As loved ones get older, many will want to remain in their homes for as long as possible and maintain their quality of life and some level of independence.
The desire to remain in one’s home is certainly understandable. It’s home. It’s where most people have spent a considerable portion of their lives and it can be hard to leave behind the memories and the comfort.
But an elderly person’s decision to remain in their home as long as possible is often accompanied by some anxiety, whether on the part of the individual involved, family members, or both. Luckily, technologies are available to make it easier for elderly people to age in place and to help bring peace of mind to family members.
Smart Sensors and Cameras
Several companies now make sensors that can track activity in homes and notify specific relatives and loved ones if activity is unusual. HoneyCo, for example, places sensors throughout a home that detect and store motion activity. It personalizes the system to track a resident’s routine, and notifies appointed people if something out of the ordinary occurs. For example, if someone’s elderly mom isn’t moving around her house by 8 a.m. when she normally wakes up and starts her day at 7 a.m., HoneyCo will notify the responsible relative, giving them the option to call, check in or take emergency measures.
Additionally, sensors can be added to other smart home technologies, such as ovens and stoves. Since cooking equipment is the number one cause of fires in adult homes, Inirv sensors, currently in beta testing, track movement near stoves and can send notifications or shut off the stove if there is no movement nearby. Additionally, using a smartphone app users can check the status of the stove from anywhere.
However, sensors can’t show exactly what’s going on in a home. For that, there are video monitoring services that allow relatives to monitor a loved one in their home. The cameras are small, easy to use and provide wide-view angles, HD video, night vision, and motion and sound detection to notify you when something is happening. The notification tool gives reassurance to loved ones, showing they’re not an invasion of privacy and instead a tool to use if something goes wrong.
Smart locks connected to a smart home hub can reassure the elderly and their family that the doors are locked and the house secure. One touch on a smartphone app can lock all the doors so there’s no need to make the rounds before heading to bed at night. Perhaps even more convenient, some systems and locks provide the option to set a specified time at which the doors will automatically lock. For relatives’ peace of mind, they can install the same app on their own phone and from there check to see whether doors are locked or unlocked. The Yale Assure Lock® line works with a wide range of easy to install and use smart home hubs, including Samsung SmartThings and Wink.
Smart doorbells incorporate a small camera that allows you to see who’s at the door, either on a small screen on the interior side of the door, on a smartphone, or both! With a smart doorbell, it’s easy to see who’s at the door without straining to use a traditional peephole. And with the doorbell’s companion mobile app, you can see who’s there without the need to even get up from your chair. Even better is to have both a smart doorbell and smart lock, which allows the user to unlock the door and let someone in – again, without the need to get up.
Smart lighting is one of the most popular smart home applications, and it’s easy to see why. Most obviously, it allows a homeowner to easily schedule lights to turn on and off, and control lights remotely so a house never looks unoccupied. That’s a source of comfort to the elderly and to their loved ones who are concerned about them. But smart lighting also makes a home safer to live in for the elderly. They can turn lights on an off remotely from anywhere in the house, so there’s never a need to enter a dark room fumbling for the light switch. What’s more, some bulbs support geofencing, which means that they use a phone’s GPS to track where you are and can automatically turn on as you arrive home. Some of the most popular smart light bulbs are the Philips Hue series and the Cree Connected LED bulbs.
It turns out that one of the most recent and most popular smart home technologies – voice control – can be of enormous value to the elderly living at home. Whether it’s Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant or Apple’s Siri, the ability to control smart home devices with your voice makes it easier than ever for the elderly to control these devices. Let’s face it – many elderly people might have trouble using smart home apps on a phone. They can be hard to see and it can be confusing for people who didn’t grow up using these technologies. So when exploring smart home options for the elderly it makes sense to go with devices that work with one of the popular voice control options. Be aware that some will require the use of a smart home hub to operate them via voice. But rather than a downside, synching all of a home’s devices to a single hub is often the most convenient way to go.
Dumb, But Clever
Finally, there are some recent innovative solutions out there that aren’t “smart” that make life easier for the elderly. The new Yale Navis Paddle, for example, is an ADA compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act) door lever that is pushed or pulled rather than turned to provide a quick, easy and comfortable way to open a door. It can easily be pushed open with a hip when carrying groceries, laundry, etc., and can be installed on exterior or interior doors.
With so many smart home options and capabilities, technology makes it easier than ever for elderly people to age in place and provides peace of mind for loved ones. Just be sure that it’s something that all those involved agree on. You don’t want to force these technologies on anyone. Instead, show your parents or other elderly relatives the benefits, and together decide what works best for them and that they’re most comfortable using.