Imagine if your parents’ home had the intelligence to take care of them (almost) as well as you do.
For the first time in history, we can control our homes with just the tap of a screen or the sound of our voice. Today, adults with mobility issues can see who’s at the door without getting up. Older adults with sore hands or poor eyesight can turn the lights on with their voices rather than manually flipping switches or finding their way across dark rooms.
There’s never been a better time to age in place and do so safely.
For me, the real excitement lies in the implication this technology holds for making the aging-in-place home even safer for older adults in the future. If you’re planning an aging-in-place renovation, smart home technology that makes your parent’s home safer and makes life easier has to be a consideration every step of the way.
Develop a Smart Home Strategy that Connects Your Entire House
Most of us have a smart tech device in our homes. A home isn’t a smart home, however, just because you can turn the lights off with your phone. Smart homes go beyond individual devices to create a web of connectivity throughout an entire house – letting you control just about every aspect of your home with the sound of your voice or the touch of a screen.
I could write a book about smart homes for aging in place – there’s an unbelievable volume of information to share and it just keeps growing. So, for this first article in my Smart Aging in Place series, I’m going to first focus on smart tech upgrades that make a home safer for aging in place. And, the first two upgrades I’ll help you tackle are security and lighting.
Smart security systems and smart exterior and interior lighting are two foundations of smart home upgrades for aging in place. Why? Because both are directly tied to an older adult’s ability to age safely in their home.
If you’re new to smart home technology or planning a smart home upgrade for the first time, security and lighting the first two smart upgrades you want to make. So, let’s dig in.
First, Choose Your Smart Hub
If you don’t already own a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo to access Alexa or Google Home, you’ll need to start here. Your smart speaker is your master command center for all things smart tech, with most of your smart devices connecting to it via WiFi to create a web of interconnectivity that allows your home to essentially to talk to itself.
Connect Your Home with Smart Security and Lighting Devices Focused on Safety
Smart Security Systems
A smart security system is where I always suggest DIYers start when making smart upgrades to an aging-in-place home. Security systems aren’t just burglar alarms anymore. These systems give you full control and visibility into the security of your home, inside and out.
Most smart security systems are connected to a mobile app and integrate with your smart speaker. With today’s smart security systems, your parent can lock and unlock their front door through the app and see who’s knocking before they answer.
The implications for your parent’s safety and comfort with this piece of technology alone are incredible. Picture your parent’s front doorbell ringing. They hear the doorbell so they quickly tap on the security app. With the security camera positioned over the top of the front door, they can see that their neighbor is knocking. So, they tap the ‘unlock’ button in the app and their neighbor walks inside.
This all happens without your parent having to get up and walk over to the door – a huge benefit for the aging-in-place adult who uses a walker, has other general mobility issues or experiences any kind of pain getting around the house.
In an alternate version of this scenario, it’s easy to see other safety implications of a smart security system. If your parent hears a knock at the door and opens up their security app to find a stranger at their doorstep, the system’s connected speakers will enable them to talk to the person through the app without opening the door. And, in an emergency, your parent can stay safely inside their house and call the police without going near the door.
Essential Security Features to Look for in the Best Security System for Aging in Place
Installing a smart security system is an easy DIY job that you can get done in a weekend. When you’re shopping for a system, look for these essential safety features.
- Mobile-app accessibility
- Video doorbell
- Door and window lock controls
- Two-factor authentication
- Two-way speaker
Here are a few of the smart security systems I’ve used and recommend to my aging-in-place homeowners.
Ring’s 14-piece kit is a great smart alarm option. It works well for homes with 2-4s room and has everything you need – including a keypad, cameras, and door and window sensors – to give your aging-in-place a huge security boost. And, it’s easy to use with a simple, straightforward app making it user-friendly for older adults. For my aging-in-place homes, I like Ring’s bedside panic button feature so help arrives that much faster if your parent needs it. And, Ring offers a professional monitoring plan so if an alarm is triggered, emergency services will be alerted.
This is another great security system, especially if your home is larger than most. SimpliSafe has a 1000-ft range so it can monitor more square footage than the Ring Alarm. Otherwise, it offers many of the same features as Ring. Your only choice with SimpliSafe is professional monitoring – there is no self-monitoring feature. So, if the security alarm goes off, a police officer will respond and be to your parent’s door within minutes. This may be good and bad, depending on your parent and what they need.
