Seniors don’t always like to use medical alert systems. Many feel self-conscious about wearing a button around their necks, and the system may remind seniors of their potentially fragile health. Fortunately, technology such as smartphones and smartwatches with medical alerts built in go a long way toward addressing these issues. The devices have multiple functions, some of which aren’t related to medical alerts. They look cool and don’t scream, “Medical alert device!” Many seniors are comfortable using them. There’s also the fact that seniors may remain active. They walk, hike, garden and bike even into their 90s. A smartwatch lets them do these activities without becoming a nuisance the way a neck pendant might. Moreover, a smartwatch gives seniors the confidence to actually engage in these activities. If an injury occurs, help is a button press away.
|Medical Guardian’s MGMove||Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Smartwatch||WellBe Smartwatch From HandsFree Health||Apple Watch Series 8||QMedic’s Wristband Monitor|
|Cost||$199.95 + $39.95 monthly fee||$159 + $34.95 monthly fee||$119.95 + $29.95 monthly fee||$399 + cellular plan fees||$300 yearly fee|
|Max battery Life||One day||One day||One day||18 hours||N/A|
|Fall detection capabilities||No||No||No||Yes||No|
|Heart rate monitoring||No||No||Yes||Yes||No|
This Medical Guardian system is on the pricier side compared to traditional medical alert systems, with a device fee of $199.95 plus a monthly monitoring fee of $39.95. You’ll also need to pay an additional monthly fee if you want to access the premium features. However, if you want a medical alert watch that offers high-tech features and solely caters to the needs of seniors, MGMove may be right for you. Plus, when you compare the equipment fee of the watch to other smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Watch4 ($209.99) and Apple Watch Series 8 ($399), it’s fairly inexpensive!
If that sounds like you, check out our 2023 Medical Guardian review for more info!
The SOS Smartwatch has a one-time $159 equipment fee. While there are a few less expensive smartwatches on the market, there are also much pricier ones, so it’s a middle-of-the-road option. In addition to the upfront fee, Bay Alarm Medical’s monthly cost for monitoring is $34.95 per month, which is very affordable for GPS systems.
If you’re interested in learning more about the SOS Smartwatch, read our 2023 Bay Alarm Medical review.
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The WellBe Smartwatch costs $119.95 plus WellBe’s subscription fee of $29.95 per month. For comparison, WellBe’s upfront equipment cost is around $40 cheaper than the Bay Alarm Medical’s SOS Watch, and monthly rates are slightly cheaper.
There are several models of Apple Watches, and you can often find older or refurbished models on sale at a discount. The Apple Watch Series 8 currently costs $399. You’ll also need to pay a monthly fee for a cellular plan if you want to be able to use your watch when you don’t have WiFi or if you don’t have an iPhone. These plans can vary in price by cellular provider, but they typically cost $15 per month. With all of the features of an Apple Watch, this is a very affordable price. While you’ll be paying more upfront compared to other smartwatches, the monthly fees are much lower than they are for traditional medical alert systems.
QMedic’s price for their at-home medical alert system, which comes with the Wristband Monitor, is $300 per year and is charged on an annual basis. This breaks down to $25 per month, which is very affordable for traditional medical alert systems. Plus, there’s no upfront equipment fee, so you’ll be saving up to a few hundred dollars off the bat.
After hours of intensive research, hands-on product testing, and chats with customer service, we narrowed down our top list of medical alert watches to five contenders based on what we consider to be the most critical factors. This includes whether the watch consists of senior-friendly features, how easy it is to operate, and price. Below are the most important criteria that each medical alert watch on our list had to meet:
In the last few decades, watches have evolved from simple timepieces to multi-use gadgets. These days, in addition to telling the time, they can provide invaluable information about your health and help you stay protected during a medical emergency. Many top medical alert companies have branded these devices as “medical alert watches.” Medical alert watch features vary from model to model, but some of the most common include GPS technology, emergency help buttons, step or vital tracking, fall detection, and the ability to communicate with others through the watch. Some watches, such as the Apple Watch, also double up as handy communication tools, and can even be synced with your other devices. That’s always convenient! Despite all the fancy-schmancy features, the primary goal of a medical alert watch is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the person who is wearing it.
