Falling when you are on your own isn’t just painful and inconvenient - it can be deadly. If you have no way to contact help, a fall that would ordinarily require a couple days of rest and ibuprofen can be much, much worse.
Fall detection devices help seniors stay safe, independent, and at peace. Check out our guide to the best fall detection devices for seniors to learn more about how this technology can help you, and see the top models!
What is a Fall Detection Device?
Every year, more than 36 million seniors experience a fall. While most of these falls aren’t a major emergency, more than 32,000 of them result in death. Many of those fatalities could likely have been avoided if the victim had a device that would help them get in touch with emergency services. Falls are the leading cause of broken hips and traumatic brain injuries in seniors.
If you fall and don’t have your cell phone in your pocket, you may not be able to contact 911. Instead, you could be trapped on the ground, hoping that someone will find you before your situation turns ugly. Additionally, if you take a serious fall while alone, you may be unconscious and unable to get help at all.
This is the exact reason why fall detection devices exist. These devices use a variety of technologies to detect a fall. If a fall is detected, the device will alert 911, your doctor, or your emergency contact and give them your location. This way, you are never stuck on the ground, trying to find a way to reach your landline across the room with a broken hip.
Each device uses one or more types of technology to sense when you might have fallen. Accelerometers, sensors that detect changes in moving speed, are very common, as is GPS. The accelerometers are usually “three-axis”, meaning they detect changes in motion horizontally, laterally, and vertically. These devices are very sensitive and can detect tiny changes in motion. If you are wearing one and take a fall, the device will recognize the impact.
Once that happens, a fall detection device will use wifi or cellular connections to contact help. The device will provide your location, and many also have speakers/microphones (often referred to as “two-way voice” in product descriptions) that let you speak with emergency services. These devices are able to keep seniors and other people safe and healthy in times of crisis, preventing a fall from turning into something much worse.
Types of Fall Detection Devices
These watches are incredibly common today. In fact, nearly 22 million devices were sold in the US last year alone! These watches connect with GPS satellites and have built-in accelerometers. If you have a watch with a fall detection feature, it will automatically alert people to a potential fall, providing crucial help.
Not every watch has a fall detection feature, however. These watches are usually made for convenience and exercise, so fall detection isn’t standard. Before getting a watch, make sure that it has fall detection so you can avoid disappointment.
These devices are only similar to watches in that they are worn on the wrist. GPS bracelets are very simple devices that many seniors and children wear to stay safe when they don’t have a cellphone. Fall detection on these devices isn’t standard, but it is common. Most GPS bracelets also have an SOS button that you can use to contact help in case of a different emergency or if the bracelet doesn’t detect a fall.
Necklaces with GPS and fall detection are devices built for seniors to stay safe and get help in case of an emergency. They are very similar to GPS bracelets, using the same technology to detect falls and notify emergency services.
These devices typically use cellular networks to connect you with people and get GPS data, which means you will have to pay a monthly fee to use them. So, even though they are generally inexpensive to buy at first, the monthly fees can be annoying over time. Still, though, they pay for themselves in the instant that you have a fall.
This is not the most reliable fall detection technology, but it is inexpensive and easy to set up. If you own a smartphone, it has an accelerometer built in. There are many smartphone apps that, once downloaded, will be on the lookout for a fall and can alert your emergency contacts or dial 911 if necessary.
They aren’t as accurate as true fall detection devices, and they require you to keep your phone on you at all times, so they are anything but perfect. In fact, clinical studies have confirmed this: smartphone apps work well for fall detection but aren’t as accurate as dedicated devices. However, as a simple technology that works most of the time, smartphone apps for fall detection can give you a nice sense of security.
Some smartphones have a built-in fall detection feature, but many need an app to be downloaded. The most popular smartphone apps for fall detection are listed with their pricing below:
Pros and Cons of Fall Detection Devices
Just like many other technologies, fall detection isn’t 100% accurate. These devices can sometimes miss a fall, leaving you no better off than you were without the device. The accuracy rate of modern fall detection devices, according to a 2019 study, was 93%.
That’s pretty high- most local health codes only require a restaurant to be 80-90% clean for an “A” rating, for comparison. But, that missing 7%in fall detection can still lead to many dangerous and life-threatening scenarios.
Fall detection devices sometimes also report falls when no fall has occurred- a false alarm. False alarms are annoying more than they are dangerous, but they are still a problem that needs to be fixed with fall detection devices.
Additionally, fall detection systems typically require a monthly subscription to connect to wireless services. This subscription is part of the lifesaving system but can get pretty expensive- sometimes up to $45 each month!
Best Fall Detection Devices for Seniors
1. Best Fall Detection Device (Overall): Medical Guardian 4G Mini
Medical Guardian is one of the most trusted brands of medical alerting devices, and the Mini Guardian is equipped with GPS and 4G cellular coverage so that you are protected and safe no matter where you go. This necklace is small enough to stay out of the way, and the fall detection is very accurate. If you experience a fall, the Mini Guardian has you covered- whether you’re at home, on a walk, or on vacation!
When a fall is detected, the Mini Guardian will automatically contact a 911 dispatcher and send them your location. You’ll be able to speak with them and let them know what is going on because the Mini Guardian has two-way voice. If you’re looking for a fall detection necklace that you can take anywhere, this is it!
The biggest drawback of this fall detector is that the required monthly subscription isn’t cheap. To get full fall detection coverage, you have to pay $39.95/month, almost as much as a standard cell phone plan. Still, the monthly cost is more than worth it if it saves your life- which is exactly what this device can do!
