Wearable Technology

Fashionably Fit with Wearable Technology

New tools helping older adults stay active, informed, and rewarded

Wearable technology. Have you heard this term? At face value one might take it to mean that you can now use your new laptop as a dinner jacket. Quite the vision, but hardly practical, and certainly not very warm.

Wearable technology is actually something that is, dare I say, pretty cool. And useful, too. Especially for older adults.

Instead of a laptop computer, think about much smaller everyday accessories, like a watch, bracelet, or belt. Savvy companies are infusing these common accessories with new technology so that while your watch can still reliably tell you the time, it can also measure your heart rate, count the amount of calories you burn over time, or track your movements and range of motion.

Pretty cool.

Wearable technology, in general, is still considered pretty new in the market, but so were smartphones just a few years ago, and look at them now. As wearable technology becomes more basic and easy to use, I see tremendous opportunities and examples for helping older adults become more active and in tune with their health.

So before you head into the coffee shop wearing your keyboard as a fedora, consider my top 10 recommendations for older adults who want to explore the idea of wearable technology to address and monitor health, fitness, and vitality.

  • 1. Standalone device. Will your new gadget need to be paired with other technology, like software running on your home computer or your smartphone, or can you take it out of the box and use it right away as a standalone device?
  • 2. Compatibility with other technology you own. Related to the previous point, this is especially important if your device will be paired with an app on your smartphone. For example, your device may only be able to work with an app for an iPhone or an Android phone, but not both, or either.
    Price. This varies greatly by device, but an entry point is usually around $59. To get an idea of devices and costs you can start with some basic Internet searches using terms like “activity tracker” or “fitness tracker.”
  • 3. Comfort with accessories. Wearable technology has gotten smaller and easier to use, but some devices, like a fitness watch, may be bulkier than what you are used to. Also, while some devices are meant to mimic the look of jewelry, like a bracelet, the material and comfort will vary.
  • 4. Comfort with technology. Some devices you can turn on and they run on their own. Other devices require a more complex first-time set up or a sequence of steps every time you begin a new activity. Think about how much you want to manipulate your device before each use.
  • 5. Data. Different devices can track and sort a wide range of useful data, from big-picture overviews to very specific metrics. Consider what data is important to you, as well as how much data you want to manage, and how you want to access it. Do you prefer to see results on your device, on a computer or smartphone screen, or a printed sheet of paper?
  • 6. Fun. Many devices allow you to connect with larger online communities of users for support and friendly competition. This can be fun, motivating, and rewarding. Often times you can also share your results with friends on your social media channels, like Facebook.
  • 7. Current level of activity. The device you choose should match your current activities. There are devices geared more specifically to walking, biking, running, swimming, golf, and many other activities, and keeping this in mind can help you avoid buying too much technology.
  • 8. Get hands on. There is a lot of wearable technology designed for casual, everyday users like you and me. Big box retailers, electronics outlets and sporting goods stores all carry a wide range of devices you can poke, test, and importantly, wear. Use notes from this article to ask questions of the salesperson who can help select a device that’s just right for you.
  • 9. You may already be using wearable technology. If you have ever worn a pedometer to count the number of steps you take in a day you have already experienced wearable technology. In fact, pedometers have come a long way and can digitally track, record, and share a lot of useful information. Because this is a familiar device it can also be a comfortable entry point for you when thinking about more advanced wearable technology.

To be clear, technology itself won’t make you healthier.

The big idea I hope to share is that new technology is now more accessible, and because it’s now more wearable, too, it may more easily help motivate you to keep moving, set goals, track your progress, communicate your fitness activity with your primary care doctor, and connect with others to share in your journey to better health.