Best Fitness Trackers for Seniors and the Elderly: More Than Just Step Counters!

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A few weeks ago, I was discussing my blog with a physical therapist friend of mine. He works with geriatric patients at a rehab facility. Anyway, we got around to talking about how important it is for seniors to stay aware of what’s going on with their bodies. If they recognized small changes in their health, some diseases could be caught earlier. At one point, he jokingly mentioned that he wished there was a magic pill. One that once ingested, could monitor the health of the seniors on a 24/7 basis.

That got me thinking.  And gave me an idea for research and another article. In my research, I learned more about different types of fitness trackers. In some ways, these are the digital equivalent of that magic pill. But the best fitness trackers for seniors and the elderly cannot be too complicated. If they are easy to use, they could be ideal for seniors to keep track of their health.

Quick Picks: Best Fitness Trackers for Seniors

In a hurry? Here are my top picks for more advanced activity trackers for seniors and the elderly. Keep reading for my buying guide and detailed reviews of each model.

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Or, if you are looking for a simpler pedometer just to track steps, here are a few good options,

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Fitness Trackers Suitable for the Elderly

As people grow older, there is a need to monitor certain health conditions on a regular basis. Things like blood pressure, cholesterol, heart conditions and blood sugar levels are the most common. Remaining active and getting regular exercise can help with conditions like these. Tracking your own behavior and getting immediate and constructive feedback can help change their bad habits. Fitness trackers like Fitbits are great tools for this. But, because they are usually marketed for people leading a very active and adventurous lifestyle, we don’t think they apply to older adults. So, we forget that they are really just a way to monitor your health and well-being.

Using a fitness tracker is a very easy way for seniors to maintain their health levels and keep them top condition at all times. In fact, for seniors, using a fitness tracking device helps track their current well-being levels. Maybe more importantly though, they help predict a decline in health caused by aging. By storing previous readings and comparing them to current ones, downward trends are caught early.

Seniors with Shuffling Gait

An important note about who seniors who shuffle when they walk. Most fitness trackers are not able to pick up the movement for seniors who take small steps with very little lift off of the ground. The accelerometer devices in fitness trackers require a certain level of up and down movement to register a step.

I have researched this the last few weeks and have not found a viable option yet. If you know of a fitness tracker for people with a shuffling gait, please let everyone know in the comments at the end of the post.

But, for now, I am going to say there isn’t a fitness tracker on the market accurate enough for this. Thanks to the readers who brought this to my attention.

elderly woman in a fitness class
Courtesy Wikicommons, Bill Branson, Photographer

Choosing a Fitness Tracker for Seniors

Of course, not just any fitness tracker will do for monitoring senior health. The senior using it needs to buy into the process and understand what is going on.

There are a few key features to consider when choosing a fitness tracker for a senior. The most important point is ease of use. Let’s face it. Some seniors aren’t used to technologies like this, so if using it becomes a hassle, they won’t use it!

A big, easy to read display is also a key factor. Seniors with failing eyesight need to read the numbers easily and without strain. Most fitness bands also have an activity tracker. These keep track of the number of calories burned in a day, which is important to see how active the user is during the day.

A sleep tracking feature available on many trackers allows users to track how long they sleep. They can also score the quality of their sleep, which can be helpful for seniors with insomnia. Water and sweat resistant bands are important too because this keeps seniors from having to take them on and off for showers. It also prevents the tracker from getting damaged if they get caught in the rain or have an accidental spill of a drink.

Finally, look for an energy-efficient fitness tracker with a long-lasting battery. The fewer times the tracker has to come on and off, the better!

My Recommendations for a Fitness Tracker

While doing my research, I found out that there are hundreds of fitness trackers available today. And the price range is crazy – from less than $20 to over a $1,000! It also became quite clear that not all trackers are suitable for seniors. Some have too much technology. Many have too many features. A lot of them have those tiny, little buttons for accessing features. These buttons are usually too small for many seniors to see and press. However, there were a few trackers that did stand out. They offer the right combination of features with ease of use. Their navigation is simple which makes them suitable for the elderly. Here are the ones that made my list.

Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate + Fitness Tracker

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The successor to the Fitbit Charge HR, Fitbit Charge 2 is ideal for the elderly. It really packs in a lot of features to get seniors motivated to take care of their health. The device has a large, easy to see LED screen, which is a big plus for seniors. It even keeps you connected with your calls, messages and calendar alerts when paired with a cell phone. This keeps you from missing out on any important notifications. It has 24 hours tracking, sleep tracking, and will even send you a reminder if you have been inactive for too long. This is probably the best fit bit for seniors.

What to Like about the Fitbit Charge 2

It has a heart-rate monitor to inform you how fast your heart is beating, or how rigorous your workout has been, along with a Smart Track feature to track important activities automatically, even if you forget to activate the tracking manually. This fitness tracker also supervises cardio fitness levels to let you understand what areas you need to improve upon with multi-sport tracking to track specific exercises like Yoga, Weight Training, Running, etc.

It also has a clear, LED display for clear reading and a simple navigation for ease of use and understanding. With long battery life for less frequent charging and changeable wristbands to enhance personal style, there’s a lot to like here.

Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch

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The Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch doubles as both a  wristwatch as well as a fitness tracker. It comes packed with a ton of features to enhance your fitness levels and overall health. The touchscreen LCD color display gives step by step workout and fitness instructions right on the screen. It accurately tracks your activity, heart-rate and overall fitness levels. This tracker also saves up to 7 days of motion data and the heart rate at one-second intervals. Powered by a Li-Po battery, the watch runs for about 5 days on a single charge. And, charging only takes about 2 hours.

What to Like about the Fitbit Blaze

The advantage of this Fitbit is its larger display than most other trackers for easy to see readings and navigation. It also tracks activity all day long and even features sleep tracking for more restful sleep. The tracker doubles up as a good looking watch to be a little more discreet, and also has silent alarms for discreet notifications of inactivity. As a watch, when synced with a cell phone, you can also get on screen call, text, and calendar notifications. Its display and menus are activated by simply touching the screen and the device has on-screen workouts that walk you through each step.

X-CHENG Fitness Tracker

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The X-Cheng Fitness Tracker features a lightweight and comfortable fit plus elegant looks. It has a circular, rather chunky looking display but it’s easy to see. The band is a rubber strap which can be tightened on a wrist of any size. This wrist watch/tracker combination device features an easy to read screen that displays your steps walked, calories, blood pressure, walking distance and sleep quality. It remains on standby for 7 days with a battery that stays charged for several days.

What to Like about the X-Cheng Fitness Tracker

This fitness tracker actually looks like a stylish watch for more discreet use. Its main screen displays the time, day and date in large easy to see print, and its compatible with iOS as well as Android smartphones for call and text notifications.

For fitness features, its movement monitor records steps, distance and calories burned. It also checks and records blood pressure, and is waterproof to handle splashes and harsh weather conditions with ease.

Simple Pedometers for Seniors

If you don’t think the senior in your life needs all the bells and whistles that come with the higher end fitness trackers, like the ones above, there are many simple options out there as well. Below are some nice and simple pedometers that track your steps each day to help you keep track of your activity levels that way. These easy to use fitness trackers are perfect for active elderly people.

OZO Fitness SC2 Digital Pedometer

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First up, the OZO Fitness SC2 Digital Pedometer has a 3D tri-axis sensor to accurately measure steps and count them every day. It tracks steps, distance, calories, rate (miles per hour or kilometers per hour) and exercise time, giving you a slightly more limited but still fairly comprehensive sense of your fitness levels.

Best of all, it’s very easy to program with an easy to read large LCD display screen and big buttons on the front. Programming instructions are very simple, and it has a built in clock. This allows it to act as a watch, but the main reason for this feature is to allow it to reset every night at midnight to give you a fresh start.

This little pedometer is also very small and portable. Just throw it in your pocket or purse and you’re good to go. It comes with an optional use clip as well if you think that would be more secure. It’s a great easy to use pedometer for elderly people.

3DTriSport Walking 3D Pedometer with Clip and Strap

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Next, this little device is a bestseller in the pedometer category. It also uses a 3D tri-axis sensor to track your daily activity with accuracy and consistent performance. Similar to the one above, it tracks your steps (walking and running), your distance in either miles or kilometers, calories burned, and exercise time. But what gives it an edge over the other one is that it also stores up to 30 days of your daily records, which helps you track your long-term habits and see how you’re doing on your fitness goals.

