Smart Homes for Seniors: Latest Trends

April 4, 2018

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán / Pexels.com

 

We are on the verge of a senior-related tech revolution, as more and more innovations target the growing senior population. Senior home alert systems have long been around and have saved many lives. Recently, a different, far more comprehensive type of approach towards senior safety at home has taken root and is being rapidly developed.

Most senior citizens prefer to live independently in their own home for as long as it is feasible, avoiding institutional care. There are two primary reasons, the first is psychological, where the environment is better in the emotional sense, which, especially in seniors, is known to lead to a better physical state. The second reason is the financial burden of nursing home costs. This makes for a huge demand for systems that would provide the support for safe and comfortable aging in place.

The current options

A system provided by a company like the Nashville-based HoneyCo is customizable to the clients’ needs. The list of its features may include the traditional as well as the following innovative features:

  • Remote stove shutoff
  • Remote lock control
  • Remote thermostat control
  • Medication reminders that change the color of the light in a room, which returns to normal when the pill box registers being opened
  • Toilet flushing monitor (to monitor fluid intake)

Other companies are exploring different directions, i.e. Dutch GreenPeak Technologies uses an algorithm that studies and identifies patterns in a patient’s behavior, and can notify caregivers in case a pattern is broken.

Yet another manufacturer in the industry is Qorvo, which came out on the market with the Senior Lifestyle System. It is a virtually maintenance-free system based on various sensor nodes located throughout the house, a gateway and an internet connection. Installed easily and managed via a tablet or smartphone, it is also based on pattern recognition and alerts that are triggered when these patterns are broken, i.e. the person gets out of bed much later than usual or doesn’t open a fridge. Long-term patterns, such as walking speed, are also evaluated, and act as predictors of potential health issues. It utilizes exclusively motion and door opening sensors to extract data.

Advantages and costs

A combination of wearables, home sensors and a video intercom with other features, most of which had been around for years, but are now being assembled into integrated systems, are a growing trend. There is one issue that needs to be addressed very thoughtfully – the issue of privacy, and most of the systems of this type do not utilize cameras for monitoring, leaving no room for potentially malicious interference.

The cost of installing and maintaining a smart home monitoring system is not exceptionally high, with the system itself running approximately several hundred dollars, optional installation (which can, in most cases, be done by family members) – as low as $100, and monthly service fees in the vicinity of $30. Incomparable to nursing home costs, and an extremely low price to pay for the peace of mind that you get knowing how your loved ones are doing in your absence.

Considering the rapidly increasing senior population, another aspect that should be taken into account is the fact that the burden on the nursing home and the insurance system will grow as the population ages. However, the widespread availability of home monitoring systems will prove positive both for the people and the health care system, which is not a frequent occurrence and should be taken advantage of, and perhaps supported by federal programs for seniors.

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