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You wear it well

You wear it well.

From fitness bands to home safety equipment, we can now slip on tech that can save our lives.

Wearable technology is the term given to any electronic device that can be worn (such as a watch or band) or even embedded in a user’s clothing.

One of the earlier examples of this was Google Glass, the company’s attempt at making glasses that acted as a portable computer screen – a concept that was a bit ahead of its time. However, while the public may not be ready for the sci-fi image of glasses that talk to us, the wearable tech industry has been making great progress in syncing up wearables with the healthcare industry, which is changing elderly care.

Wearable tech started as computer watches and health-tracking bracelets, but is now helping seniors stay at home. Here’s how.

Smart watches

These devices, such as the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch, started off monitoring things like fitness, but now they can make calls, send texts and provide emergency assistance to the wearer. The watches also have voice-activated assistants like Siri or Alexa, so you needn’t even lift a finger to phone a friend for help.

You can access a map function to help you find your way or listen to an e-book or podcast if you are unable to read. And all watches have an international emergency call function if you have a fall or need assistance. The watches can even take the place of your wallet if you sign up to use Apple Pay, the online payment system.

These watches are like a high-tech version of the emergency buttons that seniors used to wear, but with a thousand new features to keep you safe, amused and connected.

Fitness trackers

These are more basic wearable tech than smart watches, but they can still monitor your health and allow you to get alerts from your phone. But they lack a lot of the other functionality, which of course makes them cheaper. A fitness tracker can still use your phone’s GPS to locate you, but there’s no GPS system on the watch itself.

On the upside, these trackers are less likely to be damaged than a smart watch and can even be worn while swimming. For seniors, though, a smart watch is easier to use and has more functionality.

BREAKOUT: “Once the stuff of Hollywood science-fiction movies, virtual reality is now reaching a point where you can afford to have it at home (though it’s still pricey)”

The future of wearable technology

In the US, companies are working hard on a range of products to help seniors stay at home. Some wearables aim to spot the signs of physical illness by monitoring the user’s patterns of eating and bathroom use. The company ActiveProtect is working on a belt that has an in-built airbag in case of falls, though it’s some way off making those readily available. Meanwhile, other companies seek to make GPS use easier so you can track a loved one that you might be worried about.

But one of the biggest new uses of wearable technology is for entertainment. Once the stuff of Hollywood science-fiction movies, virtual reality (VR) is now reaching a point where you can afford to have it at home (though it’s still quite pricey). VR headsets allow you to fully immerse yourself in games and short films with the Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View.

While you might not be ready to dive into a virtual world just yet, the area of wearable tech is something to keep an eye on. A lot of the changes being made right now are of huge benefit to seniors who might be able to use this technology to their advantage.