How Smart Home Tech Helps the Older Generations

September 13, 2021

Smart home tech is all the rage these days. We’ve all heard how it works in kitchens and baths – and all over the home – but we wanted to take a closer look at how it also benefits those aging in place. We discussed this with Mitchell Klein, director of strategic partnerships of Silicon Labs and executive director of Z-Wave Alliance to learn more about how smart tech can help seniors in their homes and how you as designers can help them decide when and how to implement it.

KBB: How can smart home tech in general help seniors aging in place?

Klein: When it comes to smart home technology, seniors have different needs, preferences and comfort levels, yet one thing is certain: All can benefit from a well-deployed system of devices in the home. Smart home systems that can connect with each other along with with important features like ease of control, automation and notification deliver a sense of safety and security to all stakeholders, including the individual, the caregiver(s) and family members.

Smart home technology such as security systems, voice-controlled devices and sensors enable elderly homeowners to remain in their homes safely and securely. For those seniors who rely on caregivers to keep them safe and healthy, smart home technology can lead to more freedom as caregivers can monitor their loved ones from afar using cameras and sensors, while the aging population can use different devices to assist them with daily tasks like turning on the lights or locking the front door. Connected devices installed in the home give seniors the freedom and flexibility to age in place while giving caregivers the peace of mind knowing their loved ones are safe and comfortable.

KBB: What are some more specific examples of how this can work?

Klein: There are several smart home applications that support seniors, including voice control, AI and security. Smart home devices that can be controlled with voice commands are popular among those with physical limitations. Elderly homeowners using voice-controlled devices can easily turn on a pathway of light from the bedroom to the bathroom or lock up the house for the night with a simple voice command.

We’re also experienceing an uptick in the adoption of AI and context-aware technology for seniors aging in place. Contextually aware devices make for a personalized and seamless smart home experience. A simple sensor in each room of the house will provide data that allows the device to act based on the person who enters the room and their preferences. For example, the homeowner can enter the house, say “turn on the lights,” and the system will know which lights to turn on and to what intensity based on the time of day and time of the year. AI devices also rely on queues such as the time of day or the weather to adjust the temperature of the home and lighting in each room. Users can rely on these devices to act automatically for them without having to worry about device setup or fussing with a complicated app.

Another important smart home application for the aging population is the security category. By placing a smart camera inside or outside of the home, caregivers can keep an eye on their elderly loved ones without having to enter the home. Surveillance cameras also add an extra layer of security to the home, ensuring that aging loved ones are safe. When something is out of the ordinary, video surveillance devices will notify the homeowner or their caregiver, and both parties can simply view video footage on the app to make sure everything is okay.

KBB: Is smart tech something they are incorporating into their own homes, or are you seeing it in their adult children’s homes that they have moved into?

Klein: I find that aging-in-place seniors and their caregivers are increasingly adopting smart home technology in their own homes. As the adoption of smart home technology continues to become more mainstream, devices are designed with ease of use and installation in mind. Seniors who are looking for assistance and added security have started to rely on smart home devices within the home. Although they will likely rely on caregivers or professional integrators to install the system for them, the aging population continues to be a large customer segment for the smart home industry, as they continue to rely on common smart home devices to help them live comfortably at home.

KBB: When is it a good idea for those aging in place to add this kind of tech to their spaces?

Klein: As elderly homeowners start to consider staying in their homes, it’s generally a good idea to add smart home devices as soon as possible so they can become comfortable using and living with these systems. With more experience using smart home and IoT devices, the aging population can easily rely on these devices to provide security and assistance whenever they need it. For homeowners across the board, smart home devices make living at home easier and safe. It’s important, especially for the aging population, to begin adopting these devices as soon as they possibly can so they become familiar with the way the technology works when they need it most.

KBB: Are those aging in place more reluctant to incorporate smart tech into their homes because they don’t know how to use it?

Klein: I do think some elderly homeowners may be more reluctant to incorporate smart technology into their homes both because they fear they will not know how it use it and it may seem as an interruption of their lifestyle.  As the smart home continues to adapt to a mainstream market, device manufacturers have simplified the technology of these devices, making them easier to setup, use and understand. DIY devices can be easily installed by the homeowner or their caregiver and are often easy to use and navigate, making them a great choice for the aging population who would be otherwise hesitant to install technology within their home.

Integrators also add value here. For elderly homeowners who are nervous about installing and using smart home devices, hiring an integrator to install and set up the devices is the ideal way to go. When it comes time to add more devices to the network to assist with additional needs, having an integrator who is familiar with your home on speed dial can eliminate a complicated setup and installation process.

KBB: How can our industry make it easier for them to do so and debunk some of these trains of thought?

Klein: Z-Wave devices in particular are built with device security, ease of set up and compatibility and interoperability in mind. For elderly homeowners who are hesitant to incorporate smart technology in their home, Z-Wave devices can ease some of the common worries about personal information being hacked or the inability to set up multiple devices on a single network. The Z-Wave Security 2 (S2) framework mandates a high level of security on all Z-Wave-certified devices for the smart home, lessening the risk and worry of devices on the network being hacked.

The purpose of installing connected devices in the home of an elderly consumer is to make life easier and more comfortable. That is but one reason why the ability for multiple products to work together within the home and ease of set up make Z-Wave devices the right choice, especially for the elderly population. With Z-Wave’s SmartStart feature, setting up a new smart home device is as simple as the device being automatically recognized through the gateway or scanning a QR code. These features allow seniors and their caregivers to purchase a variety of devices for a single home and get them all set up and working together in no time.

Top photo by Mediteraneo/Adobe Stock

Middle photo by Kaspars Grinvalds/Adobe Stock