If you’re looking for a more simplified smart security solution, Google Nest couldn’t be a better fit. Google’s system includes a couple of outdoor security cameras that check for unusual motion and sound activities that may be happening around the outside of your home. If, for instance, it detects a window breaking, your parent will receive an alert sent to their phone. They can also check each camera if there’s a knock at the door and talk back and forth to anyone standing in the doorway.
Smart Lighting Inside and Out
After your smart security system is in place, you’re ready to move on to smart lighting.
A smart lighting system throughout the house makes an immediate impact on the safety and convenience of your aging-in-place home. And, it couldn’t be an easier DIY project. Here are a few great smart lighting products to get you started.
With just these smart light bulbs, your parent can now control the lights in any room of their home from their phone. I add them to each room in the main living spaces because it gives you complete control of the brightness of each room. I can’t stress enough the importance of bright light in the aging-in-place home and this simple upgrade is one way you’ll know your parent never has to make their way around the house in the dark ever again.
You can also go the route of hard-wiring your smart technology into your home for a more integrated approach to creating a smart home. This smart dimmer switch from Kasa is a great example. The switch connects to your WiFi once it’s installed in place of your existing wall switch. Then, any non-smart light connected to the switch is now easily controlled through your WiFi using an app. Kasa’s switch is compatible with Alexa so you have voice-control capabilities as well.
Plan for Exterior Smart Light Upgrades Along with Your Interior Lights
Having bright light sources outdoors is incredibly important when you’re designing an aging-in-place home. As we age, our eyes don’t see as well. It also becomes harder to notice contrast. Walking up a dark walkway or coming into the house through a poorly lit entryway is just plain dangerous for aging adults.
Smart exterior lights that cast a ton of light across the driveway and at each entryway are the way to go. There are several great options. Here are a few of my recommendations.
Giving your parent a safer entryway is literally as easy as replacing a few light bulbs. If an older adult leaves the house and forgets to turn the outside light on, when they return at night they’ll have no choice but to navigate their way in the dark. Especially if your parent has eye or mobility issues, this scenario needs to be avoided at all costs. Add smart bulbs at each entryway and turning the outside lights on is easy as a click on your phone. Problem solved.
You’ll want to get yourself a good floodlight and flood your parent’s driveway with enough light to see well at night when they arrive home. I emphasize ‘bright’ because a weak light may cast shadows that can play tricks on older eyes. You’ll be solving one problem only to invite another.
This floodlight from Geeni includes two smart bulbs that sync to your Alexa or Google Home. Your parent can then control the floodlight using their phone. What’s great about these lights, in particular, is that they’re dimmable. Some older adults need more bright light than others. Some want to turn the brightness down once they’re inside for the night. Your parent has complete control over these smart floodlights.
Add Smart Outlet Plugs that Connect Your Entire Home
With your smart technology foundation set – you have a smart security system in place and a series of smart lights inside and out – you’re ready to connect lamps and other light fixtures, as well as a whole series of other devices, throughout your home.
Smart outlet plugs are a great next step in your smart aging-in-place home upgrade. They’re an excellent way to connect your home’s lights without hardwiring every outlet.
Here are two great smart plugs to check out.
These smart plugs may be the simplest and most cost-effective way to turn your aging-in-place home into a fully connected smart home. This set from Gosund comes with four plugs that plug into any outlet in your home. When your lamp, television, coffee maker, or any other device or appliance is plugged into one of these smart plugs, it becomes a smart device that you can control from your phone. Or, using voice control using your smart speaker. These smart plugs are a no-brainer as you upgrade your aging-in-place home with smart technology.
If you have exterior lights that plug into an outdoor outlet, like a set of porch lights or holiday lights, a smart plug made to withstand outdoor elements is another smart upgrade worth adding to the list. This particular smart plug has a dimmer switch, is waterproof, and lets you control outdoor lights with either your phone or with your voice through an Alexa or Google Home.
There’s So Much More You Can Do with Smart Technology to Add Safety, Comfort and Convenience to Your Aging-in-Place Home
We’ve only just scratched the surface of possibilities that smart home technology holds for the aging-in-place home. Look out for more smart home upgrade tips, product suggestions and renovation how-to’s as I continue to share more smart home tech upgrades for aging in place.
As you create a smart home technology strategy for your parent’s home, use the comments section below to send me your questions along the way.
Good luck with your next smart aging-in-place home project!