Smart homes for smart seniors

Smart homes are one way to "work smarter, not harder".

Smart homes make aging in place a reality for seniors. Many seniors don’t desire or can’t afford retirement community options or round the clock home aides.  As an aging life/geriatric care manager I am excited about many of the new passive monitoring systems that may allow my clients to stay in their homes for awhile longer and perhaps for a lifetime.

Once a sci-fi movie and a far reach into the future, now it’s likely that some of your neighbors are creating smart homes. Consumers of all ages are making regular requests of technologies offered by Amazon and Google. “Google, turn off the lights”; “Alexa, what day is it?”; “Google, let’s play a game!” are a few of the simple requests to make daily life a little easier and possibly more fun.

Is your aging family member still independent but lives alone? Is someone you love and care for in an early to mid stage of dementia? Companies like TruSense offer solutions summed up by taglines like this one “Worry Less. Live More.”

In-home sensors are an upgrade of the wearable personal emergency response system (PERS), meaning that your loved one isn’t tethered to a bulky necklace or bracelet like the old “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” life alert technology. Home sensors quietly and constantly monitor signs of wellness and offer insights into changes in routine behavior. Human beings are creatures of habit. It is those habits that, bundled together, create a “day in the life”, or predictive trends in geek speak.

What are areas of concern that, if captured early on, may be addressed with safety measures put into place before a crisis occurs?

  • room transitions: how often is your loved one leaving her bedroom, going into the bathroom, or exiting the front door and is there a decline in activity level?
  • toileting frequency: yes, an uptick in the timing and number of potty visits might indicate an infection or another health concern.
  • out of range home temperature extremes, exterior door left open or water leaks may help an aging family know about the need for a home repair before it becomes an emergency.

While home sensors and passive monitoring might not be the right solution for everyone, the choice to age in place is now more informed and feasible. Cost-wise, sophisticated monitoring systems may still be less expensive than a move to a retirement community. And a family caregiver might feel a new sense of security that when she is not present she has real-time access to data about Mom’s day or night.