6 Simple Changes You Can Make Right Now to Add the Power of Smart Technology to Your Aging in Place Plans
While America may be graying, our society is changing by the minute.
Technological advancements have impacted almost every aspect of our lives, and it’s safe to say this trend will continue. Not surprisingly, smart technology has had a positive influence on Aging in Place (AIP) plans and goals. Today, a wide range of assistive devices are available to help retirement-age adults stay at home longer and give family members and caregivers the peace of mind of knowing the safety and security of their loved ones is watched more closely than ever before.
Assistive technology is no longer cost prohibitive or difficult to use. It’s readily available to almost everyone. Let’s take a look at six simple changes that you can make right now to incorporate smart technology into your AIP planning.
1. Smart Thermostats
Smart thermostats have been around for over a decade and are already a cornerstone of many AIP renovations. Devices like the ecobee thermostat have a major effect on the efficiency of household heating and cooling systems. However, did you know that adding a few extra temperature sensors throughout the residence will not only help you save on energy costs but help your aging loved one comfortably navigate daily activities? These temperature gauges can be connected with your smart thermostat and this creates a simple and stress-free way to easily regulate the temperature in each room of the home.
Many smart thermostats utilize the same technology as Siri, Alexa, or other voice-activated digital assistants, making it possible for people to control temperature and humidity in any room by simply speaking.
Why are smart thermostats and temperature sensors important for older adults and AIP plans? As we age, we become more susceptible to dehydration. Rooms or households with low humidity can lead to mild dehydration–which can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue and other conditions that make injuries from falls a much bigger threat.
2. Smart Sensors
There are a wide variety of smart sensors that can enhance the safety of a retiree and also keep an eye on a person’s general well-being. Many of these household sensors operate by motion detection and can be helpful in monitoring changes in daily routines.
For example, smart sensors can detect how many times a person gets out of bed each night. Why track this? One reason is that urinary tract infections (UTI) become more common as we get older. If a UTI is not detected early enough, it can become serious to the point of requiring a hospital stay. One red flag symptom of a UTI is increasingly frequent trips to the restroom. When patterns begin to change, it could signal an infection or other physiological change that requires medical attention.
These systems enable aging adults to quickly get the assistance they need by providing emergency responders with precise GPS coordinates, as well as notifying family and caregivers that a distress call has been made.
NOTE: One aspect of sensor technology that must be considered is an older adult’s privacy and respect for their dignity. Noble intentions aside, your aging loved one may not be thrilled by your new capacity to count how many times they urinate nightly. When incorporating sensors or other types of tracking smart technology, it’s vital to maintain an open dialogue and talk about the “why” as much or more than the “what.”
3. Smart Detection
Smart sensors can also monitor safety issues within the home such as broken glass, smoke, carbon monoxide, or flooding. Smart detectors can send alerts to your phone and will also signal you when the battery is running low. If there are conventional smoke and CO detectors in the home, you can achieve smart detection by simply installing a smoke alarm listening device. This device can be placed inside any unit that is powered by a 9-volt battery–as long as you have a Wi-Fi connection. The listening device will send alerts to your cell phone when it is activated or when it hears a detector chirp out a low battery warning.
4. Smart Security
There are numerous smart security options on the market today. Cameras may be discretely positioned anywhere on the inside or outside of the residence and can be accessed and monitored by a cell phone. Most smart security equipment is easily installed, minimally invasive, and can be hardwired so batteries never run out.
If a property already has a home security system, modifications and enhancements are generally not an issue. One helpful smart security feature for older people is a video doorbell which allows them to see who is knocking before opening the door. If needed, emergency services can be summoned to a precise GPS-based location with the push of a button.
Another way to add smart security is to connect a smart lock. For a quick reference on how these work, think about hotel or ID badge keycards. Smart locks open when given an authorized signal. This could mean entering a code into your cell phone, placing a thumb on the device, or simply speaking to it.
5. Smart Assistance
Smart technology is revolutionizing assistive technology (AT) options. AT is designed to work with a person’s most consistent and reliable physical motion to counter any other physical limitations. For people who may have trouble seeing small objects, there are large, high-visibility displays for cell phones and landlines. For people who have limited fine motor skills, smart locks and other household AT devices can enhance dexterity. Just a few years ago, the range and functionality of AT was limited–and it was very costly. Now, with smaller, smarter, and less expensive devices being sold online and in stores, AT is available for almost everyone and every need.
6. Smart Central Control
The prospect of operating smart technology may be intimidating—especially for people who never worked with these devices when they were younger. Even for the most technologically savvy people among us, operating a myriad of autonomous equipment and remembering a bunch of new passwords can be daunting.
After discussing all of your smart tech options with your aging in place contractor, and selecting the applications that can foster a higher quality of life, you can connect all (or most) of your new intelligent equipment—and create a virtual command center—by using only one smart speaker and voice activation system. Now turning up the heat a couple degrees, making sure the doors are locked, and confirming that motion sensors are a go can be just a few vocal commands away.
These changes will not only enhance your aging in place renovations, but will very likely increase the home’s value and make it more appealing to potential buyers if you should decide to sell the property in the future.
WANT TO SEE MORE GREAT IDEAS OR LEARN HOW AIP RENOVATIONS CAN PROMOTE AND SUSTAIN INDEPENDENCE? CHECK OUT OUR ULTIMATE GUIDE TO FAUCETS FOR THE AGING IN PLACE.
Smart technology can reinforce AIP plans and remodeling upgrades. In doing so, they can help aging adults live independently with greater security and safety. New, ever smarter products are introduced regularly. You have to be careful, though. Don’t be dazzled by false promises. There are unscrupulous people who are actively looking for people—particularly retirees—to bilk, or those who may try to sell expensive upgrades or features you simply don’t need. This is why you should only work with an AIP certified specialist or aging in place contractor whom you trust or whose services can be verified with references.