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Source: Kapok | https://www.multiculturalcaregiving.net/apps-products-and-services-to-track-health-goals-for-seniors/
As a caregiver, one of your roles may be to track health goals for seniors in your care. Or, the senior may wish to track their own health. The good thing about what can be a tedious process is that there are apps, products, and services to help track these goals and maintain them.
These trackers can also get the older adults involved as well to track their own goals. This drives motivation and encourages our older adults to use the tools we will be looking at to stick to their goals or exercise routines.
What you use depends on the health goals you’re tracking. So, this post looks at some of the popular health goals for seniors and how to use apps, products, and services to track those health goals.
But first …
Why is it Important to Track Health Goals for Seniors?
Tracking health goals helps with developing good habits and maintaining consistency. For seniors, this gives them a chance to be in control of their life and health, something that can easily motivate them to keep at it. It can also encourage healthy competition for seniors in a community living setting.
Overall, tracking health goals makes your job as a caregiver easier.
You can see the progress being made, have detailed information to provide doctors for medical visits, and even have a way to bond with those in your care.
So, your help and encouragement for using wearable devices and other types of health trackers for the long run will have immensely better outcomes for the seniors in your care.
3 Types of Apps, Products, and Services to Track Health Hoals
There are three main ways to help seniors keep track of their health goals. These are wearable trackers, mobile apps, and physical planners/trackers, aka pen and paper.
1. Wearable Trackers
Wearable health trackers help seniors and you, their caregivers, to track a variety of health goals. As most trackers improve from one version to the next, you can track things like:
- Steps taken/activity level
- Heart rate
The better wearable trackers are paired with an app, like the Fitbit trackers (which you can find on Amazon).
But, what if the senior in your care doesn’t like wearable devices? Then there are options to track their health goals with your phone, other smart devices, or physical products.
2. Mobile Apps for Tracking Health Goals
There are many mobile apps to help seniors achieve their health goals. Some are native to the types of phones they have. Others are independent options, like Android tracker apps or service apps that can help with diet and meal planning.
If you’re looking at native apps, two immediately come to mind for iOS and android – the Apple Health App and the Samsung Health App, respectively.
Both apps come with the phone, which makes them easier to set up. And where you may need to change phones, if you create an Apple or Samsung account, you can easily transfer your goals and stats from one phone to the next. This is a pretty useful feature, so you won’t need to start from scratch each time.
Then there are apps designed to work on any operating system or platform. This means it doesn’t matter if you have an iOS or an Android smart device – the app will work with it.
A great example of a cross-platform compatible app to track health goals for seniors, including tracking their fitness goals, is the FitBit app tied to their smartwatch. Others like MyFitnessPal helps you track food and water intake.
3. Physical Trackers, aka Pen and Paper
‘Pen and paper’ is still a trusty method for planning and keeping track of health goals. But not to worry. You won’t need to start from scratch with a blank page.
There are many printables, planners, and tracker worksheets designed for the health goals our seniors are more likely to have.
For example, the National Institute on Aging provides several options for exercise and physical activity tracking tools. These are printables, so you’ll have to print them out and keep track of the sheets.
If you’d prefer a planner, then Amazon has several options you can use. So, you can either get a meal planner to help you track the healthy meals you’re creating. Or, use an exercise planner to agree on a routine and give seniors the tools to track their fitness goals on their own.
Combining Apps, Products, and Services with Health Goals
Now that you know the three types of trackers, here’s how to use them. When you track health goals for seniors, this should be tied to specific outcomes that you would like to achieve. Here, we will look at some health goals for seniors in your care, and the type of app, product, or service you could use to track them
Losing weight requires you to set a weight goal and map out a plan to get there. This plan will include diet and exercise to increase fitness levels.
Tracking fitness levels can be done with a mobile app, a wearable device like a traditional pedometer, or a physical planner.
