Among seniors, falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions. Approximately one-fourth of Americans age 65 and older fall each year, leaving this large segment of the population vulnerable to injury. In addition, more seniors than ever are choosing to “age in place” by staying in their homes as long as possible. While this trend allows seniors to keep their independence and familiar comforts, it can also pose a threat in the event that immediate help is needed, such as after a fall.

It’s difficult for caregivers or loved ones to monitor seniors around-the-clock, so many older adults rely on medical alert systems. The devices offer 24/7 monitoring, providing peace of mind for wearers as well as caregivers. While the best medical alert systems include everything from in-home units to necklaces and bracelets, many seniors appreciate the convenience of a medical alert system watch. Medical alert watches fit comfortably on the wrist, so seniors are more likely to use them over a heavy necklace or bulky pocket device.

Below, we explain what medical alert watches are, how they differ from traditional medical alert systems, and who should consider a medical alert watch. We also give an overview of five of the best medical alert watches on the market today. 

Overview of the Best Medical Alert Watches

Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch
UnaliWear Kanega Watch
Medical Guardian MGMove
Apple Watch
Monthly Cost
$29.95
Annual plan: $59.95
Monthly plan: $69.95
$39-95-$44.95
N/A
Startup Fees
$159 for watch
Annual Plan: $199 for watch and $50 for setup
Monthly Plan: $299 for watch and $50 for setup
$199.95 for watch
$399 for watch
Emergency Monitoring
Yes
Yes
Yes
Access to 911 dispatcher (no personal information or emergency contacts on file)
Water Resistant
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Battery Life
6-18 hours
1.5 days
24 hours
18 hours
Fall Detection
No
Yes
No
Yes
GPS Location Tracking
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes

What Is a Medical Alert Watch?

Medical alert watches give seniors the ability to go about their daily activities both inside and outside of the home with the peace of mind that they are protected in case of a health emergency. Traditional medical alert systems often use an in-home base unit powered by a phone landline or cellular connection to offer protection to seniors in their homes. These units usually come equipped with a help button and two-way communication to speak with a trained live agent or caregiver when help is needed. Some traditional medical alert systems offer mobile options such as a small portable unit or neck pendant for seniors who desire protection outside the home.

Although these mobile systems are helpful for active seniors, many find the devices too cumbersome and stigmatizing to consistently wear. Medical alert watches, on the other hand, are a discrete and stylish alternative that seniors actually enjoy wearing. These watches function like traditional medical alert systems with a “help button” and two-way communication for emergencies, but go a step further with modern features like automatic fall detection and GPS location tracking in an all-in-one discreet device.

Medical Alert Smartwatch Features

Today’s traditional smartwatches are known for their cutting-edge features, and medical alert smartwatches are no different. Designed specifically with seniors in mind, these watches contain patented technology that provides protection without sacrificing style and independence. Most medical alert watches are very easy to navigate, even for the most tech-averse senior. No complicated setup or hours spent pouring over a user manual are necessary. Below, we’ve highlighted the top medical alert watch features to look for when shopping for yourself or a loved one.

