury wristwatches. Seniors Guide looks at some of the best smartwatches for seniors.

Smartwatches, with their user-friendly interfaces, have gained popularity among older adults for their potential health and safety benefits. This offers extra peace of mind for seniors who have chosen to age in place – and for their loved ones.

Many of these devices can monitor heart rate, track sleep patterns, measure blood pressure, assist in the early detection of potential health issues, and more. Some watches have an SOS feature, empowering users to call for help in an emergency with a simple button.

Some advanced watches offer fall detection algorithms that can be lifesavers. If a fall is detected, the watch alerts emergency contacts or services. It also allows setting up medical reminders to ensure seniors take their medications on time, which is essential for those managing chronic conditions. These watches provide a sense of security and relief to seniors and their caregivers.

Most of these watches have GPS tracking functions to provide caregivers or family members with peace of mind, knowing they can keep track of an older adult’s location. This feature is especially beneficial if they have concerns about wandering or getting lost because of cognitive impairments like dementia.

A smartwatch can also encourage physical fitness and activity by tracking distance, steps, and calories burned, to motivate the user to maintain an active lifestyle for overall health.

While smartwatches have many potential benefits, choosing the model that best suits the individual’s needs is still crucial. Also, a shopper will want to be aware of privacy considerations regarding the health data they collect. Note that some features require subscription services or have additional costs.

What are the best smartwatches for seniors?

Following is a list of smartwatches, ranked by their features. It will probably come as no surprise which watch is the top choice for older adults (and most others, for that matter).

Apple Watch Ultra 2

A grandfather shows his new smartwatch to his wife and grandkids. Image by Wavebreakmedia

The Apple Watch has become a favorite among older adults due to its user-friendly design and health-focused features. Its fall detection capability, heart rate monitoring, and the ability to perform an ECG are particularly valuable for seniors concerned about their health and safety. Additionally, its large, clear display and voice assistance make it accessible for those with vision or hearing impairments. These features, combined with the ability to stay connected with loved ones through calls and messages, give older adults a sense of security and independence.

While Apple Watch models vary widely, from basic to all the bells and whistles, comprehensive features geared toward health, user-friendliness, and compatibility with other Apple devices can extend independence for older adults. Here are several reasons why it works well for older adults:

Health monitoring features

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, all of which 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. A built-in speaker and mic can enhance communication potential.

Intuitive interface

Apple products are known for their relative ease of use, and the Apple Watch is no exception. A simple and accessible user interface makes it easier for older adults who might not be as tech savvy. Newer models offer 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.

Although many prefer the Apple Watch, it’s essential to remember that it only works with other Apple devices. Therefore, older adults using Android smartphones would need another smartwatch brand. Additionally, the preference for the Apple Watch will depend on individual needs, comfort with technology, and budget.

The Ultra 2 is tough enough for use in sports and adventure activities, including fitness app support, and it’s powerful enough for everyday use. It has an ECG app alongside other health monitoring features, an 86-decibel siren, a flashlight boost, crash and fall detection, maps, and a battery life of up to 36 hours of normal use.

The latest Apple Watch Ultra 2 costs about $799, but other models are available starting at $250.

Learn more about the Apple Watch for seniors

Google Pixel Watch 2

Although the Google Pixel Watch 2, with the Best of Fitbit, lacks features and convenience compared to the Apple Watch, it has style and intelligent functionality. With enhancements in battery life, user interface, and health-tracking features, the Pixel Watch 2 earns some consideration.

Enhanced readability

Large, clear fonts and high-contrast display options make it easier for those with vision impairments to read notifications and use apps.

Health monitoring

Advanced health tracking features, including heart rate monitoring and fall detection, give older adults peace of mind and send timely emergency alerts.

Voice-activated assistance

Google Assistant integration makes it easier for users with limited mobility to set reminders, send messages, or ask questions using voice commands.

Simplified interface

A user-friendly interface with easy navigation allows older adults to access features with little hassle, enhancing the user experience.

Emergency alert system

The watch includes an SOS feature that can automatically alert emergency contacts or services if it detects a fall or if the user manually triggers an emergency.

The latest version of the Google Pixel sells for $350.

Fitbit Sense 2

A woman using her fitness watch. By Yuri Arcurs. Articles on best smartwatches for seniors

The Fitbit Sense 2 is a health-focused smartwatch that has several features helpful for older adults:

Health monitoring

Like some other smartwatches, the Sense 2 offers a heart rate monitor, an EDA (electrodermal activity), high- and low-heart rate notifications, a stress management sensor, and a skin temperature sensor.

Sleep tracking

It tracks sleep patterns and provides data on sleep stages and sleep quality.

Reminders and notifications

Users can receive reminders to move or take medications, calendar alerts, and smartphone app notifications for messages or calls.

Voice assistant

The watch includes built-in voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

Large and clear display

Fitbit smartwatches generally have bright, transparent displays with an option to increase text size.

The Fitbit Sense2 is priced at $250.

Garmin Vivoactive 5 & Venu 3S

Garmin’s latest Vivoactive and the Venu have several advanced health and fitness features primarily marketed for younger adults, but here are a few features seniors may appreciate:

  • Sleep coach: Tracks sleep to help users understand and improve sleep health – and, by extension, other measures of health.
  • Other health measurements: Garmin ECG app, heart rate and heart rate variability, pulse OX sensor to track blood oxygen saturation,
  • Stress tracking: Informs users if they are having a calm or stressful day.
  • Health snapshot: Record key health stats to share with your health care provider.
  • Guided meditation and mindful breathing: Help reduce stress.
  • Wheelchair mode: Tracks activity for wheelchair users.
  • Built-in speaker and microphone
  • Long battery life: Up to 11 days of battery life.

The Garmin Vivoactive 5 sells for $300 and the Garmin Venu 3S retails for $450.

John Levan

Freelance writer John Levan focuses on insurance, finance, and manufacturing as well as senior living topics. Based in Pennsylvania, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from Alvernia University and Master of Arts in humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills.