Fitness bands have become very popular in recent years (though many seem to end up in a kitchen drawer after a few months). But what if you’re not so interested in fitness, but would rather track other health and wellness factors? Do these devices have any useful benefits to offer?

Researchers at the Open University led by Professor Shailey Minocha decided to investigate this question as it relates to seniors: “Investigating the role of wearable activity-tracking technologies in the well-being and quality of life of people aged 55 and over.” They are looking at whether activity trackers can can help seniors. The group has conducted surveys and workshops with seniors, and have published a report of their initial results. Among their empirical findings, they learned that these devices could indeed help seniors become more aware of their health and encourage them to make better lifestyle choices. Sharing data with family and caregivers led to increased communication and a feeling of being more connected in some cases. On the other hand, the participants made it clear that these devices are not designed with older users in mind. Confusing apps, small screens that are difficult to read, and physical controls that are hard to use were just some of the issues raised. Some users found the devices too much of a “fuss” due to recharging and connecting to a smartphone, and they simply stopped using them.

The research is on-going, and caregivers are invited to participate by completing an online survey at According to the survey instructions, it should take 6 to 8 minutes to complete, and the information will help paint a more accurate picture of how wearables are helping seniors and their caregivers, and how they might be improved to work even better.