by Tim Bajarin, Contributing Editor
Some years ago, when I was in Japan I was told about a WiFi enabled teapot. At the time someone mentioned this to me I could not for the life of me figure out why connecting a teapot to WiFi made any sense at all. It turns out that the older Japanese still have tea two or three times a day, including a late afternoon tea time that many have been doing for decades. So their children, who are in their 40’s or 50’s, set up a WiFi router in their parents’ homes and buy them these WiFi enabled tea kettles so that every time the tea kettle is lifted to pour the tea, it sends them an alert that lets them know the parents are doing OK and things are normal.
Although most people buying Apple’s Watch’s are under 35, we are seeing a lot of folks in there 50’s and 60’s also buying them to take advantage of their functionality. Interestingly, my wife’s most used app on her Apple Watch is the find my phone feature since she is constantly misplacing her phone at home. In my case, as a Type 2 diabetic there are three Watch apps that I use daily to help remind me to do my blood tests, check carbs for determining my insulin dosage and send notifications about getting up and moving around to stay active.
Our research shows that people love the notifications, email and Siri features on their Apple Watch and even though this product is in its early stages, a Wristly survey recently found that 96% of those who have the Apple watch are highly satisfied with it and what it does for them. But many in our age group have discovered that there is another key reason to buy an Apple Watch and that is to give it to their parents to make it possible to monitor them in real time and perhaps more importantly, make it easy for them to call for help or assistance if needed. In a sense, the Apple Watch is the modern version of this tea kettle.
Those who have an Apple watch know that it has the “Dick Tracy” feature which makes it possible for them to call anyone through the Apple Watch. Now I realize that more and more seniors have smartphones these days, but if they have fallen down or it is not easy to get to their iPhone even though it is in the house somewhere, all they have to do is say “Hey Siri, call 911” or Hey Siri, call my son or daughter and they can ask for help quickly and speak to the 911 dispatcher or their children right on the Watch itself.
Also, if the parent has an Apple Watch and the son or daughter has one too, they can use the Watch’s instant contact feature to do non-verbal combination often during the day to stay in touch and make sure their parents are OK. I spoke with a woman recently who is in her mid 50’s whose mother is in her mid 70’s and lives in another state. She told me that she bought an Apple Watch for her mother and often during the day just scribbles a question market in the drawing area of the Apple Watch. If her mom is OK she just scribbles an image of a heart. That way she can see if her mother is OK often during her busy work day when calling to check on her is near to impossible.
But I think that Apple or a third party vendor needs to create what I call the “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” application.
If you say that to Siri now it comes back with something like “I don’t know how to do that.” Or “I can only do that via a handoff” which means you start the action on your Watch but have to finish it on the iPhone. In an emergency this is not a good answer.
But if a person makes that request, either Siri, or a dedicated app needs to give voice prompts that has multiple choice questions and gives answers related to these types of emergencies and take the appropriate action quickly.
Even so, the Dick Tracy feature as well as the non-verbal way to communicate with a parent makes the Apple Watch a very good tech tool to give to an aging parent for use in an emergency, especially if something has happened and they can’t get to their phone. It is also a great way to keep in touch through the day to make sure they are OK without having to call them, which in a lot of cases is just not feasible for working sons or daughters. The Apple Watch is probably not for everyone but this use case clearly hits home if it helps an aging parent stay safer and keep in closer contact with their grown children and is probably worth the expense for the peace of mind it can give aging parents and their children.