Using Apple Watch as Medical Alert for Seniors

Apple Watch Medical Alert DeviceApple Watch as Medical Alert for Seniors

Can you use an Apple Watch as Medical Alert for Seniors? There are several ways to do this, but the short answer is yes. Some smartwatches can operate as a medical alert device as well as a smartwatch. This includes the popular and stylish Apple Watch. Which is good news for older adults who worry about how bulky and stigmatizing medical alert devices can be. The website Tech-Enhanced Life did a comparison review of smartwatches that also function as a medical alert device. For this article, we focus on using an Apple Watch as a Medical Alert Device. However, if you’d like to learn more about the smartwatches available on the market we highly recommend reading Tech-Enhanced Life’s review.

How Fall Detection works

There are a few different ways to use an Apple Watch as a Medical Alert Device. Some of which can be confusing. For the sake of simplicity, our focus is to use an Apple Watch Series 4 or later, paired with an iPhone using GPS.

From Apple Support:

“If Apple Watch Series 4 or later detects a hard fall while you’re wearing your watch, it taps you on the wrist, sounds an alarm, and displays an alert. You can choose to contact emergency services or dismiss the alert by pressing the Digital Crown, tapping Close in the upper-left corner, or tapping “I’m OK.” If your Apple Watch detects that you’re immobile for about a minute, it begins a 30-second countdown, while tapping you on the wrist and sounding an alert. The alert gets louder so that you or someone nearby can hear it. If you don’t want to call emergency services, tap Cancel.

When the countdown ends, your Apple Watch automatically contacts emergency services. Message that "It looks like you've taken a hard fall."When the call connects, your Apple Watch plays an audio message that informs emergency services that your Apple Watch detected a hard fall and then it shares your current location as latitude and longitude coordinates. The first time the message plays, the audio is at full volume, but then the volume is reduced so that you, or someone nearby, can talk to the responder. The message continues to play until you tap Stop Recorded Message or the call ends. Wrist Detection must be turned on for your watch to automatically call emergency services.”


The Upside

One of the biggest complaints from older adults is how passionately they dislike wearing Medical Alert Devices. The devices are unattractive, bulky and they don’t like the stigma associated with wearing a button device. In fact, upon researching this topic we find that an estimated 80% of seniors refuse to wear their device or simply forget to wear it.

In contrast, an Apple Watch looks great. It is water-resistant and multi-functional. It has been adopted by athletes and adults of all ages and backgrounds. No “senior citizen” stigma to worry about with an Apple Watch. Not only does an Apple Watch have an excellent fall detection feature, but it also tracks your heart rate, your steps, the weather, your messages, and of course, tracks the date/time.  Plus, there is no monthly service fee like a traditional Medical Alert Service, which can cost between $30-$40 a month. Best of all, most seniors are accustom to wearing a watch, so it’s easy to adopt an Apple Watch into a daily routine.

The Downside

Tech-enhanced life explains the biggest con to an Apple Watch is that it calls 911 directly. As opposed to a traditional Medical Alert Device that connects to a call center where a reassuring professional evaluates the emergency. Essentially, they explain, it’s hard to test the emergency alert feature when it goes directly to 911. Charging the Apple Watch daily can also be a nuisance. Not to mention, there’s also the technology aspect that may be challenging for some seniors.



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