Wearable technology can provide users with a lot of useful information, from heart rate to calories burned and even the quality of your sleep. In fact, a Melbourne start-up Nutromics, has created the first wearable smart patch that is about to track how your body responds to different food and has the potential to reduce the risk of diseases like Type 2 diabetes.
Older adults are more prone to diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, and wearable technology is providing medical professionals with a way to monitor and treat diseases before they become a bigger threat.
When did wearable tech start?
The history of wearable technology goes back to 1286 when eyeglasses were invented. Eyeglasses were ground-breaking at the time and according to the Vision Council of America, approximately 37 per cent of Americans regularly use two or more pairs of eyeglasses. Despite laser eye surgery, eyeglasses are still an extremely practical and successful form of wearable tech.
Remember a time before iPods existed, and people walked around listening to music on portable cassette players or CD players? Sony sold over 200 million Walkman cassette players and about the same again for their Discman.
If we fast-forward to the present, the most common wearable tech people are familiar with include VR headsets, Apple Watches and Fitbits. New technology allows us to do everything from track our heart rate during and after exercising to calling people from our wrist. The number of new products coming out is happening at a faster rate than ever before, although the ones that actually succeed are far fewer.
Wearable technology in healthcare
Not only can wearable tech help people track their daily steps and calorie intake, but it can help seniors with their health. The healthcare sector has realised the potential for wearable technology and a recent study found that wearables in healthcare is expected to reach $12.1 billion by 2021.
Since the pandemic broke out, the healthcare industry has experienced rapid change. Wearable technology has the potential to help trace people who have come into contact with someone with COVID-19 and Amazon is trialling a wearable device that alerts workers when they are violating social distancing rules.
In the UK, a wearable device is being developed to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease. The device will collect data including heart rate, sleep patterns and gait which will help researchers begin to map early signs of the disease before symptoms develop. There are 850,000 living with dementia in the UK alone, and globally that number is expected to rise significantly from 50 million in 2018 to 152 million in 2050.
Benefits of wearable tech for seniors
There are numerous reasons why wearable technology is beneficial to senior adults, but we’ve outlined below just a few of the main ones.
Using data for good
Data from wearable technology can help clinicians and researchers to better understand and prevent chronic diseases. Artificial intelligence is also being used to detect early signals of disease. Combining various digital data measuring technology with more traditional sources such as brain imaging and memory tests is helping medical professionals find new ways of treating these diseases.
Not only does data help medical professionals but also the person wearing the device. Seniors can track trends on their own smartwatch or other device without having to go see a doctor. People can set reminders on their smartwatch of when to take their medicine or exercises. Of course, smart devices shouldn’t be a replacement of seeing a doctor but it means seniors are less reliant on them.
Many countries are facing an aging population, and in the US, the number of Americans aged 65 or over will more than double by 2040, reaching 80 million. The healthcare sector will need to find new ways to cope with the number of older people, which is why data is so important to find solutions to these problems.
More independence for seniors
Wearable technology gives seniors more freedom and their families peace of mind. It allows more people to age in their own home. There are smartwatches for seniors that are able to detect if the person has fallen over or is experiencing a heart attack. The family of the person is contacted, or if necessary, emergency services can be called to respond.
Most seniors would prefer to live at home than in a senior living community. Around one million Americans live in an aged care facility, which is expected to double by 2030. Wearable technology allows elderly people to live more comfortably at home and also makes them feel safer when they leave the home to go for a walk or do grocery shopping.
Wearable technology has the ability to tailor to the person’s needs. After tracking the person’s daily habits and behaviours, the device will be able to prompt the user to move around if they’ve been sitting too long or remind them about upcoming appointments or to get in touch with their caregiver.
Worries about wearable tech
Wearable technology gathers a huge amount of data on the wearer, so there are concerns about who has access to the data and what they’re using that information for. Companies like Facebook and Amazon already know so much about us, so the question is whether we want them to know even more. People will need to become smarter about what data they give to the companies that supply wearable technology and companies will have to take data privacy concerns seriously.
What wearable technology is available for seniors?
There are many forms of wearable tech available, so knowing what to buy can be tricky. Below we have outlined just a few types of devices to help with certain diseases.
The smart bra
Heart disease is a leading cause of death in men, but it also is for women. Nearly 300,000 females died in the US in 2017 but very little is known about cardiovascular diseases in women because women weren’t included in clinical trials until 1993. Bloomer Tech has developed the “smart bra” which has a medical sensor embedded to collect data on cardiovascular health. They wanted to create a device that not only women would actually want to wear but was also comfortable.
Can’t go past the smartwatch
Despite massive leaps in wearable technology, the smartwatch is being improved with more features to help the wearer monitor their medical conditions. Fall detection is one of the best features of a smartwatch as it can save a person’s life. Apart from the medical aspect of a smartwatch, it can also be a great way to keep in touch with family as it can be used to text or call. Plus, it also tracks your location so family members can rest easy knowing where their senior relative is at all times.
In closing, technology has already become a huge part of our lives and wearable technology is set to play a major role in healthcare especially for senior people in society. There are many companies that are developing new devices that will help detect health problems quicker that could result in saving a person’s life.