Senior Center

Ways Home Automation Can Keep You Independent

By Jan Bolder - May 14, 2014

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Aging in place is a concept many seniors strive for, as they want to keep independent in their own homes as long as possible. Not only are they used to their surroundings, but staying comfortable in their homes allows them to retain dignity and quality of life they may fear would be gone if they moved into an assisted living facility. Another reason for wanting to age in place may be because of costs, and home automation can solve many of these problems. We take a look at some of the simplest and most effective things seniors can do with home automation to continue aging in place.

First Things First, What Exactly is Home Automation?

To put it very loosely, home automation is a bit like having a futuristic home. You're able to control certain functions of the house, like locking and unlocking doors, through technology instead of manual means. It's a high-tech option that can easily be geared towards seniors, and goes a long way to helping them stay in their own homes.

How Home Automation is Different for Seniors versus the General Population

The average healthy middle-aged adult might use home automation to do things like use use wifi-enabled lighting or build a relatively hands-free entertainment system. However, these may not be the most practical uses of home automation for seniors, as their priorities are more need-based than enhancing luxury and entertainment in their homes.

Some of the most common needs of seniors that may necessitate home automation include:

 

  • Healthcare management, such as assistance with medications
  • Caregiving, whether it's close at hand or more long-distance
  • Keeping physically safe in the home
  • Being connected to the outside world via computers and the internet
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    What Can Seniors Do to Have Home Automation?

    The main goal of home automation is to keep seniors safe and independent in their own homes, and any implementations should reflect this. Here are some of the ways seniors can digitize their homes so aging in place becomes a lot easier.

     

  • Lighting: Bright lighting is key to being able to see upturned corners of rugs, walls and anything else that could lead to injury. However, bright lighting is also hard on the eyes and using a dimmer can alleviate some of this. Wifi-enabled lighting is one of the easiest ways of going about this and takes hardly any work. LIFX is just one of the many companies that sell wifi bulbs where all that's required is screwing one of them in and downloading the app. After those two simple steps are done, the lights can be controlled from a smartphone or tablet.
  • Communication: At the very least, home automation should involve wall buttons that, when pressed, dial 911 right away in case anything happens. But going beyond that, such as having an intercom security system, closed circuit television for monitoring the outside of the home, and wifi for devices around the house help keep seniors in touch with the outside world.
  • Leak Detector/Automatic Shut-Off: Unfortunately, one of the most common effects associated with aging is memory deterioration and this can be disastrous for things like cooking or baking. But installing leak detectors and automatic shut offs for the washer and dryer, oven/stove, microwave, bathtub/shower and other appliances can help keep this to a minimum.
  • Medication: Remembering when to take medications — and which ones — can be confusing at best, deadly at worst. But medication dispensers are an easy way to go about this, with devices reminding seniors when to take specific medications so they can keep on top of it.
  • Robots: This isn't necessarily anything like the home-assistance robot as in the Frank Langella movie Robot and Frank, but rather more simple devices around the home that make it physically easier for seniors to get by. Things like a Roomba instead of vacuum cleaner, automated lawn mower, and even robots for washing windows can make a senior's life tremendously easier.
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    Seniors may be hesitant to incorporate technology into their homes, as it involves learning about a new aspect of life. But the sooner it's done, the easier the learning curve, and the faster seniors can use home automation to age in place.