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Medical Alert Systems vs. Smartwatches for Seniors

Ensuring the well-being of our senior loved ones is a daily priority, and even more so during those moments when we cannot be there to assist them. Imagine having a device that can track their physical health status, monitor their physical well-being 24/7, and assist them in an emergency by providing immediate help from trained professionals. This article explores the concept of medical alert systems and smartwatches. Keep reading to find out how these technologies can support the well-being and safety of your senior loved ones.

Medical alert systems for seniors

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Medical alert systems are devices designed to monitor the physical integrity of a person in real time. These devices have a key feature: if there is an emergency, they can be activated manually by the senior (simply by pressing a button) or automatically (the device uses intelligent detection algorithms). Once activated, it immediately connects the senior with a medical center where trained professionals will provide any support needed, from simple instructions to sending emergency personnel to the exact location of the urgency.

There are different types of medical alert systems designed for different needs; however, most of them share the same key features:

  • Easy use. Simply click one button to get immediate support during any emergency.
  • Simple design. It is focused only on key functions like emergency alerts. It does not have complicated features.
  • Intuitive. It is very intuitive to learn how to get used to the device, making the process easier and faster, increasing the acceptance of this technology.
  • Continuous monitoring. 24/7 real-time monitoring by an emergency center operated by skilled professionals, consistently promoting the well-being of the seniors.
  • Reliable connectivity. Integrated with cellular, Wi-Fi, and GPS technologies, assuring communication is reliable.
  • Fall detection. If the user experiences a sudden fall, the device automatically detects it and informs the emergency center to provide support (some medical alert systems have this feature).

All these features make medical alert systems an excellent and unique technology for seniors, supporting their independence and providing them the tranquility of knowing that they can get help at any time needed. On the other side, for caregivers, these systems provide confidence that their senior loved ones are constantly being monitored and will have any support needed from an expert monitoring center. For both, it reduces stress and ensures the safety and well-being of our senior beloved

Smartwatches for seniors

Smartwatches are wearable wrist devices that have embedded all the electronic components needed to offer functionalities as a minicomputer. Thanks to all the technology built on them (especially sensors), they can provide not only time but also track fitness and health metrics such as heart rate, activity levels, and blood oxygen levels, among others.

These devices have also wireless communication (Bluetooth) to a smartphone, being able to transfer all the data collected from the senior throughout the day from one device to the other.

In addition, some smartwatches have integrated emergency SOS features, such as fall detection, allowing users to call a close contact in case needed immediately.

Besides that, one of the strongest key features of a smartwatch is communication. These devices can connect wirelessly to a smartphone and utilize its network to receive notifications, read and send texts, or even make calls directly.

Medical alert systems vs. smartwatches: key differences

Here, we summarize some of the key features between medical alert systems and smartwatches, highlighting their features related to senior health tracking and assistance:

FeaturesMedical alert systemsSmartwatches
Emergency activationButton press (manual) or fall detection (automatic)Touchscreen interface, requiring an in-built app
Primary function
Immediate emergency assistance
Communication (phone calls, messages) and health tracking (heart rate, blood oxygen levels, physical activity)
Fall detectionMost have it with a subscriptionSome devices may have it
Monitoring24/7 monitoring by professional emergency centersSelf-monitoring or limited monitoring
Emergency responseDirect connection to an emergency monitoring centerEmergency calls/messages with smartphone
Water resistanceOften waterproof for use in showersVaries by model, some are waterproof
Battery lifeLong-lasting (from days to weeks)Requires daily charging
Geolocation (GPS)YesYes
Range for operationCommunication works anywhere (cellular, Wi-Fi, GPS)May require a smartphone for communication
Health tracking parametersHeart rate (some of them) and motion (including fall detection)Heart rate, electrocardiogram (ECG), motion activity, blood oxygen levels (SpO2), respiratory rate, and sleep tracking
CostSubscription-based with upfront equipment costOne-time purchase with optional data plans

Which device should a senior get?

Deciding between getting a medical alert system or a smartwatch depends largely on what you want for your beloved senior. If your interest is mainly in monitoring their vital signs, then a smartwatch is the right device for you to get. However, if you are looking to provide your senior with immediate and personalized attention by just pressing a button, then a medical alert system is the option to take.

Recommend medical alert systems for seniors who:

  • Live alone or have limited mobility
  • Require constant supervision
  • Prefer simple technology
  • Have chronic health conditions (mobility or visual, among others)

Recommend smartwatches for seniors who:

  • Are active and health-conscious
  • Want additional features such as communication and health and fitness tracking
  • Are comfortable with technology
  • Don’t have mobility and/or visual chronic health conditions

Combining both medical alert systems and smartwatches

It is not always a matter of choosing one over the other exclusively. The truth is that it is also possible to use medical alert systems and smartwatch devices together. This approach allows the senior to monitor and track their health and physical status (smartwatch) and also receive instant assistance by pressing a single button (medical alert system). The best part is that medical alert systems come in different formats, allowing the senior to choose one that could be combined with the smartwatch (for example, a necklace medical alert system).

Currently, there are medical alert systems available in the form of smartwatches, maintaining the simplicity and user-friendliness that are key features of traditional medical alert systems. The medical alert watch also offers additional features such as multi-parameter measurements (user movement, heart rate, fall detection), bringing them closer to the capabilities of traditional smartwatches, combining both technologies.


In conclusion, both smartwatches and medical alert systems offer valuable support for your loved senior in unique ways. Smartwatches enable multiparameter health monitoring (heart rate, activity levels, blood oxygen levels), empowering users to track their health and share data with caregivers or doctors. On the other hand, medical alert systems provide immediate assistance with the press of a button, facilitating instant communication with emergency services.

Combining both technologies enhances safety and health monitoring comprehensively. This dual approach promotes independence and confidence for users while providing peace of mind for caregivers.


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