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Technology Making It Easier to Age In Place

Older adults often want to stay in their home, and new tech tools – smart beds, fall detectors, security cameras, etc. – make it easier to do that.

CHICAGO – Smart-home technologies may help a growing number of older adults age in place, enabling them to improve their quality of life and continue to live independently longer, research shows.

“Emerging technologies like smart beds and systems that detect falls can make aging in place a safer and more viable option,” says Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). “For instance, smart beds allow people with health issues to customize their beds in order to satisfy their needs.”

According to a study by insurance company The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, older Americans’ top concerns with their home are:

  • Home maintenance (40%)
  • Safety and security (18%)
  • Making day-to-day life easy and convenient (16%)
  • Saving money (8%)
  • Saving energy (8%)

Two out of three adults ages 55 and older (66%) plan to remain in their home over the long term, according to Freddie Mac data. But beyond the addition of common features like grab bars and no-step showers, older adults are warming up to smart-home tech too, with 48% saying they would need to equip their current home with devices like voice-activated home assistants or a doorbell camera, according to AARP’s Home and Community Preferences Survey.

Most helpful tech for aging in place

The number of households headed by people ages 65 and older jumped 38% to 34 million between 2010 and 2020, so their need for smart-home tech is growing, according to data from the Urban Institute. These households are expected to rise to 48 million over the next two decades.

The Hartford and MIT AgeLab study identified 10 smart technologies as potentially most valuable to older adults:

  • Smart smoke and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Wireless doorbell cameras
  • Keyless entry
  • Automated lighting
  • Smart water shutoff valves
  • Smart home security systems
  • Smart outlets and plugs
  • Smart thermostats
  • Water and mold monitoring sensors
  • Smart window blinds

The study also listed additional technologies that could benefit homeowners who have a health condition or are caring for a family member, including:

  • Telehealth systems: These can track, record and share vital signs with medical providers, enabling doctors to monitor a person at home. It also includes video chat features.
  • Medical management systems: An individual’s medical data recorded on their smartphone can be shared with medical professionals.
  • Medication management systems: These tools can remind users to take their meds, track whether they did and send alerts to caregivers’ smartphones if a problem has been noted.
  • Smart fall-detection systems: These monitor movements throughout the house and can notify a caregiver or emergency contact if they detect a fall.
  • Smart beds/sleep sensors: These track sleep cycles, breathing and heart rate patterns. They can wake the person if needed and also send relevant information to a caregiver’s smartphone.

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