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Should you buy an Apple Watch for an elderly loved one?

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Whether it’s a holiday gift or birthday present, you might be wondering if an Apple Watch is a good gift for an elderly family member. After all, there are health features and apps that can be quite useful. And if you wear an Apple Watch yourself, you probably believe these things could benefit someone in their older years. But would it really make a suitable gift for your parents or grandparent?

A lot that weighs on the answer to this question is knowing the individual you’re considering buying it for. Are they resistant to technological devices? Are they willing to learn new things? If you’ve already thought through these types of questions, but still aren’t sure, we’re here to help.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of buying an Apple Watch for a senior, what benefits they could gain, and which apps and features would help them the most.

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Buying an Apple Watch for the elderly: Pros and cons

Sometimes making a sound decision is a matter of listing out the pros and cons. This helps you see both the good and bad more clearly. Keep in mind that not all will apply as, again, you know your family members best.

Advantages of an Apple Watch for seniors

The biggest Pros for buying the Apple Watch for a senior include the health and emergency features offered, beginning with the heart rate monitoring options.

ECG app

As of watchOS 5.1.2, Apple added the ECG heart rate monitor to Apple Watch Series 4. With this helpful built-in app, you simply hold your finger on the Digital Crown for 30 seconds to obtain a reading.

Once the reading is complete, you’ll receive the results as AFib, sinus rhythm, or inconclusive. You can tap to add symptoms if you’re feeling ill and all recordings are tracked in the Health App which can be sent to your physician.

Apple Watch ECG Reading
ECG reading

Irregular Rhythm Notifications

You can also set up Irregular Rhythm Notifications on Apple Watch. The intent is to notify the wearer if five irregular rhythms are detected over a minimum of 65 minutes (Afib). This information is also recorded in the Health app.

You can check out our complete tutorial for how to use the ECG app and irregular rhythm notifications on Apple Watch for specific details and instructions including sending the data to your doctor.

Heart Rate app

Apple Watch also offers a helpful Heart Rate app so that you can get your heart rate whenever you like and record the data in the Health app. You can see your heart rate for resting, walking, or take a current reading. Plus, you can set up high heart rate notifications.

Apple Watch Heart Rate Monitor
Heart Rate reading

Emergency SOS and Fall Detection

The Emergency SOS and Fall Detection features are ideal safety settings for older adults.

With Emergency SOS, you can enable calls in the Watch app so the user simply holds the side button on Apple Watch to make the call. Plus, you can set up emergency contacts so that when you call emergency services, those folks will also be notified.

Fall Detection works with Emergency SOS and can be enabled with a simple slide of the toggle in the Watch app. If Apple Watch detects a fall and no movement after that, you’ll receive an alert. If you don’t respond to the alert, Apple Watch will tap your wrist, sound an alarm, and call emergency services.

Apple Watch SOS and Fall Detection

Emergency SOS and Fall Detection settings

Easy communications

Another wonderful feature and pro of purchasing an Apple Watch for someone in their golden years is the easy way to communicate.

You can send and receive phone calls and text messages right from the Apple Watch. So if your iPhone is on the other side of the room, you don’t have to even leave the couch. Tap to text or call whoever you like.

Apple Watch Phone Messages
Phone and Messages apps

Benefits of Apple Watch for the elderly

You may be wondering how other families feel about the topic or if the scientific industry has taken a look. Some studies have taken place regarding technology in geriatrics. One such study from 2018 states:

The most promising clinical applications of technologies are housing and safety to guarantee older people remaining in their own homes and communities, mobility and rehabilitation to improve mobility and gait and communication and quality of life by reducing isolation, improve management of medications and transportation.

But the advantages of an elder using the Apple Watch could go much further than just the built-in health and safety features and communication apps.

A report from CNBC talks about Apple and Eli Lilly recently working together with data from iPhones and Apple Watches in relation to detecting signs of dementia.

The authors found that people with symptoms of cognitive decline typed more slowly, typed less regularly and sent fewer text messages than healthy participants. They also have a greater reliance on support apps and are less inclined to fill out surveys.