  • Fall Detection: Using motion sensing technology, fall detection automatically registers the impact of a watch wearer’s fall. Emergency services are then immediately notified and sent to assist if the alert is not canceled by the wearer as a false alarm. This feature is especially helpful when seniors are unable to speak or press a button after a fall. Most watches with fall detection also gather data on the wearer’s typical movements over time, which lowers the risk of false alarms.
  • Voice Activated Emergency Assistance: While traditional smartwatches operate through touch screens, most medical alert watches have a unique speech interface. This feature gives seniors the flexibility to speak into the watch to request assistance, rather than press a button. With just a simple voice command, emergency help is on the way for seniors who are not physically able to touch a screen or button.
  • Two-Way Speaker and Microphone: When on-the-go, seniors don’t have to worry about pulling out their cell phone to make an emergency call to 911 or a caregiver. Instead, they rely on their medical alert watch to have full, clear conversations through a two-way speaker and built-in microphone – just like a cell phone. Some watches give the option to pre-program phone numbers for family members, doctors and emergency services so that seniors don’t waste valuable time searching through their contacts.
  • GPS Location Tracking: A helpful feature for both seniors and caregivers, GPS location tracking is often built into medical alert watches. By automatically sharing their exact location with an emergency dispatcher, seniors receive faster medical attention when they need it most. Some watches also come with an app that allows family and caregivers to track the senior’s location on their phone.
  • Emergency Monitoring: All medical alert watches come with standard or optional access to a professional monitoring center to dispatch help in emergencies. As an added layer of assurance, most centers already have the senior’s personal and medical information on file. While this might not seem monumental, dispatchers are able to provide first responders with potentially lifesaving information about the senior’s medical history and medications.

The 5 Best Medical Alert System Watches for Around-the-Clock Monitoring

Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch

The Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch is a discrete and modern alternative to traditional medical alert systems. Its built-in SOS button and two-way speaker connect seniors to a 24/7 emergency response center for reliable assistance both inside and outside of the home.

Though the SOS Smartwatch does not have automatic fall detection, it offers other features like a built-in step tracker for active seniors, an easy-to-use touchscreen, GPS tracking, and a reliable 4G LTE cellular service. The watch’s battery life is 6-18 hours, depending on the wearer’s settings and connectivity level. It comes with a convenient station to charge the watch while you sleep, which could potentially leave seniors vulnerable to nighttime falls without assistance.

The SOS Smartwatch is priced reasonably at $159 for the watch and $29.95/month for ongoing service. To try it out without risk, take advantage of Bay Alarm Medical’s 30 day trial period and receive a full refund if it is not the right fit.

Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch Cost and Features

SOS Smartwatch
Monthly Cost
$29.95
Startup Fees
$159 for watch
Water Resistant
Yes
Battery Life
6-18 hours
Fall Detection
No
GPS Location Tracking
Yes

Pros and Cons of the Bay Alarm Medical SOS Smartwatch

Pros:

  • Cost of watch is generally lower compared to others reviewed
  • As you move to different locations, the watch displays a green, yellow or red dot on the home screen to tell you whether your connection is strong, average, or weak
  • Enabled for two-way communication; caregivers can send messages directly to the watch
  • Built-in step tracker and daily goal setter are great features for active seniors

Cons:

  • No automatic fall detection
  • Must touch screen to call for help -- no voice activation feature available

Read Our In-Depth Review on Bay Alarm Medical

Get a Quote from Bay Alarm Medical

UnaliWear Kanega Watch

UnaliWear’s Kanega Watch is a medical alert system that is designed to look just like a regular smartwatch. With a sleek and modern style, the Kanega Watch is an all-in-one, voice-controlled medical alert smartwatch with built-in automatic fall detection. Great for active seniors who also have a history of falls, the watch streamlines protection — no base station unit, cell phone or bulky neck pendant is required. Seniors find the watch setup to be extremely simple, with no complicated user manual or learning curve involved.

woman wearing unaliwear kanega smartwatch

The Kanega Watch contains technology to automatically detect falls, and it is one of the only brands that offer fall detection specifically on the wrist. Since touch screens can be difficult for seniors to navigate – especially in the event of a fall – the Kanega Watch provides voice controls that connect you with a monitoring agent as soon as you give a voice command. The quick-swap battery system is designed so that you never have to take the device off for charging, which means you are protected 24/7.

Kanega Watch buyers have the choice between a monthly or annual payment plan. The annual plan is $199 for the watch and $50 for the one-time, customized setup. You’ll also get ongoing monitoring service for $59.95 per month (12 months paid in advance). The monthly plan breaks up the monitoring service cost into payments of $69.95 per month. With this plan, you will pay $299 upfront for the watch and $50 for the one-time, customized setup.

