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For the elderly, smart homes mean the promise of more freedom

By May 31, 2016 No Comments

While not a panacea, new technologies promise to enable the elderly to stay in their homes longer and more safely

By Bryn Huntpalmer, editor, Modernize
Network World | May 20, 2016 11:02 AM PT

It’s easy to forget that home automation is about more than just gadgets. After all, almost every product you can think of is getting the smart home treatment—from the highly useful, such as automated locks, to the slightly less necessary: smart fridges that solve the formidable problem of telling you when you’re out of milk. But for the elderly, smart tech means more than just a few new toys. It holds the promise of autonomy—being able to stay in homes longer and more safely, which can be completely game-changing.

Institutional elderly care, as it currently stands, is imperfect at best. Most pressingly, it’s not affordable. HUD reports that costs for elderly care can range anywhere from $900 to over $5,000per month. But for all that money, it’s not really all that effective, either. Initial studies indicate that staying in the home—or aging in place, as it’s called—results in remarkably better health outcomes than moving to a care facility, especially when it comes to cognitive ability and depression rates.

However, the elderly obviously face challenges that inhibit independent living. Access to emergency care is a priority, of course, but even rote tasks like washing and bathing pose difficulties for elderly facing mobility issues. Meanwhile, the aging may be dealing with cognitive challenges that make day to day activities difficult, if not unsafe. Smart technology promises assistance in the form of data mining and monitoring—”learning” objects that are able to distinguish between usual behavioral patterns and an accident, and can alert healthcare providers in the event of the latter.

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