Between 2006 and 2030, the number of Americans aged 65 and older will double from 37 million to 71.5 million, according to AARP.
As these Americans age, they must make a choice of where to live: Do they continue to live in their homes, downsize into a smaller home, or give up independent living altogether?
The same study from AARP found that 87 percent of older Americans want to age in place, or stay in their current home and community as they age. For those younger Boomers (folks aged 50 to 64), 71 percent of them desire to age in place.
So, what are the smart home products that older Americans want and are willing to pay for to help them age in place? The Smart Home Technology & Home Automation Awareness & Interest Study by Builders Digital Experience (BDX, the parent company of NewHomeSource) surveyed homebuyers about their smart home preferences.
When asked how they would feel about paying for particular smart home options for their new home, 51 percent of Baby Boomer respondents said they would pay for fire detection monitoring. In at second and third were surveillance via cameras/video (47 percent) and entrance monitoring (45 percent).
It’s clear that Boomers are concerned with using technology to stay safe; when asked the benefits of incorporating smart home technology in the home, 65 percent of Boomer said that smart home tech enhances the safety and security of a home.
Michael Kelczewski, a Realtor with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International Realty who is licensed in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland, says that his Boomer clients are attracted to smart home products that have remote control features.
For younger Boomers, systems that integrate home theater systems and climate control and lights are popular, he says, because these buyers have the finances to purchase such items and are familiar with smartphone-controlled devices.
“The goal for elderly and disabled people is to live more independently,” says Joan Kagan, sales manager for Triplemint, a real estate brokerage in New York City. “Certain technologies can give them and their loved ones the security to do so.”
Kagan says the key for older adults to adopt such technology is that it is user friendly, adding that when her mother got a smartphone, she had to rely on Google voice because her hands shook too much to use it easily.
In addition to the typical smart-home devices, here are smart home devices that can help make it easier — and safer — for older adults to age in place or live independently longer:
Personal assistants such as Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are fun smart home products that can answer simple questions, play music, find recipes and more. But there are other rationale applications, particularly for adults who are 55+. Not only do these personal assistants come in a lite version (READ: cheaper), making them affordable for even folks on fixed incomes, these devices can respond to those who have dementia and need help remembering things.
Such devices can help those who may not have many visitors avoid loneliness. Then, there’s the need for reminders — something older adults can set up on these devices to help remember medications and more. There are also setups to call a dedicated contact in case of emergencies. For folks with limited mobility or have trouble getting around, these personal assistants can easily turn on a light or other things in the home when access is not easy. And, if one is losing their vision, these devices can read aloud to them.
Home Security and Safety
Home security systems have been around long before the Internet of Things. But, today’s security systems can be easily managed via smart device. “Other items people may use are security apps, such as Nest, that allows more control over the security of the home using a smart home and some ther technology that work in tandem,” says Triplemint agent Gina Ko. “This allows for family members who do not live nearby or are away for an extended period of time to have tools to ensure their loved ones are living safely without them.”
Home safety devices, such as Nest Protect, a smoke and carbon monoxide monitor, will alert homeowners of dangerous levels of each, even if nobody is home. Nest also has a line of security cameras that will alert homeowners of strange activity around the home, while a device like Ring allows homeowners to answer a knock or ring at the door via a smartphone. There’s no need to open the door to strangers, nor even to be home.
Alarm.com’s Wellness independent living solution will “alert you if there’s a dangerous situation like an open door late at night and provides the reassurance that a loved one is up and about during the daytime as expected.”
Such sensors can alert family members if weight is sensed, but movement is not (meaning the possibility of a fall). These sensors can help family members monitor older adults, without being unobtrusive and giving older adults a sense of independence.
By thinking outside of the technology box, older adults can continue to live in their family home, without sacrificing safety or independence.
Patricia L. Garcia is an award-winning freelance journalist who has written for NewHomeSource, the Associated Press, New Mexico magazine and the Texas Bar Journal. When not writing, she can be found in the garden, battling weeds and high-desert heat.