You can also use a cross-platform app like MyFitnessPal (available on iOS and Android) to maintain a food diary to track how much is eaten daily. Or track daily activity through a fitness app, and meals and diets with a physical planner.
There are several combinations of options for you to explore for diet and food tracking.
You can look at a meal service, like Silver Cuisine, to provide nutritious, healthy meals aligned with their diets to ensure they are meeting their daily nutritional intake.
Or you can use a meal tracker to plan out meals and work with your older adult to create a menu of things they like to eat.
Finally, some apps let you track what and how much you eat to control portion sizes and how often to eat.
Preventing elderly dehydration is key to a good diet and their health. So, need to increase water intake? There’s a planner and an app to track health goals for seniors’ water intake.
In terms of increasing water intake or simply drinking enough to prevent dehydration, you can either:
- Get a water bottle with markers showing where they should reach throughout the day with their water intake.
- Set a reminder that they need to drink water using an alarm in their smart device or wearable tracker.
- There are also dedicated water reminder apps that can also track water intake. Some health apps focus on water drinking too, including Samsung Health.
Increased Physical Exercise
Increased physical activity is essential for reducing the risks of certain chronic illnesses. And fitness trackers can help encourage seniors to take more steps daily.
A pedometer is a great device or app to help encourage movement. However, traditional pedometers only track the number of steps taken.
You can take it further with an app designed for fitness goals like the Fitbit wearable device, the Samsung watch, or Apple watch.
One study on the different outcomes of wearing a Fitbit versus using just a pedometer to track steps and encourage exercise showed that the seniors who had the Fitbit achieved better results. But that’s not to say that a pedometer doesn’t work. You just need the ideal tracker or app to meet the goal(s) that you’ve set.
You can also get apps tailored to the type of fitness activity they prefer. If an older adult is into yoga, then consider the Daily Yoga app (another cross-functional app available on Android and iOS)
Get Enough Sleep
It’s a myth that elders need less sleep. Sleep is important to restore and repair the body to take on the next day. So, our seniors need quality sleep for seven to eight hours each night. Therefore, this is an important area to track health goals for seniors.
If they are having problems sleeping, together you can agree to turn off screens at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Or to meditate for 15 minutes before going to sleep.
Then, their wearable trackers can help you determine whether they are getting enough sleep at night.
Another benefit of wearable trackers is being able to determine if anything happens during sleep because a lot of things can happen when someone is sleeping. So, tracking sleep patterns and any changes is important. Apps that send alerts allow caregivers to rest without worrying that they may miss something.
For example, wearable devices that send real-time alerts are perfect where they can detect respiration rate, heart rate, sleep movements, or sense vibrations if the person should fall.
Socializing isn’t often seen as a health goal to track for seniors. But it is important for seniors because social isolation is a major health concern. In fact, the CDC notes that social isolation is as deadly for seniors as smoking, and it rivals other chronic ailments like obesity and physical inactivity. Social isolation is also associated with an approximately 50% increased risk of dementia.
Now, with the pandemic and seniors having to isolate for their health, this is a cause for concern. The good thing is there are a variety of apps and tech to help ease isolation.
Mobile app technology can help them socialize. For example, group encouragement features in some mobile health tracking apps allows seniors to compete with each other as a means of keeping sociable.
Other apps you can look at include those to keep connected. Video conferencing apps like Zoom, Skype, WhatsApp Messenger, and Google Hangouts are great ways to help them get connected with family and friends.
Choosing a Health Tracker for Seniors
Choosing a method to track health goals for seniors boils down to the type of goal(s) and the senior’s preferred method of tracking (physical, app, device).
To encourage them to make tracking their health goals a habit, what you use needs to be informative, simple, and meaningful. It should be targeted to their specific goals and be a bit unobtrusive as well. You should be able to review the progress being made, have detailed information to provide doctors for medical visits, and even offer a way to bond with those in your care.
But no matter what, ensure that their health goals are tracked so they can create healthier habits and live a longer, more healthy life.