It’s also very easy to set up, with an easy to follow user manual and even an e-video to give you step-by-step instructions. Don’t worry though, that’s the extent of the outside technology with this device. It doesn’t have any sort of Bluetooth or smartphone capabilities. Users praise this company’s customer support system as well if you ever have trouble.

Clip this device to your waistband or shirt, or wear it around your neck with the included lanyard. Check its large display with a built in clock and step goal for live updates as well. It comes in 4 fun colors to match your personality too! Personally, I think this one is the best pedometer for seniors.

Setting Up a FitBit

Here is a great video from Healthy Aging that shows you how to set up your Fitbit for online monitoring:

Summary and Recommendations

Seniors are turning to exercise for increasing strength, improving their balance, and overall health. Many take walks, ride bicycles, use treadmills and even use exercise bikes. As you can see, fitness trackers for seniors do so much for them by tracking more than just their activity. Some models also monitor heart rate, sleep patterns, and even blood pressure. For elderly who also use a cell phone, these little gizmos even give call and text notifications.

Just make sure that you find one that is easy for seniors to use. They are going to want a simple interface with large display and print. Buttons and menu controls should be easy to understand, activate, and use. Keeping these in mind will make help ensure the senior actually use the device.

Do you have a fitness tracker that you have used with a senior or elderly person? Feel free to share your recommendations and opinions in the comments below.

If you think someone you know would benefit from this article, email or share it on your social media page with your comments!

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8 thoughts on “Best Fitness Trackers for Seniors and the Elderly: More Than Just Step Counters!

  1. Just passing this along for others considering buying one of these:
    There may be an effectiveness limit related to stride-length. I just purchased a FitBit Charge 2 for my 87-year-old father. He walks both with and without a cane, but he has a short-stride, shuffling step. I can’t get the FitBit to register any of his steps, even setting the stride-length down to 2 inches.

    It will record his trips up/down stairs, but I don’t think it’s worth the cost just for that and heart-rate. Also, although you can change the daily-steps goal, you can’t change the hourly one, and 250 is a lot for him.

    I’m hesitant to try the other two on this list, because I’m afraid they will have the same problem. It may be that there isn’t a good technological solution for him.

    • Hello Blair – thanks for bringing this to my attention and for helping my readers. What you have said makes sense His steps may not be enough to trigger the accelerometer in these devices so that his steps are counted. I am going to research this further and I will report back what I find. Thanks again – Scott

  2. I second Blair’s comment. My mom is 88 and moves with a walker. Despite what the salesman said (!), the Fitbit Charge 2 didn’t register her steps. I’m looking for a tracker that will give her that gentle encouragement to get out of her chair and take a turn around the room, and maybe give her the reward that Fitbits give you when you reach your step goal.

    • Hi Suzanne – thanks for your comment. I have been researching this and have even checked with some of my therapist friends but I have not found a tracker I can recommend for a senior with a shuffling gait. (I updated this guide too). I did have one therapist say that they felt the pendant-worn trackers seemed to work better overall because they are free to move even if the arm is stationary like when someone uses a walker. But, I haven’t been able to verify this. Thanks again to you and Blair for bringing this to my attention so that I can share it with other people in the same situation.

  3. I too am looking for a step-counter type device for my 83 yo mother. She uses a walker and we need to be able to encourage her to walk more by being able to count her steps plus a counter will give her a solid view of what she is really doing. She thinks she is walking a lot but in actuality she isn’t. She uses both a walker and a cane so the short, shuffle steps are an issue with her too. Hoping you have some luck so we can find one for her too.

  4. My problem is trying to set it up due to arthritic fingers. What is the easiest pedometer to set up for an 80 year old with severe arthritis?

    • Hello Mary – I recently updated this article so I am not sure if I had the 2 new pedometers on it when you asked this question. But, the Ozo model above would be the best pedometer above for arthritic fingers. The buttons are larger than most and easy to press – they require very little force to engage them. Hope this helps! – Scott

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