After years of disappointing elder care professionals by refusing to design effective iPhone features to assist older adults, Apple has introduced new features targeted at the demographic. Its Walking Steadiness mechanism measures step length, foot-to-ground contact, and walking speed to determine the stability of the user. The approach is based on prediction instead of response and issues warnings if the user has a noticeable risk of falling.
Apple performed a clinical study of more than 100,000 people in different age brackets to collect the necessary data. With falls being the number one cause of injuries and death for U.S. seniors and a significant burden on healthcare costs, fall prevention methods have been studied for decades. The Walking Steadiness feature may not be perfect in its first iterations, but it is a step in the right direction.
Also on Apple’s agenda is the capability to share health information with select individuals. Wariness of elder care facilities grew exponentially during COVID-19 lockdowns. This feature is a major win for families and caregivers that require constant health updates but lack the time or resources for consistent in-person monitoring.
For some, sharing these metrics is a step too far. There are concerns about this use of technology being an invasion of privacy and many children of elders fear that their parents are not adequately apprised of what information they’re publicizing. Conversely, detractors claim that the Apple feature’s deluge of health information would only end up confusing children or caretakers with limited medical knowledge and lead to inevitable “cry wolf” situations that might waste the time of medical professionals. Ultimately, despite any drawbacks, these features indicate Apple could be a pivotal trendsetter for a budding surge in developing everyday elder care technology.