The earliest medical alert systems worked only within the home or had a range of just a few hundred feet from the base station. These systems required a landline phone, and the coverage was poor. Today, there are systems that use cellular and GPS, making them more suitable for mobile seniors.
Medical alert systems help seniors feel safer in their homes and remain independent longer, giving them the peace of mind that they can call for help at any moment if they become unwell, suffer an injury or just need some advice. Help buttons make it possible for seniors to continue living in their own homes for longer. This can be priceless for those who value their independence and the companionship that comes from remaining a part of the community where they have spent so much of their adult lives.
Having the freedom and confidence to go out shopping, meet friends, attend worship and otherwise lead an active lifestyle is important for seniors. Staying active helps seniors maintain their sense of self and can promote cognitive and physical well-being.
As people get older, however, they may be at an increased risk of falling. One out of every five falls in older adults causes a serious injury. Some seniors, especially those who have fallen before or who feel they have limited mobility, may stop leaving the house because of their fear of falling. Cellular-enabled medical alert systems with built-in GPS give seniors a sense of confidence and freedom because they know that if they do slip and fall, take ill, or otherwise need assistance, all they have to do is push a button.
Pricing structures for mobile medical alert systems vary. Basic in-home systems start at $24.95 per month. Mobile medical alert systems cost slightly more, with monthly fees of $34.95 or $39.95 being fairly common.
Many manufacturers offer additional features, such as fall detection, for an additional monthly fee of around $10 and spouse tracking or lockbox rental for a nominal extra fee.
Some manufacturers charge an activation fee or ask that the equipment be purchased up-front. Others build the cost of the equipment into the monthly fee and may require users to agree to a minimum contract period.
Active seniors may find it useful to sign up for device protection if their chosen provider offers this service. It covers the cost of replacing the help button if it’s lost or damaged.
Many of the best manufacturers of medical alert systems still offer in-home medical alert systems. These systems typically have a much lower monthly fee than their cellular-enabled products. They may also have much longer battery lives than their mobile counterparts.
Modern in-home systems have a range of 600–1,000 feet from the base station, on average, and often use a button with a belt clip. This range means the help button can be used in the garden or garage. Such devices may be sufficient for seniors who rarely leave the house but who are still fairly mobile and like to work on their carpentry or auto projects or tend their garden.
Those who like to go to church, go shopping or participate in senior groups could benefit from a mobile alert system with a cellular and GPS connection. Many manufacturers produce cellular and GPS-enabled pendants that are waterproof and have a good battery life. These devices are convenient since they can be worn all day, and the user is unlikely to forget to take it with them when they leave the house.
Some providers offer smartwatch-style medical alert systems with cellular and GPS features. These are popular with tech-savvy seniors who are still active and want something more discreet-looking than a pendant.
Convenience is one of the most important considerations when choosing a mobile medical alert system. Try to choose one that has a long battery life, fast charging time and clear alerts when the battery is low. Most systems have a battery life of several days and charge in just a few hours, so as long as the user remembers to put the device on charge every night, they should be able to depend on it to work when they are out of the house.
Look for a device that has the cellular features built into the watch or pendant. Most medical alert systems work this way, but some products still require users to carry a help button and a separate mobile base station. Some seniors may find this inconvenient, and it could deter them from carrying the device.
High-end packages for mobile medical alert systems often include additional features such as caregiver companion apps, fall detection and in-home monitoring.
Other features can be useful for seniors who require a little extra support and assistance. The main base station may offer temperature monitoring, and the wearable may detect when the user wakes up and track whether they are following their usual routine.
The loved ones of a senior with Alzheimer’s could download the alert system’s companion app and, with the senior’s consent, receive alerts if the senior leaves the house. They can then view the senior’s location and make sure they’re OK. This gives the user a feeling of independence and confidence, allowing them to live their life as normal and remain in their home. Should the senior have a bad day and become confused or lost, it’s easy for someone to help them.