Are Smart Homes A Smart Choice For Seniors?

Turn on the TV or surf the web and you’ll hear about some newfangled device that someone has labeled “smart.” 

There are smart refrigerators, smart thermostats, smart washing machines, and smart trash cans (yes, that’s a thing). But the holy grail of all smart devices is the smart home.

So what is a smart home, anyway?

The Internet of Things

Smart homes—and the devices and software that make them smart—are part of a trend in home automation. Think back 50 years; if you wanted to turn the TV off or turn the furnace on, you had to get up from where you were and physically interact with the TV or furnace. But over the years, that’s been changing.

For example, HVAC thermostats have grown progressively more customizable. First, we could set what we wanted the temperature to be. Then we could stand in the hallway and program what we wanted the temperature to be at which times and on what days. With the advent of smart technology, we no longer have to be in the hallway to turn the system on and off. In fact, we don’t even have to be in the house!

The same goes for our lights, our dishwasher, our irrigation system, our televisions, our alarm system and security cameras, and even the locks on our doors. If it can be powered by an electric current—either plugged in or hard-wired—it can be “smart.” 

All smart devices work on the same principle. They are electrically powered and contain built-in software for communicating with each other and/or an application that controls them. You, the homeowner, control the app. So whether you dim the lights and lock the doors using the app on your iPhone or you tell Alexa to turn on the sprinklers, your smart devices will respond. 

Smart devices can even be programmed to trigger specific responses. For instance, if your trash can monitors what you throw away, it can reorder items so you don’t run out. (See? I told you smart trash cans were a thing.)

Convenience and Control—The Promise of Smart Homes

If you’re wondering why someone would want smart devices, it all comes down to convenience and control. You can manage utility costs by turning the thermostat up and the lights out while you’re away. Or you can override your irrigation system if you know it’s going to rain tomorrow afternoon. 

Of course, nothing that’s digital is completely secure, so there’s always a risk of hacking or malfunction. And there are privacy concerns. Nest, the home automation company that makes video doorbells and thermostats, is owned by Google’s parent company. When we use these devices, the companies that provide the services are learning about us.

Seniors and Smart Homes

As you’ve been reading this, you may already see the potential benefits of smart homes (and smart devices in general) to aging seniors—especially for family caregivers who don’t live in the same home or even the same area as their loved one. I cannot possibly sum it up any better than this passage:

Smart home technology promises tremendous benefits for elderly people living alone. A smart home could notify the resident when it’s time to take medicine, alert the hospital if the resident falls and track how much the resident is eating. If an elderly person is a little forgetful, the smart home could perform tasks such as shutting off the water before a tub overflow or turning off the oven if the cook had wandered away…It also allows adult children who might live elsewhere to participate in the care of their aging parent.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

While privacy risks are a universal concern for those creating a smart home environment, there is another for seniors. 

The fact is, many seniors struggle to learn new technology. The idea of a refrigerator that talks to an app that orders groceries? That’s the stuff of a Jetson’s cartoon. So if you choose to make the investment to set up such devices, know that the main benefit will be your ability to stay monitor and manage your aging loved one’s environment and maintain their wellbeing. Which is something that Ovation Home Care can help with, as well.