Review: Is the FitBit One Ready for Senior Living & Exercise?

| January 24, 2013

photoIt’s a new year and thus a new gadget to help the world fulfill resolutions for better diet and exercise. Keeping track of that new years resolution can be made easier by the latest upgrade from FitBit, which purports to make quantifying oneself not only easier, but also fashionable, following trends of devices evolving and becoming smaller. With this new, improved product, can the trend of self-quantification can transcend generations and become relevant to a senior population to track lifestyle habits?

My brother gave me a FitBit One (FitBit) for Christmas (thanks John) as I am not only a technophile but also a sports/training junkie obsessed with gadgets, especially those with relevance to senior living. Caution: If you see me running with my iPod shuffle, Nike+ GPS Watch, Heart-Rate Monitor and now the FitBit, you might think I was part of the Borg Collective from Star Trek Next Generation.

I have been using the FitBit focusing on the relevance monitoring diet and exercise over the past three weeks and have found it to work well. The device is a small, nugget-sized gadget that costs $99 and will track movement and calories burned throughout the day. The FitBit is designed to be attached to a small clip and either placed in a pocket, attached to an article of clothing or via the armband included. I typically carry mine in my pocket and it blends in with the typical change and other objects generally found there.

This simple, health monitoring device could have immediate application within the senior market. However, it does not function as a personal emergency response system (PERS) and is not particularly senior-friendly with the size, the small screen on the interface and the iPhone app/web application to manage the device. FitBit has released application programming interfaces (APIs) where some of the PERS-type features could be integrated, but so far have not. The device provides terse feedback and interaction to engage an individual user and sends weekly reports and “badges” to notify you when certain goals have been achieved.

Does the FitBit fall into a senior living solution category and if so, what is the real world applicability? The device would be ideal for monitoring and tracking a fitness and diet regimen for any person, whether or not they’re a senior citizen. While the device does not track calories consumed directly, the iPhone app and web application can log the food eaten during the day. This interface and interactivity with the FitBit can provide details on nutrition and activity of someone while they’re not at home.

The FitBit works as advertised when tracking steps taken, lumbering up and down stairs, and distance travelled during the day. It nearly matched the reading on my GPS watch I use when running outside. The FitBit recognizes the type of movement, running or walking, as it calculates the calories burned during the day.

The only negative was my success tracking my sleep and using it as a silent alarm. While I did not spend a large amount of time troubleshooting my deficiencies, it’s not a feature that I find particularly relevant to senior living.

Is the FitBit senior ready? Yes—and no.

The Yes:

  • Small device to track movement and calories
  • Easy interface on the device
  • Easy to transmit data once set up properly

The No:

  • Two-tone display with small buttons and display
  • Need to know Bluetooth or have ability to link up with computer regularly
  • Setup takes some time and technical knowledge
  • Logging of meals can be cumbersome on mobile device or web application

Don’t plan on racing to the store to give this to someone in the 65+ market unless they’re a fitness junkie or have serious reason to start a program to monitor diet and exercise regularly. The device works as advertised but it may still be a little too techie for any age. No matter how fun the device looks, or how many badges I receive as trophies of my success, the sustainability of use is questionable after a while—or at least until an upgrade becomes available. At $99 per device, it’s certainly in the price point range where an annual update for the device once a year might justify its health monitoring benefits. Maybe a preventative health device in conjunction with care from my ACO?

FitBit is planning to release the Flex this spring which integrates the device onto a wearable wrist band. I definitely feel an urge to upgrade already which will make the device easier to wear regularly without fear of it getting washed in my pants pocket, although those with a keen sense of fashion may choose to continue using the FitBit One.

Bottom line: FitBit One is a great tool for monitoring activity and caloric intake, but sadly, it’s a constant reminder for the need for a better diet and more exercise, regardless of whether you are 35 or 65.

Written by George Yedinak


Category: Senior Care, Senior Living, Technology

Comments (1)

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  1. philessense says:

    Since I bought mine and monitor my steps and my sleep, I've gotten rid of 35 lbs, and I do at least 10,000 steps a day (I did about 2,000 when I first bought it in 2011).

    I love to check on my activity and my sleep and feel quite proud as I get my steps. I get friends to go walking with me. I'm strong. My bone scans are excellent. My brain is sharp. JUst because I have this little gadget and I am mindful. And it's pretty nice to see more steps on my computer than my son gets! HAHA.

    Give me a break, the Fitbit is a SPORTS accessory. It doesn't have a telephone, sunscreen, or a bicycle. And it doesn't serve lunch.

    Get yourself your own dang telephone and emergency response system if you need it.

    FWIW, the website is great for tracking various other things. If you get a HRMonitor for your phone, (Withings makes a mediocre but effective one, and Health something makes a different one that looks promising) you can track on your Fitbit FREE account via a program called Syncmetrics. There's another iPhone/Pad product iBP which makes great graphs when you put in (or track via a webconnected BPmonitor)

    Forget the food tracking on FitBit. It's a PITA. Use LoseIt.com for inputting your daily food and weight. It's much easier.

    I'm 70 and have many much older friends who are quite computer literate and have an easy time with this. Don't sell us short or say that, as older people we're too dumb to know computers. Who do you think invented them?????