Today, more and more Americans are weighing their options as they grow older and choosing to stay home, or “age in place,” as opposed to moving to a retirement or assisted living community. According to the American Society on Aging, U.S. Census Bureau data shows that much of this is fueled by the fact that more Boomers own their own homes (roughly 78 percent in 2016 compared with 68 percent in 1971). Coupled with the increased home ownership, many “Baby Boomers” have access to services that make aging in place an attractive option.
As the internet of things (IoT) continues to emerge, seniors are discovering a host of other solutions that allow for greater independence, while still providing peace of mind for family members. From personal emergency signaling devices to digital pill dispensers, there are already a number of connected devices that provide peace of mind for those wishing to age at home.
However, even as these devices become more connected, there is a growing need to improve how these devices and connected services become more autonomous. To help maintain older American’s independence, while still meeting their health and safety needs, devices need to move beyond simple automation and begin to share and act on information they receive. Here are a few examples of ways the IoT is making this reality.
Memory issues and safety
For those aging at home who have memory or depression issues, making sure they don’t forget medication, and in many cases, even meals, is a significant concern for caregivers. Currently “smart” refrigerators provide information on a wide range of things, from the weather to family member’s schedules. In a smart home, these smart refrigerators provide a perfect solution for both medication and meal reminders. When combined with smart pill dispensers, which track if medication has been taken on schedule, a smart refrigerator could display a visible reminder, and send reminders to the home’s smart television, reminding a loved one to take medication and eat properly. For those who forget to eat, care givers could not only use the smart refrigerator to track and report when it had been opened and what had been eaten, they could also leverage it to provide nutritious recipes or show pictures of prepared meals along with a reminder to eat.
Another concern of those caring for aging family members has to do with leaving a stove on, especially natural gas stoves. Stoves presents a serious risk both in terms of personal injury from touching a hot stove to being a significant fire hazard. In a smart home where the technology is adaptive, home security sensors would identify the heat source, shut off the gas via the smart meter and notifying emergency responders. Electric stoves could also be programmed to send data to home sensors and, if there has been no activity in the kitchen for a defined period of time, automatically shut off and reset power to the burners.
Although current personal emergency alert systems provide a degree of peace of mind, they are not fool proof, especially if the individual is not wearing the device at the time, or becomes incapacitated as a result of the emergency. As homes move from connected toward “smart,” the smart home’s alarm system could extend and even deliver greater service. Based on sensors and activity in the house, as well as trends tied to movement patterns, the security system could identify that a loved one had fallen. Smart security devices and sensors would also understood the difference between humans and pets to ensure the data is correctly interpreted. The smart home security system would not only alert emergency responders for a wellness check, but could also unlock the door for them remotely as they arrive, while alerting care givers of the emergency.
Peace of Mind for All
The value of the Smart Home is not the technology, but how it uses technology to address real human needs and enriches daily life, while providing the assurances to help deliver peace of mind. For many, that peace of mind includes the opportunity to maintain their independence while having allowing technology to provide a safety net, should it be required.
OCF’s standards allow devices to interconnect seamlessly so that they can become more perceptive, responsive and autonomous. This lets developers and manufactures create solutions where devices and sensors can connect and collaborate to address needs far beyond providing simple automation. For those looking to preserve their independence and age in place, the smart home built around OCF enabled devices, will ease the challenges of aging at home for them and their loved ones.