3 Ways Senior Living Communities Can Leverage Wearable Devices to Support Resident Health
More than one in five older adults own a wearable device. But what exactly is that?
A wearable device is a piece of technology worn on the human body that usually offers biometric tracking capabilities – think: the Apple Watch and the Fitbit.
But wearables are more than smartwatches, and they can range from remote patient monitoring (RPM) devices to emergency alert buttons.
Here are three ways you can leverage these devices to support positive health outcomes at your senior living community.
1. Continuously Track Vital Signs to Provide More Attentive Care
Managing chronic conditions – 85 percent of older adults have at least one – over the pandemic has required a great deal of flexibility from older adults and their care teams.
This is where RPM devices have come up big.
These wearables wirelessly share a user’s biometric measurements with their designated care team. During lockdown periods, this was especially valuable as it allowed medical staff to remotely monitor residents’ vital signs and offer appropriate treatment plans.
But this wearable technology is just as useful outside of quarantines. Take, for example, falling – the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. Studies show that the longer an older adult is on the ground after a fall, the greater the chances of serious injury. With a medical alert wearable, a resident can quickly notify staff they need help with the push of a button or a voice-activated command.
2. Use Activity Sharing Features to Organize Fitness Challenges
To encourage fitness and curb sedentary lifestyles, activity leaders can create community-wide challenges where, for instance, the resident with the most steps at the end of the week wins.
What do they win, you ask? Could be anything from symphony tickets to a sundae with all the fixings. A 2015 study even showed that just using a wearable incentivized 45 percent of older adults to live healthier. Tack on a reward – which studies show can increase intrinsic motivation – and you could quickly see positive results from your residents.
So however you organize the competition, whether it’s a Hogwarts-esque points system or a March Madness bracket, you can use wearables to improve resident wellness in your community.
Because wearables track various vital signs, they also work for older adults with different ability levels. Instead of using steps, residents with mobility issues might measure physical fitness by how many calories they burned in a week or how long they stayed in REM sleep cycles.
Wearables don’t just work in physical class settings, either. Residents can use wearable devices to track their activity in virtual fitness classes. This means that if a resident contracts a virus and needs to quarantine, they can stay active in their rooms – and still win their community’s fitness challenge that week.
3. Reference Biometric Data to Personalize Fitness Classes
Even the most active adults don’t know their exact physical limits. A wearable takes the guesswork out of measuring an exercise’s impact, giving fitness instructors clear biometric data they can use to guide classes.
For instance, if a target heart rate for a given exercise is 115 and three class members’ heart rates have risen to 130, the instructor can deliver instructions that scale back the exercise for those three residents. Alternatively, if a few participants’ heart rates don’t rise enough, the instructor might feel comfortable slightly increasing the intensity of the workout for them.
In either case, a wearable helps community fitness teachers better personalize their classes to fit the exact needs of the participants. This personalization helps ensure each resident who takes the class gets a great workout and stays safe from issues (muscle tears, fainting, chest pains) that might come from overexertion.
Wearables Connect Your Senior Living Community and Enable Resident Independence
Whether your community decides to purchase wearables for residents or offers to integrate residents’ personal wearable devices with existing systems (EHR, eMAR, chronic care management platforms, etc.) it’s important to have strategies in place to maximize wearables’ value.
When used properly, wearable devices don’t just improve the quality of care; they also give residents more autonomy. With wearables, older adults can independently check their vitals or track physical activity without relying on staff members.
Not to mention, many wearables, like Apple Watches, connect with other smart devices. This makes replying to text messages or using smart home technology (fans, lights, A/C) even easier.
If you’re curious about how to implement technology in your senior living community,