Do We Need Wearables? Ask My Mom.

The following is a story about love, wearables and daytime TV.

Recently, I got a call that blew my mind. My technophobic mom, who doesn’t even know how to send an email, was pitching me on buying a Fitbit.

After connecting via video (using Duo is her latest smartphone accomplishment), the conversation went something like this:

“Hi Mom.”

“Can you hear me?”
“I can hear you but your video is frozen.”

[The video breaks up and freezes at the same time, disconnecting us. I sigh and call her back. Now I can see her face, though it still hangs now and again.]

“Do you know what a Fitbit is?”
“Yes Mom, I do. Actually, I’ve written about devices like the Fitbit for years…”

She’s too excited to wait and jumps in.

“It can track your blood pressure and your pulse. And when you’re out you can still get your text mails…”

Apparently, television host Steve Harvey featured a Fitbit deal that day, and whatever promotion he rolled out, it must have been pretty slick. In truth, Mom is no dummy, but consumer tech isn’t her scene. Having her grasp what a Fitbit can do isn’t a miracle, but the fact that she thought it was worth buying was notable, particularly given her frugal streak.

The truth is, though I’m 53 years old, I think she likes the idea of a device somehow watching over me, not that a cut-rate basic health tracker can actually do that. It doesn’t surprise me, especially given that I have two kids of my own and know what it is to wonder whether they’re ok. A mom is still a mom. Behold, tech is now her friend!

Given that she’s in her late seventies, it might be nice to monitor Mom’s key health data too, as I live in Virginia and don’t visit her Boston-area home nearly often enough. She does lives with my equally elderly father, but he has problems of his own and I’d rather get my information from the source. Now that Steve Harvey has sold her on wearables, maybe she’d be game.

Someday, I’d love to have the ability to track Mom’s vital signs in real time. Until then, even having access to her pulse rate reading (essentially her heartbeat) would be pretty miraculous. Though you probably wouldn’t get much out of the data, I know I would.


Epilogue: While I’ve written about wearables for quite a while, it never occurred to me that consumers would learn to think of them as a kind of watchful eye. Have any of your family members or friends developed a sudden interest in using a Fitbit or other wearable as a means of keeping someone safe?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.


  • Several years ago, after losing my Mom, my Dad moved closer to me. In order to “keep an eye” on him and to help encourage him to be more active he started wearing a Fitbit. As an engineer the data were very informative. It helped him to see when he was sitting too much during the day. It also helped me see that he was having nocturia based on his nighttime step activity. Over time we added a BP monitor and scale to our digital toolkit. Dad was glad that I was able to keep an eye on him and support his health.

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