It’s not just for finding your way to the grocery store: GPS is helpful in a wide range of scenarios. If you’re getting into a workout routine, trying to up your existing workout routine, or want to stay safe if you get lost or hurt, GPS technology is here to help.
Check out our guide to the best GPS tracker for the elderly to learn more and find the device that’s right for you!
What is a GPS Tracker?
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) use satellites to pinpoint an object’s location anywhere on earth with unbelievable accuracy. Because GPS companies have multiple satellites, they can triangulate the location of the device with 98% accuracy, down to just a couple of meters. If you’re worried about being watched while wearing a GPS tracker, don’t be; unlike your phone, the data for your device is only accessible to you.
GPS trackers are used by athletes and casual exercisers to have reliable data both during and after their workouts. GPS trackers measure speed, distance, and map a person’s travel in real-time. This lets, for example, a runner decide whether or not they need to speed up or slow down in order to hit their goals for that day.
Technically speaking, GPS trackers are a type of technology, not a product in and of themselves. Most often, these trackers are found in watches/fitness bands. They’re combined with heart rate monitors, blood oxygen monitors, pedometers, and other technologies to provide a suite of tools for people to use to evaluate their fitness day in and day out. Wearable GPS trackers are also sold as standalone devices that help seniors and children stay connected to their caregivers in case something bad happens.
Types of Personal GPS Trackers
This is the most common type of personal device that has GPS tracking as a main feature. These devices are used to help people track their progress as they run, ride bikes, swim, or kayak/row. All you have to do is press a couple of buttons on your wrist and you’re automatically connected to the satellite (though sometimes it takes a minute or two to establish the connection) and ready to roll.
Some higher-end GPS watches not only track your progress so that you can keep to your desired pace, but they also show you exactly where you are on a map in real-time so that you can navigate if you get lost. Those types of watches are used by mountaineers and backpackers to find trail markings and keep from wandering off the trail and into danger.
Similar to watches, GPS bracelets track your location and movement during workouts. They’re usually simpler and slimmer devices that are designed to be affordable fitness trackers. Bracelets such as the Fitbit Charge 4 don’t have as many features as a watch, but the GPS tracking works just as effectively.
If you don’t carry a cell phone but want to stay safe in case of emergencies, a GPS alert device is perfect for you. These small devices can be worn around the neck or in your pocket and have an emergency button that lets you call for help if you need it. These devices are simple and easy to use, and they can even be used to track someone down if they’ve gone missing, such as an Alzheimer’s patient.
Some personal alert devices connect to GPS satellite networks, but many use cellular towers instead. Alert devices that work with cellular networks function with the same effectiveness, but they require a monthly subscription to connect with the network. Usually, this fee is minimal, but it’s good to know this ahead of time rather than be surprised by the additional fee.
Pros and Cons of GPS Trackers for Seniors
Best GPS Trackers for Seniors
1. Best GPS for Seniors (Overall): Apple Watch SE (Cellular)
If you own a smartphone, this relatively affordable watch is everything you need to stay safe and connected. The “SE” represents Apple’s line of lower-priced devices, and it’s about $150 cheaper than the standard Apple Watch. It has cellular abilities, though these don’t have to be activated unless you want them to be (the monthly fee for this device will be less than $15 with most major carriers).
The Apple Watch lets you track your workouts using your favorite apps, whether that be Nike Run Club, Garmin Connect, Strava, or Apple’s own pre-installed fitness app. You can also answer calls, texts, and read emails with this watch- you can even get news updates from your favorite sources.
Outside of the GPS tracking for fitness, the Apple Watch SE also has an SOS button that will contact emergency services if you are lost, hurt, or otherwise in danger. This feature is only available with cellular connection activated (unless you have your phone with you, in which case you might as well just dial 911). If you’re looking for a smartwatch to stay in shape and safe 24/7, the Apple Watch SE is perfect for you!
