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The AARP Wants Better Fitness Trackers For Seniors

The agency conducted a study on how seniors use Fitbit and Jawbone devices. Here’s what they learned.

The AARP Wants Better Fitness Trackers For Seniors
[Photo: Flickr user Ryoichi Tanaka]

The AARP has news for companies like Fitbit, Jawbone, and Misfit: Seniors want to buy fitness trackers, but nobody is making the products they need. According to a new study the agency conducted in conjunction with Georgia Tech and Pfizer, elderly users find fitness trackers handy but feel they lack the right features and functionality.

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Project Catalyst, a collaborative effort between Georgia Tech, the AARP, MedStar Health, Pfizer, and UnitedHealthcare, supplied 92 users over the age of 50 with fitness trackers from Fitbit, Jawbone, Misfit, Withings, and other brands. But the study participants found that once they put on the trackers, the functionality wasn’t perfect. Subjects said the trackers were difficult to calibrate, frequently lost data, and were not packaged with seniors in mind.

What the participants really wanted, they said, was to easily measure biometric data such as blood sugar and heart rate, and sport bands that were more comfortable. Many said that, due to the way aging skin changes, fitness tracker bands were uncomfortable to wear.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents did, however, find the trackers to be beneficial. As Jody Holtzman, SVP of thought leadership, told Fast Company, the AARP wants manufacturers of fitness trackers to recognize this is a large, untapped market:

“The recommendations that came out of the study are to make trackers better able to share information on health goals important to 50-plus consumers, simplify set up, make them unobtrusive to wear and easier to maintain, and provide more features like timely alerts and instantaneous access to information. If these qualities are prioritized, the potential in the 50-plus market for activity and sleep trackers is likely to grow.”

The Project Catalyst initiative is designed to identify ways to improve tech devices for customers over the age of 50. According to the AARP, the goal is to increase revenue for tech companies while ensuring that Americans have technology that improves their lives as they age.