Theora Care, Theora Connect: Review

Theora Connect watch

The Basics

Product name: Theora Connect 

Manufacturer / Distributor: Theora Care

Compilation: Q1 2021

 

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  • Code: TECHLIFE

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Longevity Explorer Collection

This page contains our Theora Care | Theora Connect review.

 

 

Analyst Summary: Theora Care | Theora Connect

The Theora Connect is a smartwatch designed to be used by older adults — especially those with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

The manufacturer / developer (Theora Care) has gone to a lot of trouble to think through exactly how such a product would be used in this difficult circumstance, and has included a number of features we really like.

The Theora Connect is one of a number of products in the "dementia tracking devices" category that we compared in "Location Devices and Trackers for Dementia". If you are interested in this category of product, we recommend you look at that comparative review.

Theora Care also makes a modified version of this product designed to act as a medical alert. At present, the medical alert version of the product is available from Bay Alarm Medical and is called the SOS Smartwatch. The product we evaluated included the features of both the SOS Smartwatch and the Theora Connect. In this review we discuss the Theora Connect, but if you are interested in the medical alert version, see this review of the SOS Smartwatch product.

 

 

The Pluses

We like the way this product looks. It is far from the ugly, stigmatizing, conventional "old person product" to which we have become accustomed.

And by combining dementia tracking, a watch, and step counting, it combines being "useful for the older adult" with being "useful for a caregiver".

The key feature of this product is its ability to help care for a person with cognitive impairment or dementia. This is discussed in more detail below.

One of the advantages of this type of "smart watch" is that extra features can be added with software updates. So, if you are reading this after our initial review date, check the list of features on the company's website to see if extra features (eg weather) have been added.

It has a very easy-to-use clasp, which is a weakness of some competing products for older adults with conditions like arthritis.

 

SOS Smartwatch clasp

 

The Minuses

In our hands-on exploration of this product by our Longevity Explorers, some of the women felt it was "a bit big", but better than many of its competitors. All of the men thought its size was fine.

In terms of smartwatch capabilities, it has step counting capability (and can tell the time of course). But it lacks the weather, which many smartwatch-using older adults like, and has none of the many "extra apps that a full featured smartwatch (like an Apple watch) has.

 

 

Finding / Tracking People

We evaluated this product by having one explorer wear it as they went out and about in the neighborhood, while a "carer" kept an eye on the caregiving app, and periodically tested whether or not it knew where the wearer of the watch was. We did "checkins" where the carer called the watch wearer to see where they thought they were, and compared that with what the app told us.

While our testing was somewhat limited in extent (10 separate tests), as far as we could tell the watch and the app worked well and we were able in each case to see more or less where the "wearer" of the watch was, although the GPS location technology is not "perfect" (in several cases the location was off by a few houses). 

The app lets you set geofencing "zones", and sends notifications when the watch enters or leaves those zones.

 

 

Will They Wear It

A key question for a dementia tracker is whether or not the person being "tracked" will wear the device.

The Theora Care approach is to make a "familiar" product (a "watch"), and include some features potentially useful for a person with mild cognitive impairment (fitness, time, and phone calls), and hope that makes it "desirable" or "familiar".

The product also comes (optionally) with a "locking clasp" that can only be undone with a "tool", preventing a person with dementia removing it without help.

No doubt, this approach will work for some people but not for others. We don't know of any way to tell without trying it out on a specific individual.

 

Theora Connect clasps

Caption: Locking clasps. Bottom L: Watch with unlocking tool (blue); Top L: Normal clasp. Top R: "Special "locking clasp". Bottom R: Using tool to unlock clasp.

 

The Details

Here are some of the key details about the product.

 

Charging and Batteries

The watch drops onto a simple magnetic charging station. It charges fairly quickly (1-2 hours ), and is fairly easy to position the watch for charging.

In our testing, the battery lasted for less than a day when we wore it continuously, averaging about 20 hours. This is not "ideal", but fairly typical for this category of smartwatch as medical alert.

The right way to think about this is to consider exactly how you would use the product. 

  • If you use it during the day but take it off at night, this battery life should be fine.
  • If you want something you can wear "24/7 and never take off", this product will not be suitable.
  • If you fit an "in between" category where you want to wear it all day and night, but take it off daily for an hour or two to charge, then the battery life of this product will be a bit marginal, at least it was in our test conditions.

 

Appearance and Ease of Use

This is an especial advantage of this product.

Apart from some comments about it "being a bit big", the Longevity Explorers who looked at the product generally thought it had a modern aesthetic and was attractive in appearance, and looked "well made", rather than "looking cheap" as did some of the competitors.

Theora Connect watch faces and screens

Caption: Theora Connect touch screens. L-R: Analog watch face; Date and time watch face; Smartwatch feature screen; Pedometer screen.

 

Works Everywhere?

The SOS Smartwatch connects via a cell signal (in the watch itself) and uses the 4G LTE network of either AT&T or T Mobile (it can work on either, depending on which SIM card is in it when it ships). This means it will work anywhere there is cell reception for the carrier. If you only get reception from one or other of these carriers, be sure to mention that if you buy the product.

