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Writing about wearable technology turns out to be a winning experience Date: 06/23/21

By Andrea King Collier

In the fall of 2018, an editor at AARP approached me about doing a health and technology feature for them. The timing was perfect because I am a tech toy geek and was thinking about how I could use all the gear I have to make some lifestyle changes in the coming year.  

I jumped at the chance. The story was due in November to run in January.  

The editor and I got on the phone and came up with several gadgets and apps we might want to explore. I had several, and we decided on a few to try out that I didn’t have. Their team contacted the manufacturers of the ones they wanted me to test.  

And then it was like Christmas. Every day, goodies showed up. I tested blood pressure and heart rhythm tools. I had posture apps and ways to track what I ate and how much I exercised. I also had one app that helped me calm my thinking. And, of course, I had an Apple Watch chock-full of apps to monitor activities. I used everything for 30 days. 

The next step was to contact my physician and get him on board. We talked about what I was trying to do and how I would monitor. He was excited but my tech was more advanced than his. I had to print everything out for him. We tracked weight, blood pressure, sleep patterns and heart rates for 30 days. I monitored how much water I drank, how much I moved around and what I ate, too. I kept track of everything with a series of Excel spreadsheets, one specifically for what I was using and what I thought of it — although this was not a product review story.  

The story was fun to do, and I was consistent about using the gear and reporting on it. Losing a little weight was a side benefit. 

Here is what I didn’t see coming: Usually when I do these kinds of pieces, I turn them in to the publication and they come up with the art/photos. This time, they decided that they wanted to do a full-out photo shoot with hair and makeup, stylists and three photographers. We did the shoot at a friend’s house as mine was under construction. It was a daylong adventure.  

I was so pleased with the whole thing, and I got a nice paycheck, too. It’s funny that of all of the pieces I have written, so many family and friends saw this one. It went on to win AARP a magazine award. 

I still use the iWatch continually. I also use my Withings digital scale, my digital blood pressure cuff, and the Headspace app.  

What I learned about wearables is they are tools and only tools. You have to use them. They can’t make you change your habits or monitor. The heavy lifting is up to you. And it is an up and down. Some days, I am better than others.  

My advice for reporters writing about wearable devices is do your homework. There are a million tools out there. If you are going to do this, look at both the most high-techy and the more practical things that folks use, at a mix of price points.

Andrea King Collier is a longtime AHCJ member who writes about health, health policy and health equity. She is the author of two books: The Black Women’s Guide to Black Men’s Health, and a memoir, Still With Me…A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss.