As a new 55+ home buyer, you've probably heard the term "aging in place." In fact, having a home that makes it easier to age in place may be one of the reasons you decided to buy new construction in the first place. Another term that you may have come across during your home-building experience is "smart home." Now, while some people of a certain age may want nothing to do with a home that knows you better than you know yourself, smart homes actually make a lot of sense for active adults who want to remain in their homes as long as possible.
What is a Smart Home?
The term “smart home” is used to describe a wide range of technology that is integrated into a home to make day-to-day tasks easier, more convenient, or safer. SmartHomeUSA defines it as:
"A residence that has appliances, lighting, heating, air conditioning, TVs, computers, entertainment audio & video systems, security, and camera systems that are capable of communicating with one another and can be controlled remotely by a time schedule, from any room in the home, as well as remotely from any location in the world by phone or Internet."
The smart home is actually a brilliant concept for seniors who need their homes to provide them with security, comfort, safety, accessibility, and convenience more so than other demographics.
Laurie Orlov, Tech Industry Veteran, Elder Care Advocate and Founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch explains:
"Electronically controllable thermostats, lighting, motion sensors, smart doorbells -- these are all technologies that have been bundled into the concept of smart homes. You can see how they would be useful in helping people remain in their homes even as they felt less safe in the neighborhood or weren't good at thermostat management or were at risk of falling in their own homes and being left alone."
Smart Home Tools that Make Aging in Place Easier
The cornerstone of the smart home is an Internet connection, preferably Wi-Fi. Through this home network a multitude of devices can be connected to one another, to the homeowner's smartphone, and to device-specific remote controls to help seniors better manage living on their own. Many smart home solutions are even voice-activated, making them even more useful and convenient.
Here's a look at some of the technology that is available and can help turn your home into a smart home where you can safely age in place.
- Video Doorbells. Safety is always a top concern for older adults who live alone – and if they're not worried about it themselves, their children are. Video doorbells integrate with your phone or even television to show you who is at your door. Some devices even allow you to hear and speak to the person at the door without going anywhere near it.
- Keyless Entries and Automatic Doors. Mobility can become a huge challenge as we age. Keyless entries and automated doors eliminate the need to struggle with keys and handles. Keyless entries are typically part of a home security system and apply to exterior doors, but automated doors can be used inside the home where they slide on a track to allow easy access to rooms for seniors who may struggle with walkers, wheelchairs, or canes.
- Voice Assistants. One of the most helpful smart home tools anyone can have is the voice assistant. Tools like Amazon's Alexa or Echo, Google Assistant, and Apple's Siri all work via voice commands. Once integrated with other devices or technology in the home, all a homeowner has to do is talk to their "assistant" to adjust the thermostat, make a phone call, turn lights on or off, or play music. The devices can even read books aloud to you.
- Motion Sensors And Smart Lights. Falling is the biggest risk to older adults and stumbling around in the dark is a major risk factor. Motion sensors and smart light switches turn on when movement is detected. Smart light switches can also be scheduled to turn on and off at certain times, controlled with a smartphone app, or integrated with a voice assistant for added safety and convenience.
- Smart Thermostats. Smart thermostats keep your home's temperature regulated so you are always comfortable and save money on energy costs. Turning the thermostat down at night can keep you more comfy and help you sleep better while also saving you money. Depending on the model, you can set regular schedules, raise or lower the temperature through voice controls, or control the thermostat through your phone or tablet.
- Motorized Blinds. Smart blinds and shades automate your daily routine of opening and closing the window treatments. Set schedules or open and close as needed with a remote, a smartphone app, or voice command depending on the product. These are great for difficult to reach windows or if you struggle to control cords.
Plan Now For Your Future Needs
There is truly no end in sight for smart home tech. More products hit the market every day. In addition to the list above you can find smart appliances like a refrigerator that orders groceries or reads recipes for you, automatic pill dispensers, robotic vacuums, smart faucets, stove controls, smart cabinets that raise and lower, and wearable devices that can alert a friend, family member, or caregiver that you need help.
Although you may think you don't need all these aids at this point in your life, now is the time to plan for the future so you can remain in your new home as long as possible. Talk to your builder about incorporating smart features into the home or start adding them now so you are prepared when you do need them and can enjoy your new home longer.