Dear Ms. Smartphone: Saw your post about the Apple watch and raising free-range kids. Great idea if my kids were younger. But I have a Dad who is a free-range elder! He lives alone in a big house, it’s nearby. He is fairly healthy and still drives, but I worry. What if he takes a fall when he climbs up the ladder to clean the leaves or sweep the pool? He is used to carrying a smartphone, so should I get him the watch? Fernando, Ross
Dear Fernando: You Dad sounds like an independent spirit so he may not see the need for this new gizmo. Up to now, older people have not been sold on these Dick Tracy watches, and research finds that they discontinue use (it goes back in the box) within three to six months.
However, if you can impress on your Dad that the watch will let him stay independent and healthy, then he might keep it on for good. The pandemic has accelerated technology and services that were always on the horizon for older people. Make sure that he has the digital skills and is not afraid to ask questions about privacy and Family Setup settings.
Not a Dongle!
You mentioned ladders and falls. I’ve noticed that when old people go out, and this holds more for women than men, they clutch their purse and keep checking to make sure it’s there. This tends to throw them off balance, and makes them less stable on their feet. Anything that eliminates the need to tote bags and paraphernalia seems like a good idea.
Lots of well-meaning sons and daughters sign their parents up for wireless dongles that older people are meant to wear like a necklace. Should they take a fall, or have an emergency, there’s one button to press that connects to 911. The problem is that older people pleasantly “forget” to wear these things- it’s an acknowledgement of frailness.
So, the watch has an advantage. Dad will not have to wear the dongle and with the Series 6 , he will not even to carry a phone, assuming it is connected to your plan. He can sport a device that is equally coveted by an athletic runner, a busy Mom, or a gadget-geek.
If you have a recent iPhone you will notice an app you can’t delete called Apple Health. The new watch was designed so that Apple did not need to get FDA approval as a medical device but it does many of the functions like monitor blood oxygen levels and take an ECG. It will also do some level of fall detection. These measures are not completely accurate though- so they should not substitute for trips to the doctor. Still, the watch can help your Dad’s well being…if he allows it. But, the best medicine for an older person is reaching out and staying in relationships, so if this watch helps you and Dad maintain that over the years, it’s a fine timepiece.