2. Easiest GPS to Use for Seniors: Garmin Forerunner 35
The Forerunner 35 is Garmin’s simplest and most affordable running watch. It has just 4 buttons, and the layout is very easy to use to track your heart rate, sleep, exercise data, and more. When you enter exercise mode, the watch will connect with GPS in about 90 seconds, and you’re ready to go.
When you aren’t using the GPS to run, ride your bike, or walk, the watch is still watching your heart rate and counting the calories you burn each day. It’s as close to “effortless” as fitness watches get, while still maintaining the quality and durability that Garmin customers expect.
The biggest downside to this watch is that it has no alerting capability- it’s for fitness and health only. If you want a watch that’ll send an SOS, you’ll have to look elsewhere!
3. Best GPS Watch for Elderly (Runner-Up): Garmin Fenix 6 Pro
The Fenix 6 is an expensive and powerful watch designed for trail running and hiking. While you may not be an avid hiker yourself, one of the Fenix 6’s best features can also be useful elsewhere. In addition to all the tracking, heart rate, and health data, the Fenix 6 Pro has a navigation feature that lets you find your way no matter where you are.
If you get lost somewhere, you can’t always rely on cell phone service to find your way back. The Fenix 6 uses GPS instead, meaning it can establish a connection and help you navigate anywhere on Earth. While it’s too serious and expensive for most senior’s needs, it is still a great watch for those who like to explore nature or want the reassurance that global navigation provides.
4. Best GPS Bracelet for Alzheimer Patients: iTraq Nano
Most GPS devices are designed for the owner to orient themselves or track their data. This is helpful for many people, but not those with Alzheimer’s. When Alzheimer’s patients wander, they may not know they are in danger and press their SOS button.
The iTraq Nano can be attached to a belt loop, bracelet, or necklace and allows loved ones/caregivers to track them if they wander, in addition to the SOS button. That means, if your loved one wanders and goes missing, you can instantly know their location in order to help them instead of waiting for them to press the SOS button.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s and has wandered dangerously in the past, this is the best tracker for them!
5. Best GPS Necklace for Elderly: Mini Guardian 4G
This necklace is small, unobtrusive, and has an SOS button you can use to contact a live representative who can connect you with 911 or a loved one. It uses GPS to pinpoint your location and let the appropriate people know how to reach you when you need help.
If you have fallen in the past and are worried about what could happen if you fall again, this device is for you. Millions of seniors fall each year in the US, and an estimated 32,000 of these falls are fatal. Having a simple device like this one can get you the help you need immediately, so that you’re never at risk of becoming that negative statistic.
6. Best Senior Medical Alert GPS: We Send Help GPS Medical Alert
This device is designed to be a true life-saver. It’s nothing more than a small piece of plastic with an SOS button, connected to GPS and cellular services to keep you safe no matter what. It can be attached to a wristband or necklace for easy wearing, and the rechargeable battery lasts for days at a time.
It’s an effortlessly simple and helpful device that makes it easy to get crucial help when you need it. It even has two-way voice, letting you speak to emergency services and let them know what’s going on. If you or a loved one doesn’t carry a cell phone or just want an added layer of protection, the We Send Help medical alert is perfect for you. It even has optional fall detection- a crucial feature for many seniors.
Buying Guide: How to Choose a GPS Tracker
Major Brands of GPS Trackers
This brand makes GPS devices across a wide range of categories, from SOS devices used by mountain climbers to dashboard GPS units and, of course, fitness watches with GPS features. Garmin watches are known for being incredibly accurate and long-lasting, and they’re valued by runners, cyclists, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
The good news is that with Garmin, you get what you pay for. Their watches are high-performing, long-lasting, and make everything about exercise just a little bit easier and more engaging. If you’re serious about your fitness or just enjoy being able to explore your fitness data for motivation, Garmin watches are for you.
Whether or not you’re a fan of Apple products, the quality of the Apple Watch can’t be denied. They’re slim, easy to use, and have very accurate GPS tracking. Apple Watches are smartwatches, not fitness watches, which means they have a host of communication features that most fitness watches do not.
