This is Silicon Valley. We utilize technology for everything. As we all know, when it is working – it can make our lives SO much easier. But when things go awry and the ‘tech gremlins’ strike, it can also be a huge inconvenience. Perhaps nowhere is the recognition of this paradox more apparent than in using technology to age in place. Innovations have allowed increased monitoring, assessment and communication with our loved ones – often enabling them to stay at home independently longer than they could have 5 or 10 years ago. However, it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of relying on technology to support an aging loved one in any capacity – and that is the topic of today’s Senior Spotlight.
Do you know which newer technologies are commonly utilized to make home safer for everyone, including our aging loved ones? Here is a sample list:
- Video doorbells that can be viewed from multiple devices
- Remote door locking systems
- Smoke detectors that text alerts
- Voice instructions & reminders for medications, doctors appointments, etc.
- Smart watches w/fall detectors
- Temperature control
- Comprehensive home security
- Motion sensors that communicate with offsite family members
- Inactivity monitors
While at first glance this list of devices can feel ‘intrusive’, most family members are simply seeking a way to achieve peace of mind, and something to trigger if a phone call or immediate visit is warranted to assess a situation. By no means should any of these options interfere with privacy (even proponents of such systems DO NOT recommend 24-hour in-home video monitoring). These are simply adapted smart home systems, wearable devices and sensors that can alert a loved one of a change in behavior, home activity or environmental situation.
When utilized as part of an overall aging in place plan, technology can enhance home security, add endless conveniences, communicate needs to your support system and even call for help when you are unable.
- Loved ones can unlock doors if you lock yourself out and view security cameras remotely
- Alarm systems can be programmed to offer multiple cues – such as visual or auditory to meet the needs of those who are sight or hearing impaired
- Lights and temperature can be pre-programmed and voice activated
- Emergency response can be triggered in the event of a fall, seizure or other emergency event (depending on products utilized and process selected)
While there is no doubt that technology can increase home convenience and safety, it can also create a false sense of security. If the resident and family members assume that technology is handling everything – they are more likely to reduce oversight and overlook non-tech safety issues (such as non-skid rugs & under cabinet lighting). Other critical considerations include:
- Securing systems to reduce the ability of hackers to access private information through voice or app-controlled systems
- Staying on top of system updates and maintenance among smart home systems
- Updating and prioritizing contact information in related notification systems
- Assessing subscription fees and third-party monitoring needs
- Intercommunicability – few systems harmoniously communicate with each other and address all needs, which means families typically choose a la carte products and must maintain them all separately
Last but not least, The Boston Globe recommends a step-by-step process to determine if aging in place with such tools is a viable option. First, assess the home environment to make sure it is physically safe. Second, add technology that improves communication with loved ones. Anything you add on top of that might be fun and convenient – but should NOT be the deal breaker on whether or not one should be living and thriving alone.
Please always consult with a medical and geriatric professional team to address any concerns you have about aging in place. This is a highly complex personal, physical and emotional decision and we hope whatever you choose – it gives you the best quality of life and highest levels of comfort and support. You deserve nothing less.
All my best,
NAR Instructor….“Designations Create Distinctions”
CIPS, SRS, ABR, CRS, SRES, GRI, CLHMS,
REI, AHWD, RSPS, MSLG
Bobbi Decker & Associates fully supports the principles of the Fair Housing Act and the Equal Opportunity Act. For more information, please visit: http://portal.hud.gov/