Baby boomers still make up fully 20% of the American population
with 10,000 boomers a day heading into retirement. Smart homes for the elderly are becoming popular. From the current crop of millennials, 33% of girls and 21% of boys can expect to live well into their 90s. Improved housing and nutrition along with advances in medical technology and public health has caused global life expectancy to spike by 5.5 years from 2000 to 2016 according to the World Health Organization
. While this is obviously great news on a personal level, the costs associated with senior living are spiraling and there’s a growing need for better and more affordable solutions to this knotty issue… And in steps smart technology to save the day once again. Today, we’ll look at some key areas where tech can improve the quality of life of elderly people while also ensuring they keep their independence and enjoy living at home rather than being pressed to consider some kind of care facility. An AARP study
showed, unsurprisingly, that 85% of seniors want to remain in their own home for as long as they possibly can. Here are 7 ways in which smart technology can help make that goal a reality for more elderly people in the US and around the world…
1) Smart Locks Put An End To Lost Keys
We’ll kick off with one of the more obvious ways smart technology can add a layer of convenience to the lives of elderly people… While most of our suggestions today are age-specific, just like any other age group, seniors face the same tedium of misplaced keys, the same hassle of rooting through a bag when returning home. Luckily, smartening up entry systems combats this perfectly whatever your age. The common misconception with smart door locks
is that they’re about security first and foremost. In effect, you’re simply replacing one type of lock with another. Smart entry systems are more centered on convenience. We’d also like to add here something we frequently make abundantly clear: all aspects of a connected home should be personalized. Seek a catch-all solution and you’re likely to end up with something unfit for purpose. Maybe you’re entering your golden years and you loathe the thought of tinkering around with an app. Perhaps you really don’t need remote access either. Why not consider an electronic lock with a keypad or touchscreen? This way, you can enter a code rather than needing a smartphone. If you’re perfectly tech-savvy and confident dealing with apps, the Nest x Yale Lock
is a modern classic that’s also remarkably user-friendly. You can enjoy increased functionality and kiss goodbye to fumbling for keys. For a little more variety, plump for Ultraloq and open your lock using a code or your fingerprint, with your smartphone, by shaking and knocking or even with the key. There’s something to cater for all needs with smart locks so take the time to get what would work best for you.
2) Lighting: Safety and Convenience
Smart lighting is an integral part of most smart homes but we’ll keep this focused on how it can specifically benefit the elderly. Something as simple as a floodlight cam ensures when you return home late at night, the entrance to your home is nicely illuminated. The last thing you want when you’re getting on in years is to take a tumble and this is far less likely to happen if you’re not moving around in the dark. The other key benefit of smart lighting is making your house look occupied even when you’re out. With many older people still going for the classic money-under-the-mattress trick, security is paramount and programmable lighting helps with this. Even look at products like a dimmer switch
to control the lights from anywhere.
3) Apps and Gadgets For Entertainment and Communication
You should never stop having fun however old you are. A study on the Evolution of Smart Homes For The Elderly
categorizes things neatly into 6 key areas:
- Health and Nutrition
- Personal Hygiene and Care
- Physical Activity
- Social Engagement
So fully one-third of use cases are for the purposes of downtime and engaging with others on a social level. This is not remotely surprising. As you get older, it’s easy to get bored if you’re becoming less mobile and forced to stay inside more than you’d like. It’s also tough if you find yourself isolated and not communicating with friends and family as much as you’d like to. Luckily, smart technology can help counter these problems. Even if technology adoption is still slower among seniors than younger generations, 42% of over-65s own a smartphone
. If you’re among that number, taking advantage of free communication, whether through Facebook or WhatsApp, Skype or Zoom, can save you a fortune on phone bills and allows you to message or video staying constantly connected to your loved ones. This is at least some consolation if you can’t get out to meet people socially as often as you’d like. It also allows you stay in closer contact with your grandkids even if they’ve moved halfway across the world. If you’re confident using apps, you’ve got almost endless free entertainment at your fingertips. And the great news about using smart technology for these purposes? You can learn the necessary skills to communicate and entertain yourself in a matter of minutes if you’re not up and running with that kind of thing already. Smart homes are about far more than purely functional devices and appliances. Don’t forget to have fun!
