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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

The Apple Watch: A New Tool for Fall Detection

February 14, 2020 | Leave a Comment

by Cody Froeter, CVRT

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Apple Watch 4


For many older individuals, falls are a major concern that can have serious consequences. According to the CDC, more than one in four seniors 65 years and older fall each year. People with vision loss have almost double the risk of experiencing a fall. These falls can lead to a lower quality of life, further disability and even an increased risk of death.

Beginning in the 1980’s, devices such as LifeAlert became popular methods for individuals to get emergency assistance after they fall. Over the years, these devices had an incredibly positive impact on the safety of older adults. While these devices were a great start, fall prevention has entered the 21st century with the advent of smart watches.

Smartwatches are small, Bluetooth devices, that not only display the date and time, but allow a user to keep track of physical activity, text messages, phone calls and even social media. In addition to being a high-tech extension of a smartphone, some watches also have a major benefit for seniors. Certain smartwatches can now detect when a fall occurs.


Fall Detection Features

With fall detection activated, certain smartwatch models can:

  • detect when a person falls,
  • notify 911 emergency services and
  • notify any contact stored in the phone’s emergency contact section such as family members or neighbors.

In addition to these built-in fall detection features, just having the ability to make an emergency call with the smartwatch can be an invaluable safeguard. Another advantage for a senior wearing a smart watch is that it provides all these features when outside the home. Something many other fall alert devices do not offer.


Too Much Technology?

Many seniors may feel that smartwatches are not a good fit for them or are too overwhelming to learn how to operate. Seniors can customize a smartwatch for their own needs or ability. An individual could use a smartwatch for only fall detection or just to place an emergency call using Siri. On the other hand, some seniors may be resistant to having a device like a LifeAlert because of the stigma associated with the old infomercials of the past. A smartwatch may seem like a more “hip” option that doesn’t attract attention that the person may need assistance.


Built-In Accessibility

The Apple Watch 4 and 5 both have a screen that is 30% larger and a speaker 50% louder. Seniors with vision loss can use these smartwatches because of the accessibility features built into the device. VoiceOver screen reader and large print clock faces are common adaptations that make this device an accessible option.

Smartwatches may just be a new technology fad, but they could also be an important tool in living a safe, independent life. If you have an Apple Watch and want to learn how to use VoiceOver or to use the fall detection feature, contact Second Sense. Our Tech Tutors or Vision Rehab staff will be happy to assist you.

Cody is a Certified Vision Rehabilitation Therapist at Second Sense. He works with seniors throughout Chicago area to teach them ways to increase their independence with vision loss.

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