In a world where 77 percent of adults 50 and older are committed to aging in place, smart home upgrades are becoming an increasingly valuable tool. It is important to consider a senior’s privacy, but many technology solutions can help a senior, or senior couple, remain safe without sacrificing their independence.
Some Smart Home Upgrades focus on health and safety, while others make daily tasks easier for seniors. This article will focus on day-to-day tasks. For those interested in using technology for senior safety, check out our article, 5 Fantastic Reasons to Wear an Apple Watch for Fall Detection, or Dr. Leslie Kernisan’s conversation with geriatric social worker Mary Hulme on the Better Health While Aging podcast.
Any smart home upgrade to support aging in place requires us to weigh security and privacy concerns and the potential need for tech support. We discuss these considerations in a general sense throughout the article, but be sure to consider your unique needs! Now, on to our 6 Smart Home Upgrades to Support Aging in Place.
Table of Contents
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #1: Medication Reminders
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #2: Smart Home Assistants
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #3: Automated Lights and Thermostats
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #4: Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #5: Smart Contact Sensors
- Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #6: Stove Monitoring
- What’s Next?
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #1: Medication Reminders
We can all relate to the feeling of wondering whether we have completed a mundane daily task, such as taking our vitamins. But while a missed dose (or double dose) of a vitamin may not cause issues, there can be significant consequences if an individual gets off their medication schedule.
Medication reminders can help to remedy this potential issue. Medication reminders come in all shapes and sizes. On the low-tech end of the spectrum, there are basic trackers that are essentially reusable checklists. On the high-tech end, there are automated dispensers that sync to apps on your phone, such as the Hero Medication Dispenser and Med Management App.
To find the right medication dispenser, you need to discuss the options with the older adult who will use the device. The Hero Dispenser can dispense the correct medication at a scheduled time and tracking what medications the user has taken, but it also requires the use of an App. That could be frustrating for an older adult who is not comfortable with technology.
The Hero offers many great features, but if a senior finds the app and the machine to be too much trouble, a basic “sliding” checklist may be the better option. It comes down to personal preference, but if an older adult enjoys using the Hero Dispenser, it can offer peace of mind for the user and their family.
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #2: Smart Home Assistants
“Siri, play music from The Rolling Stones.”
Whether it’s Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, Smart Assistants have become a familiar feature on our phones and in-home devices. These voice-controlled tools can change our television programs, tell us the weather, or queue up our favorite music. These tools can be useful at any age, but for older adults with mobility issues, these Smart Assistants can make life around the house dramatically easier to manage.
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #3: Automated Lights and Thermostats
“Improve Lighting to Enhance Safety Throughout the Home” was one of the steps in our article 6 Simple Steps to Improve Senior Home Safety. However, improving the position of the lighting doesn’t help much if the lights are turned off!
Automated smart lights and thermostats allow you to set up the lighting and temperature around your home. They also provide an alert if a light – or worse, the furnace – goes out and leaves you in the dark or cold. For seniors who get up frequently during the night, motion-sensor night lights can be a cost-effective way to guard against falls when getting out of bed or making the trip to the bathroom.
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #4: Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are hard enough to keep up with in our younger years – we certainly don’t want older adults with mobility problems climbing ladders to replace beeping devices.
Devices such as the Google Nest Protect, an all-in-one smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm, can minimize many of these concerns for elderly homeowners. These devices can be set up to send out alerts to your phone, which can tell a family member or caregiver that there may be a problem.
The wired version of the Google Nest also eliminates the loud screeches indicating low battery life. That means there’s no chance of your Nest waking you or your loved ones in the middle of the night!
Midnight wake-ups are also a problem of the past with the battery-powered Nest Protect. The device checks its own batteries each night and gives you a Nightly Promise that it will work until morning. The battery-powered Nest Protect also send text messages when the battery is running low to ensure that someone can safely get fresh batteries installed before an unwelcome midnight reminder!
Smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are essential safety tools for any home. The intelligent versions of these devices are smart home upgrades for aging in place that require a limited tech interface, which makes them suitable for a wide range of older adults. With features such as motion-sensor lighting available as bonuses, an upgraded smoke alarm/carbon monoxide detector is a great tool to help older adults stay safe in their homes.
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #5: Smart Contact Sensors
A common phenomenon Dr. Kernisan has discussed on the Better Health While Aging podcast is that the children of seniors are often more concerned about the perils of aging than the seniors themselves. As a result, if a senior decides to age in place, their children or loved ones may want a way to check on them. While a video system could be tempting in this tech-heavy age, it is important to respect a senior’s privacy and independence, and many individuals will find a video monitoring system to be far too intrusive.
Does your Mom or Dad close the bedroom door every night? Is there a cabinet where they keep the morning coffee? If so, you can attach a contact sensor to verify that they are up and about in the morning. If their routine is more varied, then you can simply set up a floor mat next to their bed. These minimally invasive smart home technologies for aging in place give you a way to verify your loved one is up and out of bed each day, allowing you to follow up with the appropriate parties if something seems amiss.
Smart Home Upgrade for Aging in Place #6: Stove Monitoring
A hot stove is a hazard for anyone, but it can be especially dangerous for older adults prone to memory lapses. This is particularly true if diminished recognition skills prevent them from recognizing that the stove is hot upon reentering the kitchen.
That’s where motion-sensing devices such as the Toch Smartturns and iGuardStove come in. These devices monitor movement in front of your stove. If there is no movement for an extended period, the devices automatically turn off the stove.
Both devices require some up-front installation, but if you or a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline, the Toch Smartturns or iGuardStove could prove to be a lifesaver.
You can learn more about optimizing your home for aging in place in our article Essential Steps to Age in Place, or set up a consultation with Kathy today to determine whether aging in place is the best option for you!