4) Managed Smart Services
We fully appreciate that for many seniors, the very idea of embracing unfamiliar technology is off-putting and maybe of no interest whatsoever. Here’s the thing, though… People buy results, not products. By that, we mean that nobody ever wants a drill, they want the hole a drill can make. The same is true with smart homes, even more so if you’re not the biggest tech-fan. So if you want all a smart home can bring without being blinded by science, there are plenty of managed smart services, but one targeted at the elderly pioneered by HoneyCo
stands above the rest… This Nashville-based start-up offers smart home solutions for care providers and families
. If you have an elderly relative and you’d like them to enjoy the benefits of a connected home, but know they wouldn’t cope with the day-to-day operational side, HoneyCo can lash together regular smart devices and appliances into a bundle running on a single, user-friendly platform. A monthly fee encompasses full management of the service giving you peace of mind and your elderly family member the benefits of a smart home without any of the drawbacks. While other companies like AT&T also offer managed services, HoneyCo has made it their business to tailor things toward the elderly which is why we’ve name-checked them today.
5) Motion Sensors and Alerts
If you’re a senior living alone, motion sensors
accompanied by alerts sent to your nearest and dearest make a smart addition to your home. Some devices have the ability to determine when someone has entered a room but then there’s no subsequent movement. If your family are concerned about you taking a fall unattended, this is a wonderful, hassle-free way to alert them of a possible mishap. Other sensors can detect if you’ve got up and out of bed and you’re carrying on normally with your day, giving your family the peace of mind smart technology can so intelligently provide. Maybe your family is concerned you might forget to take your medicine. Again, sensors can detect when you’ve opened your cabinet and then ping alerts to your chosen contacts to let them sleep easy knowing you’ve had whatever medication you need. If you think outside the normal smart home uses of sensors, there’s plenty you can do whether you’re advancing in years yourself, or you have an older family member you want to take care of without needing to enlist professional help.
6) Voice Control Helps Those Who Struggle With Tech
Smart speakers like Amazon’s Echo and Google Home and Apple HomeKit come with voice assistants that can both enrich and simplify your life whatever age you are. If you’re deep into retirement, never used tech much and don’t fancy learning new skills you have no particular interest in, Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri can help you navigate a smart home a lot more easily than using apps or interfaces on physical devices. All you need to do is bark commands and your new digital assistant will do the rest. If you’re a more advanced user and quite comfortable with tech, you can harness your virtual butler
to extract even more from your connected home. As we routinely comment, it’s all about horses for courses with smart technology whatever your age or level of expertise. Think closely about what you want from a connected home and get yourself a virtual assistant to help you with everything from playing music to adjusting the thermostat without getting up, from having food delivered to video calling your family. Imagination is your only limitation and your AI assistant will do the rest
7) Health Monitoring
Advances in technology have made possible what until recently was purely the preserve of sci-fi movies. At Washington University, CASAS (Center for Advanced Studies in Adaptive Systems
) has been granted almost $2 million to trial a project codenamed Clinician In The Loop
. The team installs passive infrared sensors in a home with data on the subject sent to a small home-based computer. This, in turn, is securely sent to a server so researchers can analyze what the senior is up to. Setting privacy concerns aside, this has the enormous positive potential for monitoring the health of an elderly person in tandem with their healthcare provider. With free healthcare in the UK, their National Health Service has stated that similar remote health monitoring could save the system billions of pounds annually
. With this type of thing a few years from gaining common currency, how about the smart home of 2019? From medical alert bracelets to smart medicine cabinets, from emergency service alerts to motion sensors, it’s becoming more practical to stay at home well into your 80s and 90s and this is only set to get easier. These are exciting times for seniors in terms of smart technology and reassuring times if you have an elderly relative you don’t want to see head off to a nursing home.