Smart tech provides seniors with added safety while preserving their independence
When John’s friend Irene* fell in her home, it took her an hour to crawl to the phone and call for help. And once she’d recovered, the big question was: What do we do now?
Like many older people, Irene wanted to continue living independently, in the home that she loved. But John was worried. What if she fell again? And what if, this time, she couldn’t reach the phone?
His initial idea was to get her a fall detection necklace, as-seen-on TV commercials in the late ‘90s and early aughts. But Irene is a proud woman and she hated the idea of wearing a visible object that immediately identified her as “old,” even if it could potentially save her life.
Modern tech solutions for today's seniors
Luckily, we’re not in the late ‘90s and early aughts anymore; there are options beyond “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”. John did a little research and realized that the Apple Watch has built-in fall detection. And while it requires an iPhone — which Irene didn’t have — in order for it to work, he felt like the investment was worth his loved one’s safety. He even realized, when he was setting both up for Irene, that he liked them enough to buy two for himself.
For Irene, the difference between a fall detection necklace and an Apple Watch with fall detection was huge. Instead of feeling like an old lady whose body was betraying her with age, she felt like the cool lady who understood the latest tech. Plus, there was the added benefit that Apple Watch has other features Irene could use, without too much onboarding.
While Apple is great for features, security, and privacy, it’s certainly not the cheapest: The Apple Watch retails for between $200 and $700 (although you can get a refurbished one for cheaper) and an iPhone ranges from around $350 to well over a grand, depending on the model. But Apple Watch isn’t the only device out there that both looks cool and also provides lifesaving options for older people. For folks who want a less expensive option — or who don’t want to deal with all the bells and whistles of Apple products — there are other great products on the market.
One is, believe it or not, that much-maligned Medical Alert device. They have a fall detection device now that looks really similar to an Apple Watch. It costs $99 and requires a subscription service that costs $44.95 a month. The subscription is for a combination of traditional medical alert services, as well as other health-related services, like health and prescription reminders and blood pressure, glucose, and weight monitoring. It also comes with a speaker that lets people do hands-free calling and enjoy a range of entertainment options while they’re at home.
Philips also offers a medical alert device called Philips Lifeline HomeSafe device. It looks like a combination of the Philips home speaker system and an updated version of the fall necklace. Users have the option of one that connects to their landline or their cellphone, with slightly different tech and slightly different cost: $29.95 monthly for the landline and $43.95 monthly for the cell, plus a $50 activation fee for either. The mobile-connected one definitely looks slicker, more on the side of Philips Sonos than traditional medical alert. They also give users the option of either a pendant necklace or a watch, which basically looks like a slightly updated version of the old school medical alert.
The balance between respecting the wishes of our older loved ones and making sure they’re safe is a precarious one — and it’s one that an increasing number of people are having to find as the Baby Boomer generation ages. But with the help of certain technologies, seniors can continue living independently without feeling old.