Smart home

New Trend of smart home: Aging in Place

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Posted on January 26, 2017

Most of us want to live in our own home, and in our own community, as long as we can, regardless of our age and our level of ability. That is what smart home and Aging in Place are all about: the will to live at home safely, independently and comfortably, as long as possible. In 2015, according to Statistics Canada, 16% of the Canadian population was aged 65 years and older (5.8 million Canadian), and 92% of them are still living at home. Estimates indicate that by 2036, close to 25% of Canadians will be 65 or older.

Our needs and abilities change over time. In that context, home automation technologies can go a long way in helping us age in place, and preserve our family’s peace of mind.

What is the concept of aging in place?

People want to live in the home of their choice, for as long as they are able, without sacrificing their quality of life. However, aging will present all sorts of challenges: reduced vision and hearing, less balance and mobility, decreased strength and endurance, memory loss, and other health issues. As life goes on, getting around their home, taking their medicine, keeping in touch with their loved ones, accessing services, or doing a number of other activities, will not get easier.

Some low-tech solutions can surely assist, like grabs bars in the bathroom and very visible light switch covers. However, home automation technologies can transform a house into a smart home, in which it’s easier, more enjoyable and safe to live in.

How to Adapt a Home into a smart home

For people decided on aging in place, home automation technologies can help maintain their safety, independence, health and social life. By linking devices through a network using wireless technology, and centralizing control of these devices on to a phone or TV screen, home automation can make life easier for the homeowner, with minimal intervention.

The devices vary with the needs. If hearing or eyesight are an issue, audible and visual alarms on doors, doorbells and smoke detectors will be useful. If there are security concerns, sensors on windows and doors can be installed, or a front door camera can show on a TV screen who is at the door.

Memory can also sometimes be tricky. Did my elderly mother remember to turn off the stove? Take her medicine? Lock the doors? Is she eating? Here sensors strategically located will reassure the family: one on the stove, above the medicine cabinet, on door locks, or on the refrigerator door. They can be controlled remotely or automatically, and can send a notification to your phone, if something seems not quite right. Smart home sensors can definitely improve the quality of life, reduce the risk of hospitalization and calm the anxiety of loved ones.

Aging in Place Within an Integrated Community

Aging in place is a legitimate concern, and so is the will to stay in one’s own communities. Not all governments are aware of the needs of people who decided to age in place. But there are a growing number of smart communities that connect people with the information and resources to improve their well-being.

By connecting separate systems and sharing data, city planners can empower their residents and deliver better services: adapted transportation programs, adequate lighting to walk around the neighbourhood, and appropriate emergency services, to name a few. It’s also possible to have healthy restaurants, retail outlets and grocery stores within walking distance.

Once the needs are known through data sharing, various incentives or services can be organized: senior centres, places of worship, meals on wheels, opportunities to volunteer, and the list goes on. Staying social is a big part of mental health. A smart community can make that happen.