Apple’s new health features will be available for anyone with an iPhone. But two of the tools announced at WWDC 2021, walking steadiness and the ability to share health data with family members, could be particularly useful for older adults.
People who work with older adults are excited that a company like Apple is interested in tech that could be used for this group. Experts have spent years frustrated that companies don’t design products to meet the needs of that demographic. There have been a few attempts to introduce new tools, but none got much traction, says Richard Schulz, a social psychologist studying aging at the University of Pittsburgh.
“I think the reason is that the big boys — companies like Apple — never got into it,” Schulz says. The new features are a signal that the tide is starting to turn. “Apple getting into this is a big deal.”
The first feature, the walking steadiness indicator, targets a major issue for older adults: falling. Falls are the leading cause of accidents, injury, and death for seniors in the US, and they’re responsible for billions in healthcare costs each year. Researchers have been studying falls — and trying to figure out ways to prevent them — for decades, says Jacob Sosnoff, who studies mobility in the department of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of Kansas Medical Center.