UnaliWear Kanega Watch Cost and Features

UnaliWear Kanega Watch
Monthly Cost
Annual plan: $59.95
Monthly plan: $69.95
Startup Fees
Annual Plan: $199 for watch and $50 for setup
Monthly Plan: $299 for watch and $50 for setup
Water Resistant
Yes
Battery Life
36 hours
Fall Detection
Yes
GPS Location Tracking
Yes

Pros and Cons of the UnaliWear Kanega Watch

Pros:

  • The Kanega Watch is one of the only medical alert device with auto fall detection on the wrist.
  • Voice-controlled commands
  • The system uses quick-swap batteries, which means you never have to take it off to charge (24/7 protection).
  • The system uses both WiFi and cellular connectivity, resulting in more dependable emergency response coverage.

Cons:

  • GPS is used for emergency dispatch services only, not for tracking loved ones if they are lost.
  • All users must pay a one-time fee exceeding $100.
  • Monitoring fees are moderately higher than traditional (non-watch) medical alert systems.

Read Our In-Depth Review on UnaliWear

Get a Quote from UnaliWear

Medical Guardian MGMove

mgmove medical alert smartwatch

Medical Guardian offers six plans to protect seniors and simplify their daily tasks. More than half of the plans include wrist pendants or watches, and prices range from around $30 a month to approximately $80. The MGMove smartwatch also requires a one-time $199.95 fee.

Unlike Medical Guardian’s first smartwatch model, the MGMove is IP67 water-resistant so that seniors can be protected in places where falls are common, like the shower. The MGMove smartwatch does not have an automatic fall detection feature, but users can request help by pressing the side button of the watch for a few seconds or via their smartphone app. Caregivers can track the wearer’s behavior through a companion app and also send and receive text messages to and from the watch wearer.

Medical Guardian cellular devices are routed through the AT&T 4G network, and service is available anywhere in the United States. This gives seniors the chance to travel safely with their device in tow, whether they want to tour their hometown or visit a beach across the country.

MGMove Smartwatch Cost and Features

MGMove
Monthly Cost
$39.95-$44.95
Startup Fees
$199.95 for watch
Water Resistant
Yes
Battery Life
Up to 24 hours
Fall Detection
No
GPS Location Tracking
Yes

Pros and Cons of the MGMove Watch

Pros:

  • Cost of watch is generally lower compared to others reviewed
  • As you move to different locations, the watch displays a green, yellow or red dot on the home screen to tell you whether your connection is strong, average, or weak
  • Enabled for two-way communication; caregivers can send messages directly to the watch
  • Built-in step tracker and daily goal setter are great features for active seniors

Cons:

  • No automatic fall detection
  • Must touch screen to call for help -- no voice activation feature available

Read Our In-Depth Review on Medical Guardian

Get a Quote from Medical Guardian


Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is capable of many different functions, but one you may not know about is its medical alert capabilities. As smartwatches emerge as a form of medical alert monitoring, Apple Watches are one of the most popular. 

Apple Watches come with a built-in emergency alert program, called Emergency SOS. Users can simply hold down on the side button of their Apple Watch to be immediately connected to emergency services. Your location is also available to the 911 dispatcher using Emergency SOS, since Apple Watches have built-in GPS location tracking. While this feature is very useful and comes at no additional cost, it’s important to note that it differs from traditional medical alert monitoring. The most notable difference is that the emergency dispatcher will have none of your personal information or emergency contacts on file; this personal care is what makes true medical alert system monitoring extra helpful during emergencies. 

Another option for those who want the personal service of a medical alert monitoring center is to download a medical alert company’s mobile app. A growing number of medical alert service providers are offering a mobile app, usually at a low monthly cost, that is compatible with iOS devices. Apple Watch wearers can then use the medical alert app via their smartwatch, so they have access to personal emergency support without having to sacrifice style. 

