Ageing With Attitude: Iris Apfel is set to be the face of wearable technology for the older generation

She’s just six years short of her 100th birthday but that is not about to stop Iris Apfel the creative dynamo from being the face of wearable technology for the older generation, writes Margaret Jennings

THE 94-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel, whose colourful life is outlined in a documentary currently on Netflix, is hitting the headlines again. This time she’s the face of a new wearable technology range, proving it’s never too late to adapt to modern gizmos.

Iris is originally famous for helping restore White House interiors for nine presidents, going back to Harry S Truman in the mid 1940s. A long-time fashion collector, she has ensured her personal fashionista brand has stayed centre stage over the decades, draping herself in bright bangles and baubels and signature large glasses that say ‘Look at me — I’m still relevant’.

It’s no surprise then, that she has been chosen as the face — and designer — of a newly launched wearable health and safety jewellery line for a US company called WiseWear. The luxury bracelets conceal cutting-edge sensing technology that allows consumers to screen their health while staying connected to their mobile device.

The bracelets use technology that monitors heart rate, breathing, metabolism and more, while also alerting the wearer to current texts, emails and events.

While wearable fitness trackers are now mainstream, they may still have to win over larger numbers among the older demographic in Ireland. Figures released in January by Ipsos MRBI regarding the social messaging/networking patterns of Irish people in the 55-plus age group revealed that 26% had a Facebook account; 25% used WhatsApp and 11% used Twitter, indicating there may still be some ground to break with mobile apps.

Ageing With Attitude: Iris Apfel is set to be the face of wearable technology for the older generation

However, it may not take too long. Statistics released last year from Dublin-based research firm Statcounter, showed that Irish people are the biggest phone internet users in the Western world, which is not a giant step from using apps and embracing wearables.

At CES 2016, the Consumer Electronics Show where WiseWear showcased its line and which attracts a global gathering of technology industries, the experts agreed that wearables are not a trend, but the future of computing. They predicted that in a decade all tech will be wearable.

While older people will be motivated to use wearable technology because of the supportive health functions it offers, blending it with fashion, as Iris Apfel has done – a trend called Fashtech – elevates it to a fun platform. Pasquale Jordan of WiseWear says they have already received enquiries from Ireland and other parts of Europe for the technology bracelets which come in three ranges and are currently priced at $395 (€349).

Meanwhile on a more mundane level, wearable technology is very much on the mind of Eamonn Costello, the managing director of Irish software start-up Medical eGuides. “We’ve developed a self-monitoring app for kidney transplant patients — whose median age is 50 — and we are currently adapting this for men to help manage their prostate cancer,” he says.

The kidney transplant solution, which is currently in use with patients helps them with reminders around appointments and medication; allows them view some of their hospital data, and also links in with wearables such as blood pressure monitoring and activity tracking, to motivate them to better manage their health.

The solution the company is building for prostate cancer sufferers will provide the patient with very targeted information; surveys; a way to track their PSA results; monitor their blood pressure, and get medication reminders.

“We are also looking at providing recommended

supports that may be appropriate to them,” says Costello. “The side effects from some prostate cancer treatments, for instance, can leave men with very sensitive issues for instance around bowel, urinary and sexual function, which they are typically not good at talking about, or seeking support for. This is an area we are looking to address and it’s likely to be a wearable band, rather than through the mobile phone.”

With the majority of prostate cancer patients aged over 55, the creation of such a wearable device will be one avenue into the market for older people. But as we hear more about monitoring our own wellness, wearable trackers will more than likely become a must-have functional fashion item among the oldies, as much as health-conscious younger tribes.

Though the thought of forking out for a high-priced fashtech version might raise our blood pressure levels.


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