2. Best Fall Detection Device With GPS (Overall): Home & Wellness Medical Alert Device
This medical alert device uses a precise GPS to give EMS an extremely accurate location, no matter where you are. The cellular service comes via Verizon’s network of cell towers, the largest and most complete in the country. If you live in a rural area where cell towers aren’t as common, this expansive network is exactly what you need to stay safe.
The sensor on this device is very accurate; it will correctly detect falls no matter how you wear it: on your neck, in your pocket, or clipped to your belt/waistband. The GPS/locating service is also very accurate thanks to the complete cellular coverage. It’s a simple and effective device that does exactly what it is supposed to do- keep you safe!
3. Best Watch With Fall Detection (Overall): Apple Watch Series 6 (Cellular)
Every Apple Watch comes with a built-in fall detection system, and they have an SOS button that you can use anywhere. The SOS feature relies on your smartphone unless you have a cellular plan activated for it; these plans are less than $15/month, half the price of a plan for a standalone fall detection device.
If you can stomach the high upfront costs of Apple Watches, you will be pleasantly surprised with its performance and durability. The fall detection works extremely well, the GPS and cellular data are efficient and accurate, and it’s a smartwatch that comes with tons of extra features. You can answer texts and social media messages, read your emails, and even check the news- all from your wrist! It also has a heart rate monitor and ECG machine, so you can stay on top of your health 24/7.
If you use a smartphone and want a device that’ll keep you safe if you fall, the Apple Watch Series 6 is for you. It may be a bit expensive, but the features that come with it are so convenient that the price feels entirely justified.
4. Best Smartwatch for Fall Detection (Runner-Up): HandsFreeHealth Smart Watch for Seniors
Though most smartwatches are suitable for people of all ages, most are designed for younger people. This watch, however, is built from the ground up to be a perfect companion for senior citizens. It’s simple, inexpensive, and it monitors all of your vital signs- not just whether or not you’ve fallen.
Any time you may be experiencing a medical emergency, the watch will detect it by sensing your heart rate or blood pressure and make sure that you are okay. If you fall, it will contact emergency services for you- you can even speak with a dispatcher directly into the watch!
This device is like the perfect combination of standalone fall detectors and smartwatches- it doesn’t cost too much, it’s easy to use, and it’s incredibly convenient! If you aren’t a “smartwatch person” but still want something that convenient that monitors your health, the HandsFreeHealth Smart Watch for Seniors is perfect for you.
5. Best Fall Detection Sensor for the Home: Black + Decker goVia Home Medical Alert System
This home system is made up of a small necklace with a fall detector and SOS button, as well as a receiver that plugs into the wall. The necklace has a 600-foot range, so you can live independently and feel safe anywhere on your property. The goVia runs on AT&T’s nationwide network- you can check to see if your area has a signal by checking their coverage map.
Another great feature of the goVia is the receiver’s battery backup- you can still use the entire system (including EMS services) for up to 30 hours without power. If you live in an area that has frequent power outages, that level of protection is invaluable. If you want to be completely protected while at home, the Black + Decker goVia is ideal for you.
6. Best Fall Detection System No Monthly Fees: Sky Angel Fall Detection System
The Sky Angel is pretty expensive for a fall detector, but the savings over time are significant because it’s a one-time expense. You don’t have to worry about paying month in and month out for the same service that you only use during emergencies- you simply get protection.
This detector works everywhere you go, and the GPS is very accurate. If you have a fall, you will be automatically connected with a 911 dispatcher within 30 seconds. It’s a simple device that gives you incredible peace of mind- without taking money from you every month!
Buying Guide: How to Choose a Fall Detection Device
Major Brands of Fall Detection Devices
Price Range of Fall Detection Devices
Fall detection devices are generally inexpensive; they typically cost between $20 and $100, depending on the device. Where the price really gets you, though, is with the monthly service fees. Most standalone fall detection devices require a monthly subscription that can run anywhere from $10-35. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a total of $120-$420 spent on cellular service to a device that does nothing except for in the event of an emergency.
These devices are much more expensive upfront than standalone fall detection devices. The cheapest watches with fall detection features are roughly $150; the most expensive cost upwards of $500.
On top of that, you often need to activate a cellular plan if you want the SOS features to work when your cell phone isn’t nearby. Prices for that service are usually less than $15/month with major carriers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon.
How to Choose the Best Fall Detection Device for Your Needs
Wireless Connection Type
Fall detection devices each use some form of wireless technology to connect to emergency services. The type of technology they use determines how and where you can use them effectively. Some fall detection devices connect to a receiver with a 300-500 foot range; you can only use these within range of the receiver, so they’re only good for the home.
Others connect to cellular towers and have monthly service fees; the trade-off is that they work wherever you go. Before you buy a fall detection device, make sure you know where you can use it and where you can’t to avoid a costly mistake.
Some devices have an alert system that’ll notify your emergency contacts or get in touch with EMS for you. Others have a two-way voice system that lets you talk with a dispatcher to give them more information about your fall. While two-way voice isn’t an absolute necessity, it is very helpful to have- if you can, make sure your device has this feature!
Smartwatch vs Standalone Device
Standalone fall detection devices are, obviously, much cheaper than smartwatches. That being said, smartwatches often are a better deal in the long run. The monthly service fees to have a smartwatch connected to cell networks are cheaper than monthly subscriptions for standalone devices, and you get a host of other useful features at the same time.
If you have a bigger budget and use a smartphone, it makes the most sense to get a smartwatch. If not, the best choice for you is to get a standalone device that won’t rely on a smartphone to take advantage of all its features.!
There is nothing more important when you or a loved one falls than being able to contact help. Fall detection devices, from the simplest to the most complex, are invaluable for seniors living alone, because they provide a crucial point of contact when they need it most. Do you have experience using a fall detection device in a time of need? Have questions about one of the devices we looked at today? Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!