What Can an Apple Watch Do for Seniors?
The Apple Watch does more than just tell time. It’s a smart watch that can function as a communications device, a digital music player, a health and fitness tracker, and more. The latest generation of the Apple Watch, Generation Six released in September, includes new features such as a blood oxygen app, an electrocardiogram app, a sleep monitoring app, and a new version of Apple’s Optical Heart Rate Sensor. All of these features make it a useful and desirable device for people of all ages, but especially for seniors.
Using the Apple Watch for Health and Fitness
Some of the Apple Watch’s chief benefits for seniors come in the area of health and fitness. The Apple Watch is, by design, a fitness tracker, and fitness is important to users of any age. First, you can use the Apple Watch to track your levels of exercise. It has built-in sensors that can track your activity levels and the number of steps you take each day. The Watch’s Health app can then analyze your progress to the goals you set. It’s a great way to monitor your physical activity. The Apple Watch also includes a built-in Electrocardiogram (ECG) sensor to monitor and display your heart rate. If you have arrhythmia or other heart irregularities, the Watch can alert you if your heart goes out of rhythm. It’s also useful if you just want to track how exercise affects your heart rate, and it will alert you when your heart rate gets too high or too low.
Using the Apple Watch to take an EKG is a lot more convenient than going to your doctor’s office to do so. And, since the Apple Watch stores all this medical data, you can easily transfer the data to your doctor or caregiver for review. You can also use the Apple Watch to monitor your sleep. The built-in Health app can track how long you sleep, while other apps can provide more detailed information about your sleep patterns, such as how long it takes you to fall asleep, when your sleep is disrupted, and that sort of thing.
Using the Apple Watch for Emergencies
The Apple Watch can be quite useful in the case of emergencies. The Watch has a built-in gyroscope and accelerometer that can detect when you fall. When it detects a fall, it displays a message asking if you’re okay. If you don’t respond within 60 seconds, the Watch automatically notifies emergency services and call your emergency contacts. The fall detection feature is activated automatically for any user over 65 years old.
There’s also a built-in Emergency SOS feature that lets you press a button on the side of the watch to quickly call 911 in case of a medical or other type of emergency. You can also configure this feature to call selected contacts in the case of an emergency. If you do experience a medical emergency, the Apple Watch can function as a digital medical ID. This way emergency personnel can use the Apple Watch to access all of your relevant medical information – your blood type, the medications you take, any allergies, and the like.
Using the Apple Watch for Reminders
The Apple Watch is a great tool for anyone who needs reminding about anything. It’s easy to set the built-in alarm to alert you at specific times of the day. There are also other apps designed specifically for medication reminders, which is terrific if you have multiple meds you take throughout the day. Some of these apps, such as Mango Health, offer additional related features, including refill alerts and drug interaction warnings.
Using the Apple Watch to Communicate
For many seniors, the Apple Watch is a way to stay connected with friends and family. The Watch can easily supplement or even replace your phone. While Apple does offer Watch models with built-in cellular connectivity, you don’t have to pay extra to use the regular Apple Watch as phone. All you have to do is make sure you have your iPhone in your pocket – or just within your home – and the Apple Watch uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technology to wirelessly connect to your phone.
When your Apple Watch and iPhone are paired, you can use the Watch to make and answer phone calls. It’s just like having a phone on your wrist! When you get an incoming phone call, the Apple Watch makes a sound and displays a notification on its screen. To answer the call, press the green phone button on the screen and start talking. To make a call, hold the Watch up to your face and say “Call contact,” where contact is the name of the person you want to call. The Watch connects your iPhone and dials that person. When he or she answers, start talking normally.
You can also use the Apple Watch to send and receive text messages, although tapping on that little screen can be a little problematic. It’s a lot easier to use the Watch’s collection of built-in replies or the device’s voice-to-text functionality. With the latter, all you have to do is tap the microphone icon and start dictating your message. The Watch will convert your dictation into a text message and send it to the person you’re texting with. You can also create audio messages within a text or use the Scribble function to draw your message, one letter at a time, onscreen.
While you can’t do social media on an Apple Watch (there aren’t Watch apps for Facebook or Twitter) many popular messaging services have Apple Watch apps. For example, you can download the Facebook Messenger app and use your Watch to send and receive text messages to and from your Facebook friends. The Apple Watch doesn’t include a camera, so you can’t do video meetings and chatting, but you can use some chat platforms for audio chatting on your Watch. For example, both Apple FaceTime and Google Duo offer text and audio chatting via their Apple Watch apps.
Using the Apple Watch for Entertainment
Finally, the Apple Watch is a great little entertainment device that you carry along with you. You can use the Apple Watch to listen to music or podcasts from the Apple Music service or read audiobooks you’ve purchased. It’s like having an iPod on your wrist!
The latest Apple Watch comes with a free three-month subscription to Fitness+, Apple’s new fitness program powered by Apple Watch. Fitness+ provides online workouts with top trainers and in-session metrics, like heart rate and calories burned, synced to your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV. Read more at: Apple Fitness+
Which Apple Watch to Buy?
You can find the Apple Watch at the Apple Store, Amazon, Target and other major retailers. The latest watch, Generation Six, starts at about $399 for the non-cellular version but is often on sale for up to $60 off (especially at Amazon).
A new, less expensive version of the Generation Six Watch is the Apple Watch SE. It is about $100 cheaper. The SE does not have the ECG app or Blood Oxygen sensor and has a slightly slower CPU, but otherwise is nearly identical to the standard watch. Both watches come in two screen sizes: 40 mm and 44 mm. Which one is best for you is a matter of personal taste, as all the features are the same. You can compare the different models – including older series models – at: Apple Watch Model Comparison
Looking for an iPad or iPhone? Read Senior Tech Expert Michael Miller’s article: Best iPads, iPhones for Seniors
Below are introductory videos to the Apple Watch health features and the new Apple Fitness+ program.