Falls are the leading cause of death from injury for people aged 65 and older. Longer lifespans, a growing 65+ population proportion, decreasing bone density with age, and the preference of many older people to age independently at home add up to an increasing need for fall detection and timely response. There are steps one can take to reduce the likelihood of falls, but it is likely impossible to entirely prevent falls. Wearable health tech is a promising approach for real-time fall detection and alerts.
Sensogram Technologies‘ VitalBand multifunction smartwatch promises an array of health and wellness benefits. The device includes state-of-the-art activity tracking, clinical grade vital sign monitoring, medication reminders, and calendar alerts. VitalBand’s signature role lies in fall detection. When the watch detects a fall, it automatically calls and texts caregivers, medical professionals, family, and friends. The smartwatch also has a panic button for manual signaling. Depending on the version in use, the VitalBand connects via cell phone networks or the Internet. There are no monthly monitoring charges. Once the VitalBand is configured with alert contacts, using an app on an associated iOS or Android mobile device, it’s ready to work and set up to call for help if the wearer falls.
The VitalBand is different from many other personal emergency response systems (PERS), in that it provides a passive response to detected falls. Studies have shown that most seniors will not press the button to call for help with a standard PERS device, so a passive sensor system could be a big improvement. Compliance may continue to be a problem, however, as many seniors are reluctant to wear a PERS device. VitalBand looks more like a typical smartwatch and performs other useful functions, such as telling the time, so seniors may be more likely to wear it.
Several VitalBand smartwatches and protection package are available for pre-order. Prices range from $249 for just the VitalBand to a $400 bundle that includes a gateway hub and a camera with two-way audio. Among the many configuration settings is the ability to send an alert to a second party when the VitalBand battery charge falls below 20%, which could be useful for family or caregivers concerned that the wearer might not be diligent with charging and be unprotected if the battery fully discharges.