Best Technology for Seniors with Balance Issues

tech for seniors

One of my patients recently asked me what I thought about smart watches and other technology for seniors to improve their balance.

I love the idea of using technology to improve balance!

Smart watches can be great for tracking activity and exercise.

But many of the top smart watches lack a feature that can be really helpful for people with balance issues. (I’ll cover that in the section medical alert smart watch)

First, let’s consider some multi purpose technology ideas that can help seniors who are at risk for falls.

1. Smart Light Bulbs

It’s no surprise that we have better balance in a bright room compared to a dark or dimly lit room.  Even still, research confirms that even a nightlight can improve the stability of older adults without disturbing their ability to sleep.  

One of my senior patients showed me how she walks across her dark room into the dark hallway to turn on the switch so she can use the bathroom at night.  She did not have any plugs in the hallway of her older home, but felt like she needed to turn on and off the hallway light.

A better solution: I recommended that she have her daughter install a motion sensor lightbulb in the hallway so it turned on whenever she stepped into the hallway from her bedroom.

You don’t actually need to be a senior to do this trick! I have a motion sensor bulb in my garage as well as on my back porch so I never have to think about reaching for the light switch. It’s really helpful if my hands are full too!

Motion sensor lightbulbs are simple technology tools that can absolutely help you stay upright and avoid falling or tripping in a dark room!

Motion Sensor Light Bulbs, Aukora 12W (100-Watt Equivalent) E26 Motion Activated Dusk to Dawn Security Light Bulb Outdoor/Indoor for Front Door...
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Motion Sensor Light Bulbs, Aukora 12W (100-Watt Equivalent) E26 Motion Activated Dusk to Dawn Security Light Bulb Outdoor/Indoor for Front Door...
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Vont 'Lyra' LED Night Light, Plug-in [6 Pack] Super Smart Dusk to Dawn Sensor, Night Lights Suitable for Bedroom, Bathroom,...
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Vont 'Lyra' LED Night Light, Plug-in [6 Pack] Super Smart Dusk to Dawn Sensor, Night Lights Suitable for Bedroom, Bathroom,...
  • [THE PERFECT BRIGHTNESS] Our smart night lights provide just the right amount of light to walk around your house without turning your main lights on....
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2. Amazon Echo and Google Home

An even better solution for the patient I mentioned above would have been to recommend that she connect a smart lightbulb with her Amazon Echo.  

“Alexa turn on the hallway light”

Smart light bulbs can be purchased for about $15 and an Amazon Echo is less than $30. So for about $45, you can turn on any smart light bulb in your home from the Amazon Echo placed on your night stand! 

Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with clock and Alexa - Sandstone
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Echo Dot (3rd Gen) - Smart speaker with clock and Alexa - Sandstone
  • Our most popular smart speaker - Now available with an LED display that can show the time, outdoor temperature, or timers.
  • Perfect for your nightstand - Ask Alexa to set an alarm. Tap the top to snooze. The light sensor automatically adjusts the display’s brightness, day...

I also like the idea of having an Amazon echo available in case a loved one needs to call someone for help and is unable to reach their phone.  While an Amazon Echo or Google Home device is not considered a medical alert system, the ability to call someone with voice commands is a great technology for seniors with balance issues. (Good to know – you cannot call 911 with Amazon Echo or Google Home, you have to have a medical alert system for this.)

3. FitBit (Fitness Tracker) | Fitbit Inspire

If you or your parents are starting to notice changes in balance, consider taking a closer look at increasing overall activity levels.  Studies have shown up to a 40% decrease in fall risk for individuals who are active with an exercise routine. 

Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate and Fitness Tracker, One Size (S and L Bands Included), 1 Count
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Fitbit Inspire HR Heart Rate and Fitness Tracker, One Size (S and L Bands Included), 1 Count
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A small investment in a $70 fitness tracker may lead to greater overall activity levels and decrease risks of falling.  In a day where the average hospitalization costs for a fall will cost a senior over $30,000 in medical bills, it’s a smart move to make an investment in your health with a fitness tracker!

4. Medical Alert Smart Watches

New advancements in medical alert systems are happening each year and one of the newest changes to the industry is a medical alert smart watch.

Family members want to have peace of mind for their loved ones, and seniors want to stay active and maintain their independence. Smart watches to the rescue….right?

As a physical therapist who has worked with many seniors in the home health setting, I’m often asked about smart watches for seniors. In reality, most people are really wanting a medical alert feature on a smart watch, which isn’t standard on the everyday smartwatch.

One of the best solutions I’ve seen is in the form of a medical alert smart watch.  Medical Guardian offers the Freedom Guardian medical alert watch for a reasonable monthly cost.  You can check it out my Medical Guardian review here if you’re interested in that technology.

Final Recommendation on Technology and Tools for Improving Balance

While technology can be a great way to track physical activity, the key is finding the motivation to get moving every day! 

You can have the best technology available, but if you don’t use it, you won’t see any improvements in your balance.

Commit to improving your balance with activity each day.  Use technology to track your results and to even motivate you to move. But stay good on your promise to yourself to work on balance training everyday and you’ll give yourself the best chance to see the results you want.

Tim Fraticelli DPT, MBA, CFP®

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of PTProgress.com. He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.