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If there was any doubt that seniors are into smart gadgets, AARP’s latest senior tech survey puts it to rest. In 2020, golden-agers spent nearly three times more ($1,114) on mobile smart tech than they did in 2019 Wearables such as smartwatches are part of the great senior tech shift, and many seniors already swear by them.
Older folks aging in place have found that tiny, lightweight smartwatches can double as health monitors and alerts, so they don’t have to rely on heavier, less portable smartphones. On-the-go seniors say smartwatches are great for staying connected. (You may miss a message on your phone, but a beep on your wrist? Never.) Retirees have even been using wearables to keep on top of fitness goals.
We tested a bunch of smartwatches this year, and found six that cover the gamut for tech-savvy seniors and caregivers. Read on for the best of the best. Plus, we have some extra pointers at the end that may help make sense of the senior smartwatch features you should keep an eye out for.
Fun Fact: Athletes and fitness buffs have been using GPS trackers since 1999, but it wasn’t until 2014, with the launch of the Apple Watch, that wearable tech went mainstream. You can now find smart gadgets just about anywhere, even around your neck in the form of wearable air conditioners like the Torras Coolify.
Our Top Seven Smartwatches for Seniors
The MGMove smartwatch from Medical Guardian is an excellent option for seniors who want discreet protection and loved ones looking for robust caregiving features. Keep in mind: The watch has a one-time equipment fee of $199.95, along with a monthly subscription of $39.95. This subscription gives you 24/7 access to Medical Guardian’s monitoring center. While this is typical for medical alert systems, MGMove is a bit pricey for comparable systems. However, its health, wellness, monitoring, and caregiving features may be well worth the cost. Plus, you can save a few bucks per month if you pay for your system annually rather than monthly.
There may come a time when a simple accident spells serious trouble, especially if you live alone. That’s when you’ll want a smartwatch with best-in-class medical alert capabilities — like the SOS Smartwatch — wrapped around your wrist. Bay Alarm Medical’s watch also doubles as a step tracker to help you maintain your fitness, and you won’t need a smartphone to use it.
Some older people on fixed incomes may bristle at the idea of paying $34.95 per month for emergency medical assistance on top of a $159 smartwatch, but that’s par for the course. When we reviewed Lively’s Jitterbug senior phones, for example, we found their Health & Safety Packages were just a few cents more per month. The Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch isn’t for every senior, but if you’re accident prone, you live alone, or you have a serious medical condition, you may find the peace of mind well worth the investment.
WellBe medical alert plans for seniors start at $29.95 per month, which is very affordable for medical alert watches. If you want a more advanced setup, the WellBe Smartwatch gives you all the tools you need to manage your health and fitness confidently and live fully protected in case of emergency.
The Alert1 On-the-Go Wrist Watch isn’t covering any new terrain, but it does give you complete emergency medical care around the clock without any frills to drive up the monthly fee. For a mere $179, the watch looks good, is a comfy companion, and is ready to use right out of the box without any complicated setup or app registration.
Did You Know: Alert1 is one of our top picks for medical alert systems. To learn more, visit our list of the best medical alert systems for seniors.
Alert1 won’t know you as well as, say, the WellBe Watch, which has its own mobile app, but you will have the incentive to stay on top of your daily fitness — and spend less time glued to your devices — with Alert1’s built-in pedometer.
At $229, the Fitbit Versa 3 is a comfy, stylish, super-equipped smartwatch you can now take out of the house for fitness without a phone. The Versa 3 has serious health-monitoring features, but it also doubles as a mini entertainment and communications system thanks to Google Assistant and watch-to-phone voice call and text features. If you want to enjoy all the perks the Fitbit has to offer, though, you’ll need a Fitbit Premium subscription ($9.99 per month).
The Apple Watch Series 6 does pretty much everything well. You can make phone calls, message contacts, listen to music, and work out. For older adults who want to age in place healthily, the Series 6 comes with the world’s most advanced wearable health-monitoring technology. If you go with the Series 6, you’ll nearly earn back your initial $399 investment in the first year, since monthly medical alert subscriptions typically run about $30 per month.
The Galaxy Watch 3 is a solid solution for independent older people who can still handle emergencies by themselves and want a stylish and intelligent wearable. The Galaxy Watch 3 doesn’t have as much power under the hood as Apple’s Series 6, but you’ll find fewer apps to juggle and a suite of easily accessible, modern health- and fitness-tracking options. Couple that with voice calling and texting, superior durability, and a whopping two days between charges, and that $174.99 price tag will give even the Apple diehards among us second thoughts.
Smartwatches have opened up new, exciting options for seniors to stay fit and connected, and to get quality medical assistance if they need it. All the smartwatches on our list had to meet the following criteria.
