Today, baby boomers in the United States are the number one consumer group. At 111 million, the 50+ demographic overshadows the 61 million Gen Xers and 75 million Millennials in the U.S., the Huffington Post reports. So, when it comes to technology like smart homes, it’s a safe bet that future advances will be geared to the needs of Americans who are over 50.
As design guru John Brownlee points out, “Technology is perhaps, ultimately, more life-improving to the old than to the young. What millennial, after all, needs a titanium hip, or a replacement heart?”
So, when we think of smart homes, although Millennials may first come to mind, the truth is that a lot of the technology that works seamlessly with today’s smart homes is actually geared to seniors. The smart home trend is expected to continue into the future because the technology will be most useful for seniors, Baby Boomers and Zoomers.
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In fact, many smart homes are allowing seniors to remain independently at home for longer than ever before possible. The sky’s the limit when it comes to smart home technology, which means that there’s lots of talk about what our homes will look like in the not-so-distant future.
That’s all good, but what smart home technology is available for your home today?
With endless possibilities, and some more serious than others, there’s no doubt that smart homes are being designed with comfort in mind. Motion sensors, energy monitoring units, smart thermostats and wireless light switches are designed to maximize personal comfort, increase energy efficiency and decrease electricity and heating expenses.
Entertainment is a fun aspect of today’s smart homes. Integrated technologies like apps and tablets can keep seniors easily connected to any social networking platforms they’re using throughout the day, no matter where in the house they are.
Music lovers will appreciate the multi-room music systems that can be run throughout a smart home. These are usually controlled by a mobile device like a smartphone or tablet. You can set your music to play in the morning or before bed, tune into a favorite Internet radio podcast or station while cooking dinner, or listen to music safely in the shower. For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, the potential to integrate music therapy with these smart home features is certainly exciting.
The first advances in today’s smart homes derived from safety and security concerns. From smart alarm systems (including smoke, carbon monoxide, flood, fire, theft and security) and door bells to video intercoms, today’s seniors have safety and security covered. There are even wearable devices (called Activity Daily Living or ADL systems) that monitor vital signs and send updates to family members or emergency personnel if something is wrong.
Some smart homes have integration with Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS). Others have IP cameras that allow family members to view live video images on their smartphone of the home and its occupants (great for anyone worried about an independent senior). These cameras can also record live video when an alarm is detected.
Smart lighting throughout the home helps seniors with vision or mobility issues, decreasing the risk of a fall by ensuring that lights are turned on when a room is entered.
There are even connected toothbrushes that check whether you’re spending enough time brushing and if your brushing technique is effective in maintaining good oral health. The smart toothbrush can send a detailed scoring report via Bluetooth to whomever may be interested.
When it comes to smart homes, technology is impressive, but it’s the future that’s got everyone dreaming.
“Bots, AIs, and conversational interfaces have become a huge trend in design recently,” software developer Kevin Gaunt told Brownlee. “As new technologies arrive, we tend to assume that — as in the past — younger generations will be the early adopters. But quite honestly? As chips and production costs become cheaper, and technology in our everyday objects become more ubiquitous, maybe this won’t actually be true,” Gaunt says.
Gaunt’s futuristic smart home is designed to combat boredom, depression, isolation and loneliness in seniors, and will manage household budgets and take on the role of a personal shopper. Though it’s just a theory now, he doesn’t think the possibility is that far off.
Brownlee agrees, predicting that “the smart home of the future will be smart enough to be designed with the elderly in mind. After all, we only spend a third of our lives as young people, at best. But for the rest? We’re old—and we need all the help we can get.”
What do you think? What features would you like to see in the smart homes for seniors of the future?