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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: May 2024

Tech Column: Technology to Help Keep You Healthy

Jeffrey M Allen and Ashley Hallene


  • Many technology devices have come onto the scene to help monitor and treat specific illnesses.
  • Learn what devices will offer the most benefits in maintaining one’s health, whether it involves special treatment or not.
  • Technology can help manage your exercise, sleep, and nutrition. 
Tech Column: Technology to Help Keep You Healthy Lombardo

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As we age, health issues seem to assume an increasingly significant role in most of our lives. Certainly, some of us have health issues that command our attention earlier in life, but the fact remains that most of us become more health-conscious as we age.  We do not have a one-size-fits-all approach to the use of technology to assist in monitoring, maintaining, and endeavoring to improve our health; but we do have some tips and some devices that we like and think you may find beneficial. 

In this article, we will focus on general health concerns and not the treatment of specific conditions. We note that many technology devices have come onto the scene to help monitor and treat specific illnesses, but we do not intend to address them here. This article will focus on general health and devices that should benefit most users, whether or not they suffer from illnesses requiring specialized treatment.

As a starting point, we note that most of us, young and old, do not get sufficient exercise. Unfortunately, it seems that many of us get less as we age but likely need it more. We can say the same thing about sleep. As people age and retire, they have more time. You would think that would facilitate them getting more sleep. For most, however, they get less sleep as they age. Many reasons can contribute to the lack of sleep.  Those reasons range from consumption of alcohol and caffeine to the effects of medication, to sleep disorders, to poor sleep habits, to acute and chronic illnesses, and the list continues. 

As these issues seem to affect both healthy and less healthy folks as they age, let’s talk about them first.


Depending on whom you talk to about it, recommendations for exercise for senior citizens will vary. Our best advice on this is to talk to your primary care physician and comply with what he or she recommends for you. Your body and medical conditions may require more or less than the average. You should also note that generally, the older you get the lower the recommended level of activity becomes. For almost everyone, however, the recommendations call for a mixture of aerobic exercises (such as walking, dancing, or using a real or stationary bicycle), stretching and flexibility activities (such as yoga), strength (such as isometric exercises or weights), and balance activities to facilitate stability and avoid falls. While you can certainly get all the exercise you need without using much in the way of technology, modern technology can help you exercise more efficiently and effectively. 

For example, you can get apps for your phone or tablet that provide you with complete workout routines and keep track of your completion of those activities.

Some technologies can facilitate your completion of workouts by offering you devices to facilitate the activities and guide your progress, while others help by keeping track of what you do.

Some examples of the available technology (other than apps you can find in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play store include electronic stationary bicycles, treadmills, elliptical machines and the like that come with varying degrees of sophistication and amounts of electronics to guide you through a workout and even build a workout routine designed specifically for your needs. The advantage of such devices over simply walking or riding a bicycle is that you can use them day or night, rain or shine, dressed comfortably.


Again, you don’t require technology to sleep. After all, people managed to sleep for many thousands of years without modern technology. That does not, however, mean that you should eschew the assistance technology can provide. More devices than you can imagine promise to assist you in preparing for sleep, falling asleep, staying asleep, and tracking your sleep activities. We have not tried all of them or even most of them. We have tried some that seem to assist and some that made no difference that we could ascertain. Consider that some devices may work well for certain people, not as well for others, and not at all for still others. Accordingly, we recommend that you try out a device to ensure that it works for you before investing in it or, alternatively, that you look for devices that offer a refund within a time period if you try the device and it does not work for you. More and more vendors are making such arrangements available.

Some of the devices lull you to sleep with sound waves, music or by reading stories to you.  Some send specific electronic signals to your brain or nervous system to help relax you in preparation for falling asleep. Some guide you towards improved sleep hygiene by giving you helpful hints like “turn off the television,” “turn off your lights,” “use a blackout mask,” or take the time to relax for 30 minutes or more to prepare yourself to sleep. Others simply track your sleep, providing you with information about how long you slept, how well you slept, and how efficiently you slept (efficiency means the ratio of time in bed to time asleep). Many provide you with a sleep score that easily compares your sleep this week to your sleep last week and earlier, allowing you to ascertain whether anything you have tried might have enhanced your sleep.

Some of the many examples of such technology include:

  1. QuietOn (noise canceling earbuds).
  2. Dodow sleep machine (provides breathing exercises to help you get to sleep).
  3. Cove (sends vibrations to your brain to decrease stress and anxiety).
  4. Sleep Masks (too many to discuss from blackout masks to masks that provide an audio track to help you sleep). We prefer masks with audio tracks, but note that you can achieve the same thing using earphones and apps on your phone and a simple blackout mask).
  5. Sleep apps such as HeadspaceCalm, and Sleep Reset offer meditation and breathing programs, stretching, and even bedtime stories.
  6. Apps such as Sleepio use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques to help improve sleep.
  7. Frenz Brainband. We discovered this at the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) earlier this year. It won awards from CES for innovation. It tracks your sleep and facilitates it with audio input through an App that connects to your phone. The App uses artificial intelligence to guide you through sleep cycles. It uses bone-conduction technology, so you don’t have to have earphones in your ears while you sleep. It reports that 97% of customers show improved sleep using it. We just received one and are in the process of testing it.
  8. Pulsetto. One of many Vagus nerve stimulators on the market. It promises to reduce anxiety and stress, which can help you sleep. This is another device we discovered at CES and just got to try out.