The Apple Watch works best as a medical alert for tech-savvy seniors who are already familiar with Apple devices. It’s also important to note that the devices are expensive- as of June 2021, the most basic model starts at $399. However, unlike with traditional medical alert systems, you will not have to pay an ongoing monthly service fee.

Apple Watch Cost and Features

Apple Watch
Monthly Cost
N/A
Startup Fees
$399.99 for smartwatch
Water Resistant
Yes
Battery Life
18 hours
Fall Detection
Yes
GPS Location Tracking
Yes

Pros and Cons of the Apple Watch

Pros:

  • No monthly service cost
  • Great option for tech-savvy seniors looking for a stylish alternative to traditional medical alert devices
  • Built-in automatic fall detection on the wrist
  • Seniors receive the added benefits of a full-feature Apple Watch, including make calls, sending messages, tracking physical activity and listening to music

Cons:

  • Watch cannot be worn while charging, which prevents seniors from being protected 24/7
  • The price of the Apple Watch is considerably higher than medical alert smartwatches
  • Emergency alert feature does not provider dispatcher with wearer’s personal information or emergency contacts

Traditional Medical Alert Systems vs. Medical Alert Smartwatches

Both traditional medical alert systems and medical alert smartwatches are beneficial for seniors. If you are trying to decide which solution is best, we suggest considering your loved one’s needs first. If there is a history of falls and a resistance to wearing a pendant or carrying a help button, then a smartwatch might be best. However, if the senior rarely leaves home unassisted or is closed off to the idea of wearing a smartwatch, then a traditional in-home or mobile medical alert system could be the right solution. We’ve provided a side-by-side comparison below for a quick look at the main differences between these systems.

Traditional Medical Alert System
Medical Alert Watch
Emergency Monitoring

✔*

Attractive Design for Simple Compliance

Tells Time

Always Portable

GPS-Enabled

✔*

Voice-to-Text Messaging

✔*

Additional Smartphone Features
(step tracking, weather reports, alarms, and more)

*These features are typically, but not always, included with medical alert smartwatches. Be sure to confirm a device’s capabilities with the seller prior to making a purchase.

Why Might Elderly Adults Want Medical Alert System Watches?

Medical alert system watches are a great option for seniors who enjoy staying active outside the home and want the peace of mind that they are always protected in case of an emergency. In addition, these watches provide invaluable benefits like strengthening independence, promoting health and encouraging seniors to express their sense of style.

Portable Emergency Monitoring for Active Lifestyles

Many seniors venture beyond the range covered by in-home units. This is risky for seniors who don’t wear mobile devices, such as an activity-tracking smartwatch or medical alert necklace. Medical alert watches track seniors wherever they go, whether they visit a local bakery or meet their grandchildren for a fun day at the movies. With mobile monitoring, seniors can live active lifestyles without sacrificing safety.

Socialization Benefits

Encouraging independence helps seniors strengthen their social connections, which may delay or prevent cognitive decline and may help older adults live longer. Seniors who socialize with others are often happier and healthier than homebound seniors who remain isolated from their community. A medical alert watch removes the stigma and embarrassment that may be felt by those wearing large, eye-catching devices. By choosing a stylish smartwatch, your loved one prioritizes confidence, independence and friendships –  all while resting in the assurance that help is just a button away.

Health and Convenience Features

Some medical alert watches come with features that seamlessly integrate into the wearer’s everyday activities to promote health and convenience. For example, a built-in activity tracker automatically logs seniors’ steps and helps them stay on track to reach daily movement goals. If their activity level falls below normal, some watches automatically alert caregivers and family members through a mobile app for added safety. Alerts for upcoming appointments, medication reminders and daily weather reports also prevent seniors from missing important tasks or information. For those who want to stay connected with loved ones while on the go, many medical alert watches feature voice-to-text SMS messaging.

