Smart watches and wearables aren’t just for athletes or tech-savvy millennials. In fact, for seniors in particular, these game-changing devices will prove to be valuable when it comes to proactive care. Seniors use more healthcare resources per capita than any other group, and this population is growing rapidly – by 2030, one in five of the nation’s population will be 65 or older.

With the introduction of wearables and the real-time personalized data they offer, healthcare has been given the power of unprecedented amounts of actionable insights from end-users to help get ahead of the complex care this senior population requires. When it comes to the safety of residents in senior living communities, the use of medical alert wearables can be particularly of use – not only do they help keep residents out of harms’ way and enhance your staff’s ability to monitor and respond to resident needs, but also help encourage seniors to maintain their lifestyle confidently, knowing help is always available.

Creating a Connected Community

Falls are one of the biggest concerns in the long-term care space, as many communities don’t know when their residents are walking around and inherently increasing their fall risk. The longer a senior is on the ground after a fall, the more likely their condition is exacerbated, and in these settings, it’s common for senior falls to go either unreported or uncovered after the fact. Whether residents send an alert due to a fall or for any other reason, medical wearables can help give them fast access to assistance wherever and whenever they need it.

Wearables not only help protect residents, but can also help compile a variety of significant health data, both passively and actively, including vitals or the occurrence of a fall. The data extracted from senior wearables can become the basic building blocks of your entire resident safety system, helping reinforce meaningful connections between you, your staff, your residents and their loved ones.

Whether a senior is living in a residential community, skilled nursing facility or another type of senior living environment, combining the concept of the connected home with connected care helps create an integrated system where a resident’s issues are much less likely to be unrecognized. An analysis of this data, such as where and when falls are occurring throughout the community, resident wandering patterns and staff response time, will help give you the visibility you need to define opportunities for operational and staff improvement, identify individualized, appropriate care for residents, and assign residents into well-defined levels of care for maximum revenue potential. The hardware of the device alone isn’t sufficient, but when it is connected with the data it generates, it can help create more meaningful experiences for seniors, their families, and their caregiver communities.

By creating a community centered on reliable Wi-Fi connectivity and having technology devices and communication tools powered by a single network, it helps allow the creation of one back end platform for data aggregation. Such databases offer a more complete picture of each resident over time, and can provide actionable insights to better manage the risks that vulnerable residents present. These technologies can also provide family members with the knowledge that their loved one is safe and that they will be notified in near real-time should anything change.

The future of wearables

Wearable technology is designed to help streamline care, but if it’s not the right fit for the specific community or not applied in the appropriate way, communities may not realize a return on their investment and move the needle on improving resident safety. As the market for senior wearables matures, they will be designed to better meet the individual and enterprise-wide needs of executives at senior living communities, enhancing community management and resident care.

To help resolve emergency response and fall detection needs, devices will need to be designed purposefully for the intended user with dedicated form factors. For example, accurate biometric sensors matter more for a senior wearable than an athletic smart watch. In addition, wearables in the future will be designed to identify changes in trends so care teams can act accordingly. By using data on a “need to know” basis and applying analytics to evaluate patterns, devices will determine the specific actionable and addressable moments that care teams and caregivers will need to know.

The everyday use of wearables can provide ongoing, cost effective interventions, and will play a bigger role in aging as we continue to seek digitally connected lives. The consistent generation of personalized data that wearables offer will prove to be critical as healthcare transitions to value-based care, becoming an essential piece of the ecosystem of integrated solutions that caregivers, both informal and professional, have at their fingertips.

Ripley Martin is the general manager at Philips Lifeline.