The medical alert device industry is set to be worth $9.6 billion by 2025.1 Given all the features available, like fall detection, 24/7 monitoring, GPS, and caregiver tracking, not to mention the peace of mind these devices can provide, it’s no surprise that they have become so popular. So is a medical alert watch right for you?
Regardless of your age, all of us can be susceptible to health problems. Medical alert watches are beneficial for those with existing health conditions, especially for seniors who want to remain active despite their diagnosis. It may well be the case that by wearing a medical alert watch, the person has more independence, giving them the confidence to go about their regular activities knowing that their watch can summon help for them with a simple press of a button.
Plus, medical alert watches are a lot less clunky and obvious than traditional medical alert systems. So if you’re looking for protection that doesn’t cramp your style, an alert watch is a great choice! The health features, including step tracking and vital monitoring, can help you stay active and on track for fitness goals, which are oh-so-important as we age.2 So, if you are worried about your health or just want that reassurance that you’ll be able to access medical assistance should you need it, then a medical alert watch is a great investment.
With the medical alert watch market expanding at a record pace, there are various models to choose from. Some can even show text messages and remind you of appointments, or help you stay connected with loved ones. Keeping health-related features at the forefront is what you should prioritize, here is what to look out for when buying a medical alert watch.
Sadly, every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.4 So, it’s vital the watch you choose contains technology that can detect a fall if you’re prone to falls. This should then link to either a specific contact, 911, or an emergency monitoring center. Keep in mind that not all medical alert watches come with automatic fall detection. If you are more prone to falls due to chronic health conditions, mobility issues, or even just the layout of your house, we’d recommend considering a watch with fall detection.
For your watch to work properly both in and out of the home, it needs to have built-in GPS technology. During an emergency, you’ll be able to call for help no matter your location. Even if you don’t know where you are, help can be sent straight to you. It’s also a useful feature for family members and caregivers who just want to check in and see where you are. This is especially the case for active seniors who exercise and take trips away from their homes.
The one downside of a digital watch versus a traditional one is that the battery life will be far shorter. So, look for a watch that is easy to charge and has good battery life. Or, a watch where you can disable unnecessary features to conserve battery life. The last thing you want is to be walking around with a dead watch. We’d recommend a watch that holds a charge for at least a day. That way, you can charge your watch every night before bed. Making a daily routine of it will make it easier to remember.
Medical alert watches are usually waterproof or water-resistant, which offers peace of mind while showering, as bathrooms pose a major slipping hazard for seniors. This is also great for active seniors who swim, or those who spend a lot of time outside and live in a rainy area.
Depending on your technical ability, everyone will have a different definition of what’s complicated. However, if the complexity is something you are concerned about, opt for a simplistic model such as the QMedic device. Additionally, most medical alert watches will have video tutorials and a helpline if you run into a problem.
Absolutely, and the good thing about a medical alert watch is that they come in so many different styles. While a medical alert watch can’t prevent a fall or medical emergency, it will ensure help arrives promptly. So, if you are worried about your parents or any other elderly family member, it’s worth getting them one.
It depends on how you intend to use it. A watch is worn on the wrist so it looks a lot sleeker, but might not be as practical to wear in the shower as a lanyard would be. If you are stuck trying to decide, the Lively Wearable2 offers the best of both worlds with both a lanyard and wrist watch option.
Every medical alert watch operates differently. However, the majority are linked to a 24/7 monitoring center or 911. Sometimes medical alert watches are also linked to caregivers, family members, or specific helplines. For example, Lively offers many different services over the phone that can even help you with a flat tire, in addition to medical emergencies.
Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker
Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt
CDC. (2020). Older Adults.
National Council on Aging. (2020). Falls Prevention Facts.