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,” Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of REALTORS®, writes on the Economists’ Outlook blog. “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%)
Sixty-six percent of adults ages 55 and older say they 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 that may be able to assist them in their daily routine. Forty-eight percent of older adults say they would need to equip their current home with devices like voice-activated home assistants or a doorbell camera in order to age in place, 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 the need among this age group 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 these 10 smart technologies as potentially most valuable to older adults because they help with home maintenance, enhance safety and security, and make life easier for homeowners over the age of 50.
- 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: track, record and share vital signs with medical providers and enable doctors to monitor a person at home; includes video chat features.
Medical management systems: record a person’s medical data on their smartphone to share with medical professionals.
Medication management systems: provide medication reminders, track whether a person used a certain medication and send alerts to caregivers’ smartphones about whether medication has been taken.
Smart fall-detection systems: monitor movements throughout the house and can notify a caregiver or emergency contact if a fall is detected.
Smart beds/sleep sensors: track sleep cycles, breathing and heart rate patterns and can wake the person at an identified ideal time in their sleep cycle. They can also send relevant information to a caregiver’s smartphone.
By Melissa Dittmann Tracey