You can listen to music, respond to text and Facebook messages, check your email, and even answer a phone call using an Apple Watch! Just like Garmin watches, though, Apple Watches are expensive. The current basic model retails for about $350, and the price only goes up from there.
Apple Watches are best for people who already have Apple phones and computers who want to use their watch as an additional point of connection with others. They’re great for fitness and have excellent GPS tracking, but the price is hard to justify unless you want smartwatch features. If you do want smartwatch features, there is no better option than the Apple Watch!
One of the most popular brands for fitness trackers, Fitbit is valued by many for the casual design and affordability of their products. Not every Fitbit watch or fitness bracelet has GPS capabilities; if you’re buying a Fitbit, make sure you check the features list to confirm it has GPS tracking built-in.
Fitbit devices are best for people who want to feel motivated and inspired to stay fit. Their brand is geared toward people who are beginning a fitness journey for the first time, as well as those who enjoy exercising but have a casual mindset about it. They’ll do everything you need them to do, but with simple and user-friendly designs.
Price Range of GPS Trackers
Because they are using a live network of satellites to give you a precise location, GPS trackers aren’t cheap. The least expensive fitness trackers with GPS, such as the Garmin Forerunner 35, cost about $80. Safety and medical alert devices with GPS are priced similarly, though LTE devices that use cell towers instead of satellites can be much cheaper.
The average cost of a fitness tracker or watch with GPS is about $200, though you can pay far more for higher-end models. The good news is, though, that most of these devices do not require a subscription. LTE alert devices do, but GPS devices do not, so (most of the time), you pay a large upfront cost for a device that lasts years.
What to Look for in a GPS Tracker for Seniors
Smartwatch vs Fitness Watch
They look pretty much the same on the outside, but they are actually two different types of devices.
Do You Need a Subscription for GPS Trackers?
Most of the time, you won’t need to pay for any sort of subscription to use a GPS tracker. Some specialty devices such as the Garmin InReach require a monthly subscription, but those devices are not meant for the average consumer.
Medical alert devices and smartwatches that use cellular networks, on the other hand, will usually require a monthly subscription. True GPS devices that use satellites, however, will not. So, you won’t have to pay extra each month unless your device requires a cellular connection.
Additionally, some fitness brands (such as Fitbit) have premium subscriptions to their smartphone apps, giving you increased data and features to track your health and fitness. These subscriptions are not necessary for the average person, however, and should be thought of as a bonus, not a necessity.
Cellular Plans and GPS Trackers
If your GPS watch or tracker has cellular connectivity (such as the Apple Watch), you’ll have to pay a monthly fee to your cell carrier to activate it. On many devices, this is optional, but SOS features on most smartwatches won’t work without cellular unless you also have your phone with you.
So, what is the monthly cost of having a cellular-enabled GPS watch? Here is the price breakdown for the most common US carriers:
Note that these prices are for customers who also have a cell phone with these carriers. Purchasing a data plan for a smartwatch without also having a cell phone with that carrier will cost far more, sometimes up to $80/month. So, it’s best to go with the carrier you already have!
What Type of Exerciser Are You?
If you’re looking at a fitness watch or smartwatch, answering this question will help you choose a product that fits you best. If you’re serious about tracking data and getting better, a nice fitness watch like the Apple Watch Series 6 or the Garmin Fenix 6 is ideal for you. They’re very accurate and are full of features/workout programs that you need to take things to the next level.
Most seniors, however, aren’t training for triathlons or trying to run at a pace that’ll qualify for the Boston Marathon. You can save a lot of money by getting a GPS tracker that is more casual, like a Fitbit, that’ll track you on your walks, rides, and jogs.
Decide beforehand how intense you’d like to be with your workouts, and you can make your GPS tracker decision much more confidently. Getting the right device is crucial to your ability to use it effectively and without frustration!
Getting a GPS watch is an excellent way to stay healthy and safe, even into your older years. They make it easy to get motivated about working out and to get help/alert people to your location if you’re in an emergency. Which GPS tracker from our list piqued your interest? Have any questions about GPS technology or any of the devices we reviewed? We’d love to see your comments below!