Smart home technology, or home automation, is increasingly becoming more mainstream. Almost every aspect of our home can be monitored and controlled by our smartphone or our voice. A refrigerator can help you remotely check food stock by sending you photos of the inside. Then you can send your shopping list automatically to the grocery store. There’s even a smart mattress that monitors heart rate, breathing, and movement. It then uses an app to provide suggestions about bed times and bed firmness.
While this exploding technology may seem overwhelming to the average consumer, it can create a home that is easier to manage, more enjoyable, energy efficient and safer to live in, especially for those over 50 years old.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. This technology can be implemented and designed for your specific needs in a user-friendly format. In my technology classes for seniors, I discuss the different options available and focus on some of the most practical applications.
Home Security systems have been around for years, but they have evolved significantly over the past few years. You can now have cameras in your house that you can view on your smartphone or tablet. There are wireless doorbell cameras that allow you to see and talk to people who are standing at your door, even when you are halfway across the country. Also, you can check the status of locks and garage doors — remotely. These are perfect for snowbirds who leave their homes for months at a time, or for someone who lives alone, or who might have mobility limitations.
There are also smart technologies that help detect possible health issues or property damage before they occur, such as monitors for smoke, carbon monoxide, and water leaks.
Smart homes provide a plethora of ways to help save energy around your house. Programmable thermostats have evolved into smart devices that are controlled by an app on your smartphone. Another smart home application are window blinds which automatically open and close based on the position of the sun shining through the window. This helps ensure proper lighting and comfort, saving consumers energy and money. There are also applications that monitor water heaters and control home irrigation systems to maximize energy savings.
Smart homes may also take advantage of remote controlled cleaning devices for those who are busy or have limited mobility. The Roomba is an automated vacuum cleaner you can schedule to clean any day and anytime during the week. An
Another device that is extremely popular are virtual home assistants, such as the Amazon Echo. These allow you to initiate actions using voice commands. You can do anything from checking on the weather to playing your favorite music. It can also provide useful services such as turning on and off lights, sprinklers, open gates and garages. You just have to connect to smart home hubs, such as Belkin, Philips, and Samsung. Specifically, you can turn on the lights or heater before getting out of bed, or activate the fan or space heater before arriving home or while reading on your couch.
For the Echo device, you would simply call out the assistant by name, “Alexa,” issue the command or tell “her” what you want her to do. The Alexa Voice Service responds to your request instantly.
Research by The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, identified the top 10 technologies that can make life easier, help with home maintenance, and enhance safety and security for homeowners over the age of 50
The best part of creating a smart home is that you can do it as much or as you want. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to create affordable options based on your needs. Or, you might want to choose a complete smart home system that automates almost every aspect of your home.
I suggest to most of my clients to dip their toe in the water first and try out a gadget or two—lights for easy entry and exit and a doorbell camera. Once you see how life-changing these tools are you can add other options for air-conditioning and heating, sprinklers, complete alarm systems or other cameras on the outside of your home, etc.