Seniors often face the unwanted decision of either remaining in their homes, at risk of injury and isolation, or moving into assisted living facilities and thereby forfeiting their independence. However, because of today’s modern technology, they may not have to make this difficult decision anymore. A significant number of seniors choose to age in place rather than leave their familiar surroundings. With the help of various home automation technology, they may be able to do this independently with minimal or supporting help from caregivers.
Establish an Enjoyable Living Situation
Making a home comfortable to live in is important whether or not you’re a senior aging in place. Virtually all smart home devices were made for efficiency and convenience. For example, many smart thermostats on the market aim to learn your schedule. These products may be able to adjust automatically. Smart lights can be controlled remotely from a smartphone or remote and be set on a schedule or automatically turn on or off if someone walks in or out of a room. Both can be set up with one smart hub and be controlled through a single device. Smart plugs are able to make virtually anything with a cord “smart” and can turn on or off said appliance remotely. If you are using a smart plug, be sure to not overload the plug. For example, just as a space heater should not be connected to an extension cord, neither should it be connected to a smart plug.
If a home has several smart devices, they can be controlled from a single smart hub device that connects to the internet via a WIFI or wired router. One of the many benefits of owning a smart hub for your home automation is that you can pick and choose more connected appliances piece by piece to make for a cozy indoor environment. Smart hubs are also often “smart speakers,” such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, and can play music as commanded, which can be beneficial for seniors who may often spend time in silence.
Defend Against Accidents
While these systems are convenient and can work together to make a comfortable environment, they also have a role to play in the safety of your loved one. Smart lights are able to properly light up a room without having to flip a switch, preventing any falls from unseen clutter on the floor, while various other wireless sensors are able to detect when a senior is getting up or if they have already fallen and can alert the appropriate contacts. Doorbell cameras allow their users to check who is at the door without them having to get up and smart locks enable you to unlock or lock the door remotely, preventing the additional risk of walking up or down stairs or walking through the house.
Stay in Touch
Many senior citizens, especially those aging at home, are often at risk of depression, or at least severe loneliness, as they may not be able to maintain social relationships as well as they once could. In perhaps no other area does modern automated equipment excel than in keeping people connected.
Smartphones enable chatting with pretty much anyone from anywhere. Video chat applications, like Skype, permit an experience that’s just a small step removed from actually sitting in a room talking to the other person, either on a phone, computer or even television. It can sometimes be challenging to set up the appropriate hardware and software, but this has become less true in recent years, and a number of devices come pre-configured and ready to go without demanding any specialized technical acumen. Voice controlled smart hubs also make it easier to call someone or remind the user to call them because they do not have to fiddle with any keypads, keyboards or apps. Simply say “call mom” and it will do it for you.
Defenses Against Wrongdoers
One important system that can also connect with your smart home automation hub are home security systems, which may be the most obvious tool for a home and its occupants’ safety. With a smart security system, users can set up a variety of connected tools such as surveillance cameras and motion sensor outdoor lights, to create an all-encompassing and effective home defense system against unwanted intruders and potential burglars.
Because elders are often taken advantage of by those who want to prey on the weak, there is no such thing as being too prepared. Additional technologies that you can add onto your security system include smart locks and window sensors that sound an alert whenever a window is unexpectedly opened.
Benefits for Caregivers
Seniors aren’t the only ones who benefit from multifaceted home automation systems. They take many of the difficulties away from the challenging job of caregiving. Because many of the previously mentioned features of home automation allow seniors to gain back their independence, caregivers may be able to take half a step back. Instead of keeping an eye on their loved ones every second, they can leave the room, knowing that this tech can aid in their safety. Even if they’re away and out of the home, caregivers can check up on them through their smartphone, which work in conjunction with smart cameras. Smart security systems and smoke alarms also add a heightened sense of security as they often contact the appropriate authorities to call for help immediately.
Be Wary of the Drawbacks
Although smart home technology offers a plethora of benefits for the average user in addition to seniors and caregivers, it’s important to be aware of their pitfalls and to not solely depend on them in your daily life. For example, if you ever were to have an electrical or internet outage, which does happen occasionally in many neighborhoods, you would not be able to control smart home devices, in which case, you should prepare a backup plan if any of these systems are imperative to your or your loved one’s well-being. Many seniors are also not technologically savvy at all so it’s important to either teach them how to control certain systems and devices or do it for them yourself.
With smart home automation, both seniors and their caregivers can benefit from their rediscovered independence, even with the drawbacks. It’s important to remember what caregivers do for their loved ones and to reflect on how their jobs can be made easier. As seniors age in place, home automation technologies can make this process smoother and more comfortable, without sacrificing their independence.
Article written by:
Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where she continues to live and work.
This article offers several examples of technologies available to assist seniors in their homes. There are many more products that have proven to be useful in helping seniors remain safely in their homes and to assist caregivers. For more information, contact SeniorCare’s Information & Referral Department.