The list goes on and on and on, but we have limited this discussion to devices we have tried, with the exception of some of the Apps listed above. We have found some benefits from all that we have tried except for the Dodow. While we can understand how it works for some, it did not help us much as the ambient light in the room made it difficult to see the light it sent to the ceiling to guide breathing, and you cannot use it in connection with a mask to block out the ambient lighting. We have not finished testing the Frenz and the Pulsetto, but they have favorably impressed us with their initial uses.

Fitness Trackers

We love fitness trackers and think everyone should get one. They help us track sleep and activity as well as a varying collection of useful information (depending on which tracker you get). Our favorites include the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Charge 6, the Oura Ring, and RingConn. The Apple Watch and the Fitbit devices have been around for some time, so you probably have some familiarity with them. Both have a variety of devices we use, and are partial to the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra. We like the style of the Series 9 better than the Ultra, but the Ultra is better because of its extended battery life. We prefer the Apple Watch as an activity monitor and the Fitbit Charge 6 for sleep. The Apple Watch Series 9 requires recharging every day. The Ultra goes 2-3 days between recharges. The Fitbit Charge 6 will last about 5 days between charges, as will the Oura ring and RingConn.  All of the devices (as well as many others we have not tried) measure activity, sleep (duration and quality), and a mixture of other things, including stress, readiness, heart rate, EKG, and pulse oxygen. Each sends the data to an App. Fitbit (now owned by Google) charges for the App, but the others do not. Overall, we like the Fitbit App the best, but the Apple Health App appears to be the most comprehensive and has the advantage of allowing you to accumulate data from a variety of sources. FYI, you can use the Apple Health App with or without an Apple Watch.  

We have used a variety of Apple watches and Fitbit devices for quite a few years. The rings have recently come onto the market, and we have just started with them. We have used the Oura ring for several months and RingConn for about a week now. RingConn (which strikes us as an unfortunate name choice) costs less than the Oura Ring but, so far, appears to work comparably. Fitbit Charge 9 is the least expensive of the devices we use and like.

Our take on all the devices is that they provide useful and helpful information but not necessarily completely accurate information. We say that as we have worn multiple devices at the same time and noted that they do not always record identical data, notwithstanding the fact that they all record the same activities. For example, on any given night there might be as little as a few minutes or over an hour differential in the sleep duration recorded by the various devices. We have noted that the differentials also lack consistency, meaning that one device might show longer sleep than the others one night and less the next. As most of the time they offer fairly consistent results, we consider them reasonably reliable. More significantly, if you stay with one device, you use a single consistent technology to measure your sleep or whatever factor you track. That means that you can easily compare one week or one night to the next. 

A word of caution: if you opt for one of the rings, note that the Oura ring is designed to be worn on the index finger but seems to work on other fingers as well. RingConn does not discriminate among fingers. However, do not rely on your normal ring size in ordering one, as they appear to be different from normal ring sizes. Both have sizing kits that they will send you to enable you to get the correct size. Additionally, Best Buy carries the Oura Ring, and you can go into many Best Buy stores to try one on and get the right size.

Food Tracking Apps

We like food tracking apps and recommend them to you as, in our experience, recording what you eat helps keep you conscious of the food values and calories you consume. A good food App will track calories and nutritional values, allowing you to know not only how many calories you consume but what portion represents carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Some will track other information as well. You can find many to choose from in the App Stores. We particularly like one called “Lose It”. That App has proven relatively easy to use, accurate, and reliable. It has helped us track what we eat, control, and ultimately lose weight. A word of warning: all the food tracking Apps we have explored come with a bit of guesswork and a lack of complete reliability. While many, including Lose-It, have a good-sized database of foods to draw on and many, including Lose-It, can read bar codes and give you the same information as you will find on the label of your food, automatically inputting it into your record, they all come with some inherent ambiguities.  For example, many foods will refer to a “serving” with no indication of the size of the serving. Accordingly, you may eat a different quantity than you record. Pizza offers a good example. Lose-It measures pizza by slices. Not every pizza place cuts the same number or sized slices in a 12” pizza as others. In fact, often when you open the box, you see that the slices in the same pizza may differ substantially in size. For foods not commercially prepared and packaged, the recipe used also makes a difference. Consider these Apps as guidelines and not absolutely accurate.