Senior Saving Tip: We’re always looking for good value when we pick our devices. For the latest seniors-only deals on tech, entertainment, dining, travel, and leisure, check out our up-to-the-minute seniors discounts and savings guide.
The last thing you want is to get stuck with a smartwatch that doesn’t do what you need it to, especially if you’re committing to a monthly plan. Before you sign on the dotted line, you should keep these three factors in mind.
The first question you need to answer when shopping for a smartphone for yourself or a loved one is: Do I need to be able to contact emergency medical assistance? If yes, make sure your smartwatch has an SOS button that connects you to certified medical personnel 24/7. Some seniors will also benefit from an app that reminds them when to refill prescriptions or take their medications, which are surprisingly easy to forget.
Most active older adults considering a smartwatch will want some form of fitness tracking, such as a step counter or pedometer. We also recommend blood oxygen sensors and ECG functionality for seniors who live with conditions such as adult asthma, an irregular heartbeat, or congenital heart disease.
You need to decide how hands-on you want to get with your smartwatch. If you want a watch you can leave on your wrist and forget about, keep an eye out for smartwatches with long battery lives that don’t require smartphone pairing. A stroll on your favorite nature trail will be a lot better if you don’t have to lug your phone around to keep track of your steps or monitor your heart rate!
Funny Fact: Who knew fooling a step tracker was actually a thing, but apparently it is. The easiest way to lie to your smartwatch pedometer, according to experts? Swing your arms back and forth as if you were walking. You can even do this from a chair.
You should also consider how easy a watch is to take off and put on. Sounds basic, but sometimes we spend so much time fixating on the tech that we forget it’s just a watch. How many sizes does it come in? Is the material hypoallergenic? Does it come with a clasp?
Falling down is no joke, and it happens to a lot more people than you’d expect — nearly 33 percent of Americans 65 years and up, according to the National Institute on Sensors worn around the neck were more accurate at weeding out false falls from the real McCoys in the past, but smartwatch fall-detection tech has gotten more sophisticated thanks to pioneering technological advances made by companies such as Apple.
Apple did two things that changed the fall-detection game. First, it taught its smartphone sensors to distinguish between different swimming strokes by recognizing telltale changes in motion and acceleration. Then it collected over 2,500 days’ worth of data from real-world falls involving 2,500 study participants at movement disorder clinics and assisted living facilities.
Did You Know: For smartwatch users 65 and over, Apple automatically toggles on fall detection.
The result was an accurate picture of how falling looks to your smartwatch’s motion sensors. With that tech under the hood, as soon as an Apple Watch detects a fall, it automatically pulls up a voice-activated emergency-contact button. If you don’t respond, your watch will call 911 for you.
Getting eight hours of beauty rest — once the easiest thing in the world to do — gets more difficult with age. A busy bladder may disrupt your sleep or you may suffer from sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome. How can you tell? Often you can’t. That’s where smartwatch sleep trackers, which measure sleep duration and quality, can offer some relief. The idea is pretty simple: Identifying our sleep patterns — or dangers in the case of apnea — may help us self-correct. Nice in theory, but does it work?
The experts at the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center say sleep trackers don’t really measure sleep. They measure lack of sleep, or inactivity. In that sense, sleep trackers estimate only how much sleep you’re actually getting. For anything more than that, you’d need to do a proper sleep
On the positive side, sleep trackers can help you spot trends. If a nap at 2 o’clock leaves you feeling like Superman, your sleep tracker will give you hard evidence. If, on the other hand, you get up every night at 2 a.m. (and 3 a.m. and 4 a.m.) after you drink an espresso with dinner, you’ll be able to connect the dots. Ditto for exercise routines and even ambient conditions in your room, depending on how much data your sleep app collects.
No, you don’t need to pay to use most smartwatches, but some medical smartwatches offer monthly subscriptions for extra emergency medical assistance.
When you press your emergency button, you’re connected to trained emergency personnel who will talk you through your situation. If you need EMS on the spot, they’ll dispatch help and get in touch with your emergency contacts.
Not necessarily. Apple Watches and Galaxy Watches now come with sophisticated fall detection, but some medical professionals believe fall detection is more accurate with devices worn around the neck.
If you have an Apple or Samsung smartwatch, you can make calls. Some models on this list, including the Fitbit Versa 3, allow you to connect via a nearby paired smartphone.
It depends on your health. If you live alone and have a pre-existing medical condition or you have used EMS during an emergency before, you should consider buttons placed around the house. It will also give you time to recharge your medical smartwatch, since they typically have shorter battery lives.
For over five years, Taylor has been writing, editing, and researching products and services covering topics such as senior care and technology, Internet and the digital divide, TV, and entertainment, and education. Her research on media consumption and consumer behavior has been… Learn More About Taylor Shuman