Smart Home Technology for Independent Living

smart home

According to a recent survey by aginginplace.org, almost 90 percent of older adults stated they intend to live in their current homes for the next five to ten years. Eighty-five percent of those respondents believed they could continue living in their homes without significant home modifications.

Smart home technology can help older adults who wish to age in place in their own homes. Implementing smart technology in the home can:

  • Help older adults retain their independence and maintain daily routines
  • Make common tasks easier
  • Promote health, safety, and security
  • Keep family and caregivers informed of their elders’ well-being
  • Help older adults stay engaged and connected with others
  • Maintain security and privacy

What is smart home tech?

Smart home technology consists of networked and internet-connected devices using wifi in the home. Smart devices are part of what is known as the Internet of Things (IoT). You can control smart devices with a mobile app on your smartphone or tablet or using voice commands and digital assistants on mobile devices, smart speakers, and displays. 

Smart home devices automate routine tasks. They are also remote-control capable. For example, you could adjust the thermostat in your home, receive a notification of a package delivery from a smart doorbell, or lock your front door – all while you’re out of the house.

Some smart devices currently available include:

  • Speakers and displays
  • Electric wall plugs
  • Light bulbs
  • Security cameras and home security systems
  • Doorbells
  • Door locks
  • Smoke detectors
  • Thermostats
smart speaker

Utilizing app notifications and alerts, smart devices report when specific events occur. For example, you could receive a notification on your smartphone when someone rings a smart doorbell or enters the field of view on a smart security camera.

There are also smart sensors that help older adults age in place.

  • Door and window sensors
  • Motion sensors
  • Hot water usage
  • Leak detectors
  • Security cameras
  • Sleep sensors
  • Fall detection sensors

Using smart motion, door, or hot water usage sensors, a caregiver or family member could receive an alert on their smartphone when an elderly client or parent begins their morning routine by walking down the hallway, opening a kitchen cabinet, or turning on the hot water faucet in the bathroom. Family and caregivers can know that their loved one or client is up and about without being intrusive.

Smart Home Tech Solutions

We’ve examined a few ways that smart devices can automate routine tasks, enhance personal security, and keep family and care providers informed of an older adult’s well-being. Smart devices report reminders and communications using mobile apps, smart speakers and displays, smartwatches, and digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Potential smart home tech solutions include:

  • Reminders for appointments, medications, meals, hydration, or activities
  • Turning lights on and off
  • Climate control
  • Accessing news, information, and entertainment
  • Calling friends, family, caregivers, or emergency contacts
  • Preventing kitchen fires
  • Detecting falls
  • Monitoring health and well-being
  • Home security
  • Avoiding home lock-outs

Security and Privacy

As with all network-connected devices, security and privacy are essential when implementing smart devices in the home. Smart device users should note the following security and privacy considerations.

  • Use a secure wifi network at home (one that requires a password)
  • Use a strong password for accessing your home network
  • Consider setting up a separate wireless network for smart devices
  • Keep network and device firmware up to date
  • Keep smart home apps up to date
  • Only share login credentials or data with trusted persons
  • Opt-out of data sharing with smart home devices manufacturers

This article appeared in the June, 2021 edition of Prime Time News for Seniors.