How WiseWear Brings Style to Personal Safety for SeniorsHow WiseWear Brings Style to Personal Safety for Seniors

Wearable technology does some amazing things these days, but looking stylish isn’t always one of them. Design maven Iris Apfel—interior designer to 9 First Ladies and the subject of a recent documentary about her style—is doing her part to change that. The 94-year old is a model for WiseWear’s Socialite Collection of wearable health and safety bracelets. They debuted at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show and raise the game for wearable technology design. Apfel is also designing WiseWear’s next collection.

Multiple tools in one piece of jewelry

The bracelets combine fitness tracking tools, mobile notifications from your smartphone, and a distress-call function that sends a text message and your GPS location to your contacts when you tap the bracelet with a pattern you choose. (The company’s web site says there’s no automatic fall detection feature yet.) The jewelry communicates through your smart phone via the Socialite app for iOS and Android mobile devices. In effect, the Socialite bracelets blend many of the functions of a Fitbit, a personal emergency response device, and a smartphone in a single object that doesn’t look like tech and isn’t as obtrusive as a phone.

Right now, WiseWear offers 3 styles. The Kingston is sleek, unisex, and minimalist. The Duchess features a green malachite stone inset, and the Calder has a raised link detail that evokes the mobiles of American artist Alexander Calder. Each water- and tarnish-resistant brass bracelet is coated with 18-karat gold or palladium. That’s possible because the company’s technology allows the device to transmit Bluetooth signals through metal that would otherwise block or interfere with them.

All-ages appeal

Apfel is featured prominently on the WiseWear website, both in photos and in a mini-biography that talks about her own experiences with falls and hip replacement surgery. The product video features younger women wearing the bracelet as they go about their business at work and on vacation. The Socialite bracelets look as at home on the stylish Apfel as on the career woman and the hiker in the video. That’s something a silicone-band fitness tracker or a pendant call button can’t manage just yet.

The multi-age marketing also highlights another aspect of WiseWear’s designs. They’re made to appeal to adults whatever their life stage, rather than exclusively targeting seniors. The only audience limitation seems to be size; the current offerings only fit around wrists measuring 6.5 inches or less. (WiseWear wryly notes that “although it is designed for women, your gender will not affect the way the bracelet functions.”)

The bracelets range in price from $295 to $345, about 3 times the cost of a Fitbit and considerably more than a personal emergency call button with automatic fall detection. They don’t provide voice service as some personal emergency response systems do, and wearers must have their smartphone with them in order for the bracelet’s features to work. But as a first foray into truly merging style with safety and health technology, WiseWear’s designs signal that it’s time for wearable technology to focus on wearability as much as technology. It will be interesting to see what Apfel does with her collection.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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