How Smart-Home Technology Affects Caring for Aging Parents
Aging homeowners with special needs who may require sudden medical attention are a major driver of the use of medical alert systems in smart-home technology — and so are their children.
“At every smart-home conference that I attend, there’s at least one headliner from the health medical-alert industry,” says Dan DiClerico, a smart-home strategist with HomeAdvisor. “There’s an intersect, and it’s getting busier.”
Smart-Home Technology and Medical Alert Systems
When technology is installed in the home, more than half of homeowners request some form of home automation technology, such as security systems, lights, and thermostats. Meanwhile, just 14 percent of them purchase assistive technology, such as automatic countertops and shelves, and only 10 percent of them install in-home health monitoring, such as heart rate tracking and fall monitoring, according to a survey from the HomeAdvisor Insights Forum.
“The capabilities of a smart home can include having Wi-Fi-enabled door lock sensors that track a person’s movements, which may or may not be a medical alert,” DiClerico says. “They identify stumbles or long periods of stillness and have hands-free or voice-activated lighting and thermostat devices, as well as kitchen appliances that can be operated remotely with a smart phone.”
Known as sensors in the smart-home technology movement, medical alert systems are making it possible for senior citizens to age in place in their homes for longer periods of time before being institutionalized in an assisted living or memory care facility, according to experts.
“Sensors are a fantastic way for loved ones or caregivers to keep tabs on an older homeowner who perhaps suffers from dementia or some other kind of disability,” DiClerico says.
Improving the Ability to Age in Place
The term aging in place means “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Homeowners accomplish this, in part, by modifying their homes.
In another HomeAdvisor report, 41 percent of homeowners cited an injury from tripping or falling as an issue that they experienced in their houses as they age. Installing sensors to improve safety was among the 20 most popular projects for homeowners aged 55 and older. “This is a trend that is building, but it still has a long way to go,” DiClerico says.
By 2030, one in five people will be over 55 years old. Of these older Americans, 90 percent plan to stay in their homes as they age.
However, not everyone is aware of the technology or knows how to implement it in their homes.
Some 73 percent of homeowners contacted a home service professional to complete an aging-in-place project. When a homeowner did not personally reach out to a professional, the person’s daughter made the call 16 percent of the time.
The Use of Smart-Home Technology in Caring for Aging Parents
“More and more technology is starting to factor into conversations between millennials and their older parents,” DiClerico says. It’s called the millennial effect because millennials are early adopters of all technology, including smart-home devices.
“The smart-home movement evolved from earlier days when installing monitoring devices was about keeping an eye on children or pets,” DiClerico says. “But aging in place for seniors is the latest application that’s going to drive the technology.
In addition to installing medical alert systems, millennials can explore the use of connected cameras or smart speakers that also operate as intelligent personal assistants, similar to Siri, to provide a concerned adult child with the ability to intervene remotely.