Comfort and Style

Medical alert systems are only effective when actually worn – if the person isn’t wearing it when an emergency occurs, the device is effectively useless. A device’s level of comfort and style are vital contributors to how frequently it is worn by seniors. Medical alert smartwatches are a great option for seniors who are not comfortable with regularly wearing their traditional medical alert pendant or button. The lightweight, low-profile designs of today’s medical alert watches are a comfortable option for seniors involved in regular physical activities like hiking or tennis. These smartwatches also come in a variety of styles, including different colored bands and shapes to flatter both males and females.

How to Find the Best Medical Alert Watch for Your Budget

There are many different options to choose from when selecting a medical alert watch. Although it can be overwhelming to narrow down your choices, we’ve identified a few ways to make this process easier. By evaluating important factors like must-have needs, budget, and company promotions, you can find the right medical alert watch for you or your loved one with little stress.

Determine Your Budget

Consider your budget when selecting a medical alert watch, as prices typically range from $25 to $80 per month before special features are included. Many watches also have one-time fees ranging from $100 to $350. If a medical alert watch exceeds your budget, consider a wristband instead. It may not have as many features, but it still offers comfortable monitoring for seniors on the go.

Premium features, whether for wristbands or watches, often carry an extra fee. You can generally expect to pay more for special features, such as automatic fall detection, lockboxes, care protection plans, and repairs. Some companies charge a fee for caregivers to monitor watch wearers, but this service is often included in the monthly premium.

Assess Your Needs

When assessing the best medical alert watch for your budget, it’s important to first list your non-negotiable needs before comparing options. Perhaps emergency monitoring and fall detection are your highest priorities, but additional features like GPS location tracking and text messaging are not essentials. Because smartwatch add-ons can get expensive, it is wise to narrow down your options by separating out the must-haves from the nice-to-haves. Taking the time to identify your needs at the beginning of your search will make the watch research and comparison process much less overwhelming.

Look for Promotions and Bundle Packages

Once you’ve found a few medical alert watches that meet your criteria, keep an eye out for budget-friendly promotions and bundle packages. Some companies offer the first month of service for free, which is a great way to save a little money at the time of purchase. Another common option is to take advantage of the company’s bundle packages. For example, you can save money by bundling a mobile device or smartwatch with an in-home medical alert system. Some manufacturers even offer spouse packages, which provide a free or discounted extra device for a spouse after regular purchase. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does a medical alert watch cost?

Medical alert watches cost anywhere from $25 to $80 per month. Many watches also have one-time fees ranging from $100 to $350. Additional features like automatic fall detection, GPS location services and voice-to-text messaging can increase the price. Some manufacturers provide the option to pay quarterly or annually to cover the cost of cellular and WiFi connections used for mobile emergency monitoring.

Can a smartwatch be used as a medical alert?

Yes. The latest Samsung and Apple watch models can be used as medical alerts because they offer built-in emergency alert programs. Watch wearers can press a button to immediately connect with emergency services, and all watches come standard with GPS tracking to provide an accurate location for 911 dispatchers. Keep in mind that these dispatchers will not have any personal information or emergency contacts on file for the senior, unlike monitoring centers for traditional medical alert smartwatches. 

Are any medical alert watches covered by Medicare?

Medical alert watches are not covered by traditional Medicare because they are generally not considered to be “medically necessary.” However, some plans under Medicare Part C (also called Medicare Advantage) may include medical alert systems in their list of fully or partially covered services. We recommend checking with your provider to determine if medical alert watches are covered.

Do smartwatches have emergency alerts?

Yes. Both regular smartwatches (like Samsung and Apple) and traditional medical alert watches have built-in emergency alert capabilities. Although it varies by the individual manufacturer, both watch types offer fall detection to protect vulnerable seniors by automatically calling emergency services when a fall occurs. Medical alert watches are often connected to professional emergency response centers that are specifically trained to assist senior adults in times of distress.