Where the data obtained from the study by Apple and Eli Lilly will go is unsure at this point, but it is something to keep an eye out for down the road. There are approximately six million people in the U.S. alone living with dementia.

Disadvantages of an Apple Watch for seniors

Even though the Apple Watch offers some beneficial health and emergency features, it may still not be a perfect gift for the senior in your life. Here are a few considerations.

Small screen

No matter how you look at the Apple Watch, it’s still a watch. So obviously the screen is not as large as an iPhone or iPad. This could make it tough to tap the things you need to without accidentally tapping something else. The Apple Watch does offer accessibility features such as Zoom that can help which can be found in the Watch app.

Apple Watch Series 4 vs iPhone 8 screen

Apple Watch Series 4 vs. iPhone 8 screen

Learning curve

While the Apple Watch is not difficult to learn or use, it still can be for someone who isn’t keen on technology. If your loved one struggles to do things like make calls or send text messages on their iPhone, you might consider the same difficulties they would experience with an Apple Watch.

Getting nearby help

Who currently helps your parents or grandparent if they’re having trouble with their iPhone, iPad, or computer? If they aren’t able to figure things out on their own, is there a go-to person to help them and if so, is it you?

The thing is, you may have to plan on helping them get used to the Apple Watch by showing them how to do the basics. And if you’re not nearby, for example, if you live in another state, then this won’t be easy for either of you. It’s just another thing to think about.

Tips for setting up the Apple Watch

If you do decide that you’re going to give this gift a try, there are a few things you can do to help get everything set up in the beginning.

Accessibility settings

As mentioned above, you might consider using some of the Accessibility options available for Apple Watch. For instance, you can enable Zoom and set the zoom level. Then, your loved one just double taps the screen with two fingers to zoom in.

Other helpful Accessibility features include VoiceOver, Bold Text, Grayscale, and a setting to Reduce Motion. All of these settings are in the Watch app under Accessibility.

Apple Watch Accessibility Settings
Accessibility settings

Watch faces and Complications

Try to get your parents or grandparent set up with a Watch face and Complications that they’ll find most useful.

Maybe you know that numbers are easier for them to read than a watch dial or that they really love Mickey Mouse. Try to pick out a couple of Watch faces and have them set up so they can just pick one or switch between them if they like.

Apple Watch Faces Complications

Watch Faces and Complications

For Complications, think about what they’ll use most. You can add them for the Heart Rate app so they can check that with a tap. And if they are always looking at the current weather or news headlines, pop those Complications on the face for them.

Notifications and alerts

As you already know, almost every app seems to have a notification for one thing or another. And if you don’t control these, well, they get out of control, right?

Just like on your iPhone, customizing the notifications on Apple Watch is important. You don’t want to hear a ding or feel a tap for every little thing. Help out your loved one by customizing the alerts right off the bat in the Watch app under Notifications. Just keep those enabled for the most important alerts your parent or grandparent would need or want.

Apple Watch Notification Settings
Notification settings


Third-party apps

Along with the built-in Apple Watch apps and features, take a bit of time to browse the App Store for additional tools. Here are just a few you might consider downloading and helping your loved one set up.

Apple Watch Mango Health Alert
Mango Health reminder

Mango Health (Free): Receive reminders on Apple Watch for taking medication. The app offers additional features on the iPhone like drug interaction warnings, refill alerts, and a daily health diary.

Pillow Automatic Sleep Tracker (Free with IAP): Includes a record of sleep, heart rate analysis during the night, nap modes, sleep aids, and wake-up sounds for a complete Apple Watch sleep tracking package.

Headspace Meditation & Sleep (Free with IAP): This meditation and mindfulness app offers guided sessions, breathing exercises, and a heart rate monitor. This is a great app to check out for stress relief and relaxation.

Apple Watch for your elderly family member?

Hopefully, this information will help you decide if the Apple Watch is a good idea for your family members. And if you choose to make that purchase, the tips for getting the Watch set up for them should help too.

Please let us know what you decide and how it all works out! You can pop back over and leave a comment below or visit us on Facebook or Twitter; we’d love to hear from you!

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