You don’t physically have to be home to create a grocery list, answer the front door or turn on your porch lights anymore. From smart refrigerators to voice-activated assistants, smart devices and the Internet of Things are helping connect people, environments and systems to increase convenience and safety.
For America’s growing senior population, technology advancements can help maintain independence – one of the top concerns for those age 60 and older, according to the annual survey, The United States of Aging. Despite concerns about physical and mental health, including memory loss, three out of four respondents said they plan to continue living in their own home.
The need for high-tech innovations designed with seniors in mind will likely increase as the size of this population grows. Today, there are nearly 48 million people age 65 and older, according to the latest results from the United States Census Bureau. That number is expected to rise to more than 98 million in 2060, with about one in four residents aged 65 or older.
Researchers, IT professionals and healthcare professionals are already working together to develop technology advancements that will help seniors and loved ones feel safe and comfortable with aging at home.
Creating a Smart Home Today: Gadgets on the Market
Smart home adoption is already underway as the market for voice-enabled smart speakers continues to skyrocket. According to a 2017 report by Forrester Research, more than 26 million American households are projected to install at least one smart speaker in 2018, compared to 15.3 in 2017 and 6.6 in 2016.
The forecast estimates more than 50% of American homes, or over 66 million, will have at least one smart speaker by 2022.
As smart speakers continue to grow in popularity, so does the opportunity and interest to connect other systems and products. For seniors, installing a smart speaker may be the first step in creating their very own smart home. From wireless energy monitors to Wi-Fi lighting, many in-home products can be enhanced and connected to smart speakers and mobile apps. Below are a few examples of other smart technologies available today.
Loved ones can now keep tabs on family members and older adults in real-time. HoneyCo, a Nashville-based software company, has designed a series of customizable motion sensors that can notify anyone connected to the platform of any changes in behavior. The sensors do not include cameras but can send information when someone entered and left the home and if the front door was locked.
Sensors can also detect when a parent has fallen down or hasn’t moved for some time. Additionally, the monthly service can also monitor professional care visits by recording when caregivers arrive, perform tasks and leave. All actions can be monitored from any connected device at anytime, anywhere.
“We turn the home into something that cares for them while they are inside of it,” HoneyCo CEO Zachary Watson stated in a 2017 interview with cnet.com.
Forgetfulness can cause anyone concern, especially when older Americans are in the kitchen. The Wi-Fi-enabled IGuardStove Intelligent automatically shuts off the stove if left unattended. Motion detectors will turn the stove off and on again if you are in range. The device also sends email alerts if the shut off feature is used too much within a short period of time.
Medication Apps & Dispensing Systems
Medication apps and smart dispensing systems can help keep daily and weekly medication routine on track and inform seniors and loved ones when a dose is missed.
Mobile apps such as Medisafe keep track of daily doses, compile weekly reports and inform family members of routine changes or missed doses. Monthly services such as the Philips Automated Medication Dispensing Service, which includes a remotely monitored at-home dispenser that automatically calls the senior, caregiver or another family member when a dose is missed.
Other WiFi-enabled products include security cameras, door locks, thermostats, and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. In many cases these systems can be connected to other users outside of the home, allowing caregivers and family members access to safety alerts and notifications.
Tomorrow’s Smart Home for Seniors: Robots, Sensors and More
Imagine a live-in robot that delivers daily medications or sensors that can detect changes in walking patterns – enough of a change to compile data about potential health risks based on your steps and movement. These technologies are being developed right now at a living lab called the Aware Home on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus in Atlanta, according to a 2017 report by CNN.
Technology advancements such as these can help reduce risks and offer an extra layer of protection while creating a comfortable environment for seniors.
While it may seem like living in a home that is completely connected is years into the future, smart products on the market now are allowing everyone to create a customized environment based on their needs.