Sunday, July 4, 2010

A mini course on heart rate monitors for senior citizens

I was working out at my local YMCA the the other day when I overheard an interesting conversation between one of the personal trainers and an older woman (I would say mid-60s). The woman had just purchased a heart rate monitor and the trainer was instructor her on how to operate it. I haven't heard anything so complicated since my high school physics class!

"Now, if you press this top button twice you will get the time function. Pressing this button once gives you the calendar. If you press this bottom button twice you will be able to scroll through the options. Oh, wait, actually you can scroll with both buttons. If you press this button a light comes on if you need to see in the dark." She then proceeded to either write instructions down for the woman or else draw a diagram (I think either is plausible).

Small buttons, even smaller informational text and multiple (perhaps too many?) functions make heart rate monitors difficult for senior citizens to use.

I felt bad for this woman who would probably give her new gadget a blank stare once the trainer left her alone with the device. But why should she? Why does something as simple as a heart rate monitor need to be so complicated to use? I have always had this problem with digital watches. Only four buttons, and with so many more than four functions I could never remember how to set the time, change the date or set an alarm. I knew that you would have to hold down some buttons or press other ones several times. I found myself just pressing random buttons in the hope that I would get the desired result. Now, If I, a relatively tech-savvy youth has so much trouble with a digital watch, how can this grandmother be expected to handle her new heart rate monitor?

With buttons too small and sometimes hard to press for those with arthritic fingers and not to mention illegibly small text with vague directions for the functions that each button is expected to perform it's no wonder this woman needed a mini course to use the damn thing.

So, I ask, why? Why is there not an easier and more simple heart rate monitor/digital watch for people to use? One that performs only as many functions as there are buttons to press. For that matter, can anyone tell me why a calendar function on a heart rate monitor is even necessary? If not to make it even more complicated to use? Perhaps someday a digital watch or heart rate monitor will be produced that is actually worth using.

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