It does NOT require you to have a smartphone.

 

Vision & Hearing Issues

The face of the watch is bright, crisp, and easy to read. With the analog face in particular, it is easy to read the time, even without one's reading glasses.

When making a call, the sound is clear and fairly loud.

 

Smartwatch Features

The watch has a choice of several watch faces, including a digital face with large numbers, and an analog face with "hands".

The watchface is a touchscreen, which means the company could potentially add additional features in the future with software updates.

It has a basic step counting capability, but no other smartwatch capabilities beyond "telling the time".

The version we tested also has the ability to call people: either just a whitelisted group of people added to an adress book, or anyone you like using a dialpad on the face of the phone.

 

Special Dementia Features

This product has several "extra features" that are extremely relevant to the use case of a person with dementia.

  1. It comes with a (optional) locking clasp (see above). This is a frequently requested feature for this type of product.
     
  2. You can acquire a separate "beacon" that connects to the watch. This is a very useful feature (see below).
     
  3. Adjusting the "settings" requires a password, which prevents the wrong person adjusting the settings.
     
  4. One of the watch faces (see image above) has a nice, large, crisp, digital display that includes day and date and time. This may help for the person with cognition issues who forgets which day it is and becomes unsure of the time of day. And it may help save the caregiver from having to answer repeated questions about that topic.

 

Proximity Beacon

A typical problem for those caring for dementia patients is when the person with dementia "elopes" (ie leaves the building unexpectedly).

The "beacon" is a small round object that can be stuck on a wall or under a table. The beacon connects via Bluetooth to the Theora Connect watch. When the watch moves more than a certain distance from the beacon, the bluetooth connection "triggers an alert" — in the form of a notification to a designated caregiver. 

Theora Connect beacon

Caption: Theora Connect Beacon.

 

The separation distance is somewhere between 75 -100 ft, so quite close, yet large enough to cover a moderate size house. 

A typical use case for this is to put the beacon somewhere near a front door. Then when the watch "leaves the house", the beacon sends an alert to the caregiver (via text and via the caregiving app).

We tested this feature, although not in great depth. As far as we could tell it worked exactly as required, and gave us an alert when our "watch wearer" left the house.

A key aspect of this is that it alerts "rapidly", whereas technologies relying on GPS update more slowly. And it does not require line-of-sight to GPS satellites, so can work indoors.

While we were testing the beacon, we noted that the battery life on the watch seemed to have become shorter. In a day on which we were wearing the watch all day, and going in and out of the house past the beacon a handful of times, the watch battery ran low after about 12 hours (compared to more like 20 hours earlier in our testing before we connected the beacon).

So, this may be a downside of using the beacon.

 

Can You Wear it in the Shower?

It has a water resistant rating of IP67, which means "(up to 1 meter for 30 minutes)". So, it should be fine to wear in the shower, alhough not when you go for a swim.

 

Caregiving App

The Theora Connect comes with an accompanying "caregiver app" called the Theora Link.

To use the Theora Link, the caregiver needs to have a smartphone, although the older adult wearing the Theora Connect smartwatch does not need a smartphone.

The app seemed to work well. We did not evaluate it in depth for features like privacy and ease of use, so if you try it out, please add comments below.

 

Pricing

Pricing for this sort of product varies with time, so you should not rely on this section as the last word on pricing. However here are the prices updated as of March, 2021.

  • Upfront cost to buy the Theora Connect wearable only: $248
  • Monthly service fee: $30
  • There are extra costs for some of the accessories mentioned in this review.

 

 

Discount for Tech-enhanced Life Community

Tech-enhanced Life readers can get 10% off the price of this product if they use this code: TECHLIFE.

 

 

Where to buy it or learn more*: (this takes you away from our website)

Reviewed product

 

Longevity Explorer Collection

 

 

Discount for Tech-enhanced Life readers

  • TEL Discount: 10%
  • Code: TECHLIFE

[affiliate relationship]*


 

* Disclosure: If you use these links when you buy products we write about, we may earn commissions from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate or other affiliate program participant. This does not affect the price you pay. See How we Fund our Work.

 

 

 

 

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Comments

 

from Glenn. (unverified) at March 11, 2021

It would bebhelpful to include the cost of the monthly service in your reviews as well as the cost of rhe device when reviewed. Thanks

 

from tel-editors (member) at March 11, 2021

Because pricing changes we usually dont try and include current pricing info. But see above for pricing when we did the evaluation.

 

from Kim C (unverified) at October 23, 2021

Can I change the band? I'm not sure if my mom will wear a black watch because she wears a colorful one now, so I am hoping I can change the band to a pretty color.

 

from Judy Schwartz (unverified) at November 21, 2021

this watch would be for my father who is has been declining with Alzheimers.
He is still active in his neighborhood but need GPS tracking for him. He uses a flip phone for calls so Identity Tag and GPS are crucial as needing a larger face watch.
Is the face of the watch sensitive to touch and if so is there a way to lock the screen?
thank you,
Judy

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Last Updated: October 08, 2021.

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Review Star Rating: 
4.0 Stars