Wearable Health & Fitness Devices Can Help More Seniors & Family Caregivers

How am I doing managing my blood pressure? Did I get enough sleep last night? Was my physical activity today enough to burn my target number of calories?

Those are just a few of the many questions people hope to answer through the use of wearable health and fitness devices.

Wearable health and fitness is one area of technology we see as a big part of the future, not just for our senior loved ones but also their family caregivers. We don’t have to wait for the future to receive benefits from it, though, as there are a number of devices available today — primarily fitness devices — and many are already getting answers to some of their questions.

We’re looking forward to getting a glimpse into the future, both near and a little further out, at the 2014 International CES, at which wearables will be featured prominently in conference sessions and on the exhibit floor. Yes, the future promises a lot but there is much about which to be excited today.

CEA Research Study on Wearable Health and Fitness

CES is just the most visible aspect of the Consumer Electronics Association’s (CEA) mission to grow the electronics industry.  They also aim to be the industry authority on market research, which is one of the key reasons we are CEA members. We use a lot of their research here at Senior Care Corner in our efforts to educate and inform family caregivers, including a recent report aimed a building understanding of the market among consumers for wearable health and fitness devices.

Not surprisingly, young adults make up the largest group of wearable fitness device consumers, with one third of those from 25 to 34 years old indicating they currently own a device and a third expressing intent to purchase one in the next year.  In contrast, only one in nine of those aged 55 and above currently own a device and even fewer express purchase intent.

While most current owners of wearable fitness devices say they use them for motivation or to monitor their physical activity and goals, many state as reasons stress monitoring and reduction, food guidance, or that their doctor recommended they do so.

Among those planning a device purchase, almost all said it was important that the device track their heart rate, calories burned and steps taken. Many also said measuring blood pressure, cholesterol, or level of sedentary behavior were important.

Clearly there is a lot we can learn from and do with current wearable devices, as well as hints about the many applications we should see in the future.

Interesting information, you might be saying, but it doesn’t address why we feel wearable health and fitness devices are valuable to seniors and family caregivers today. Let’s look at them separately.

Wearable Health & Fitness Device Benefits for Seniors

There are a number of benefits already available to seniors through the use of wearable devices, even if they’re considered “fitness” devices.  We often talk about the importance to seniors of getting regular exercise, not just for physical benefits but also to keep brains healthy. Being able to set goals and track progress, not just for time spent but actual activity, can help our senior loved ones know if they are getting the exercise they need. There are also real benefits to be achieved in understanding more about sleep patterns for those of all ages.

While we see monitoring devices being important to seniors in the future and helping many live independently, we know many don’t like the idea of being monitored and having their data sent to healthcare providers or even family members. This makes the current crop of wearables good “starter” devices for seniors, letting them find out whether the devices themselves are an intrusion on their lives while keeping the data the devices produce to themselves if they prefer.

Seeing benefits from wearable health and fitness devices today and making them a part of seniors’ lives on their own terms hopefully can pave the way for monitors even more critical to health and lifestyle in the future.

Wearable Health & Fitness Devices Benefits for Family Caregivers

Many family caregivers lament their inability to exercise because of the time demands of providing care to senior loved ones and/or their children and don’t realize how much activity is part of their caregiving. Wearable fitness devices can help them understand the level of benefit they get from all of the walking, stair climbing and other physical activities and, hopefully, help alleviate some of their stress over not doing more formal exercise.

Caregiving can take a toll on the health and well being of family caregivers, with many not realizing just how much damage they do to themselves while helping loved ones. Today’s wearable devices can help them understand the impact it is having on their blood pressure, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. Just knowing doesn’t guarantee they’ll do something about it, of course, but it is the first step to taking action.

Do you know a family caregiver who could benefit from a device that shows them signs of the toll their devotion to loved ones is having on her or his health? Encourage them to get – and use – one of the wearable fitness devices to monitor themselves. You might even show you care by getting one for them. Don’t stop there, though. Take action based on what they learn through monitoring to get them breaks, encourage doctor visits and even vacations where needed, and build support networks so they can offload some of their burden.

A Taste of What’s to Come

Yes, we’re excited about what the future has to offer in the way of health devices for seniors and are looking forward to learning more. In the meantime, though, we hope seniors and family caregivers will take advantage of the innovations available today and the benefits they offer.

Health is key to enjoying our lives, no matter what our age. Technology that helps understand and improve health will continue to grow in importance, especially to the majority of seniors who want to live independently as long as possible.

Let’s help them make “as long as possible” even longer than they imagine!