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How Smart Technology is Transforming the Lives of the Elderly

By 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age. “The aging of baby boomers means that within just a couple decades, older people are projected to outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” says Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau.

As the population ages, people of all walks of life are faced with the dilemma of how to best care for their older loved ones. Sure, nursing homes are one solution, but the costs are astronomical. For this reason, many caregivers are exploring ways to enable the elderly to stay at home where they can age with dignity and grace. Smart-home technology can lend a helping hand, enabling seniors to live independently in their homes and provide caregivers with priceless peace of mind—both emotional and financial. Smart home technology is enabling caregivers to easily keep tabs on their loved ones, even from miles away.

In fact, according to data from the Pew Research Center, four in ten seniors now own smartphones, more than double who owned a smartphone in 2013. Granted, that’s still not the vast majority, but it points toward a deepening comfort level among the elderly for technology.

Smart Speakers

A major trend is the rise of smart home assistant products like the Amazon Echo. Not only do smart home assistants integrate well with other smart home products, they can complete a number of tasks that some people might find difficult to do as they age. A smart home assistant can play music, read books and place phone calls, all by voice command.

Older people want to remain in their homes as long as possible, and smart speakers can keep their minds active and l ives engaged with others and find services they need.

Video Doorbell Cameras

46% of women over the age of 75 lived alone in 2015 and 23% of men according to the older Americans 2016: Key Indicators of Well-Being report from the Federal Interagency Forum of Aging- Related Statistics

Safety is a major concern for older people who live alone. Smart home devices such as doorbell camera allow elderly homeowners to see, hear, and speak to someone at their door via their smart device without having to get up and open the door.

In fact, the Ring Doorbell Camera is one of our favorite affordable cameras, available for just $180 in a variety of different colors.

Monitoring Appliances

Taking care of elderly parents who live on their own can be nerve-racking if the parent lives with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Seniors living with these conditions may neglect to turn off lights, may leave faucets running or—most alarmingly—leave stove tops or ovens on. Smart-technology can help detect abnormal appliance use.

Appliance-monitoring systems send alerts to seniors and their caregivers when unusual activity is detected, allowing for a quick response. Many such systems offer the ability to turn off appliances remotely, making aging parent care easier and safer. This technology allows you to remotely control their home and even save energy!

Smart Lighting

When mobility declines, having a way to manage a home without excessive effort is key to independent living. Smart lighting keypads can turn select fixtures on and off automatically at certain times of the day, for example, even activating hallway lights at a dim level to make nighttime trips to the bathroom or kitchen safer.

When programmed appropriately, smart lighting can also serve as reminders, flashing the kitchen lights when it’s time to take medication or when the mail has been delivered, for example.Buttons on a smart lighting keypad can simplify routines, too. By pressing one button a user can launch a command that turns off every light before bed or activates them all when there’s a knock at the door, for example.

Smart Thermostats

Digital thermostats can be difficult for even the most tech-savvy homeowners to understand. Smart thermostats control the home environment, heating and cooling the home automatically so that you don’t have to worry about someone forgetting to set the thermostat.

Smart thermostats also ensure the comfort of those who choose to age in place by maintaining preferred temperature settings throughout the day automatically—no fiddling with buttons, dials, or knobs. If a loved one feels too warm or cold, they can adjust the settings directly from a smartphone or tablet.

Smart Refrigerator

A loss of mobility can make even a grocery trip problematic. Though they're often marketed to young, busy and tech-savvy families, smart refrigerators like the Samsung Family Hub can help aging or forgetful homeowners stay on top of their grocery shopping. It's not available yet in all areas, but in some places the Samsung Family Hub lets owners order groceries directly from their refrigerator doors, which could be helpful for older people who struggle to get to the grocery store.

Not only does the Samsung Family Hub come with voice technology, but it can read out recipes for older chefs who might struggle with the small print in recipe books. It comes at a higher price point than some other smart home products, however, with the least-expensive model available for about $3,500.

Indoor and Outdoor Smart Security Cameras

Depending on the system, home automation for the elderly and disabled can include smart security cameras, which monitor the home for intruders and send notifications to smartphones if suspicious activity is detected.

The benefits of home security cameras also make taking care of an aging parent easier—you can use the smartphone-enabled app to check in on parents and make sure they don’t require assistance.

Final Thoughts

Implementing smart homes for elderly and disabled family members can make aging in place safer and more enjoyable. A sense of independence helps maintain a high quality of life, and children of elderly parents appreciate how quickly smart-home systems alert them to their parents’ needs. A little technology can make at-home independence possible for longer—and can help your loved ones thrive for years to come.

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