Senior Tech For Aging In Place
Living independently is getting increasingly easier—and safer—for older adults thanks to the growing number of smart-home devices. As long as there is Wi-Fi and Internet in the home, seniors can use a smartphone app, a laptop, or a smart-home hub to control the temperature on a thermostat, respond to the doorbell, turn lights on throughout the house, or start the washing machine—all without leaving the room.
Technology is breathing new life into traditional household items, such as lamps, radios, fans, and ovens, and is playing a major role in the development of new smart-home devices. As a result, tech-based devices are just what seniors need to “age in place” and make daily life more manageable.
Seniors are not the only ones who benefit from smart-home technology. Family members, friends, and caregivers can connect to devices as well, adding another layer of protection, comfort, and security for older adults.
Although there are many smart-home products on the market, the following are what experts say are the most popular:
A smart speaker is a voice-activated device that can control other smart-home devices. The speaker links to a home’s Wi-Fi network and is controlled by an app on a smartphone or other smart device.
Smart speakers use voice-recognition technology to make them compatible with popular virtual assistants, such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google’s Assistant. For example, you can use voice commands to tell Amazon Alexa to turn on your TV, play music, call a friend, or give you the latest weather report.
Smart Display Screens
A smart display screen is simply a touch screen attached to a smart speaker. The screen provides a visual display of the actions that a smart speaker takes. For instance, if you ask Amazon Alexa for a recipe, the smart screen will display the recipe. The display screen also connects to other devices, including a smart video doorbell. In this instance, the screen displays the person who rang the doorbell.
For Apple users, the iPad has a touch screen that operates somewhat like a smartphone, with app icons that are easy to see and use. The iPad has the Apple FaceTime app that supports face-to-face calling but also works with other popular apps like Zoom and Skype.
Smart Video Doorbell
A smart doorbell will not only show who’s at the door but will also allow you to speak to the person—even if you’re not at home. Smart doorbells send signals from the door to an app on a smartphone, tablet, or other device.
A video doorbell has a camera to capture people who come to the door. Some cameras also contain motion sensors to detect movement around or near the door, such as a package delivery, a passing vehicle, or a stray animal. Family members and caregivers who have the same app can also receive alerts when someone comes to the door.
Smart seniors are wireless, battery-powered devices that detect motion, measure temperature, and other movements such as the opening or closing of a door. Sensors can act as a safety measure for older adults, particularly those who live alone, by sending alerts to family members or caregivers when a senior falls or when they wander away.
When connected to a smart-home hub, such as Apple’s HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant, smart sensors can control other smart home devices.
Smart plugs can automate nearly any wired appliance that has an on-and-off switch and allows the appliance to be controlled remotely. A smart plug is inserted into a wall outlet and paired with the home’s Wi-Fi network and a smartphone app. Then, you can plug an item, such as a lamp, a coffee pot, or a fan, into the smart plug, tap on your phone or use your voice to turn the device on.
Some smart plugs allow you to schedule appliances to turn on or go off and control them remotely when you are away from home. For instance, if you are not at home when it’s getting dark and the lights in your house are off, you can use your phone to turn the lights on. Smart plugs also work well with smart home assistants such as Google Home Hub or Amazon Echo.
Smart lighting gives you the ability to control the lights in your home without manually flipping a traditional wall switch. Smart lighting uses your home’s Wi-Fi to connect to an app, smart-home assistant, or other smart devices to control the lighting automatically or remotely.
Smart lighting includes everything from a smart lighting system for the entire home, to smart light switches and dimmers, to smart LED bulbs. For example, a smart light bulb can screw into a standard lamp or light fixture and you can adjust its brightness or schedule when it should turn on or turn off. Like smart plugs, smart lighting can work with smart home hubs, such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, and Apple HomeKit.
More smart-home devices are in development to help seniors who want to stay in their homes and age in place. A 2021 survey conducted by Capital Caring Health and WebMD found that 90 percent of adults 50 years old and over want to remain in their homes as long as possible.
There has been a “big leap forward over the past four to five years” in developing smart-home technology, according to Laurie Orlov, founder, and principal analyst at Aging and Health Technology Watch, a market research firm in Port St. Lucie, Florida, that offers guidance and tracks trends about health and aging-related technology. What’s more, the right technology can bolster the ability of older adults, especially those living alone, to age in place safely.
“Technology enables more effective communication to the services you may need outside the home, including telehealth platforms, services that can bring you food, links to transportation, connecting with other people, staying entertained and helping you learn new things,” Orlov said in an interview with AARP.