It is no secret that as people grow old, they typically lose the ability to do certain tasks as efficiently. Bones tend to shrink in size and density, and muscles lose strength, endurance, and flexibility. Thus, the elderly often require assistance from others.
But now that technology has become so advanced, they no longer need as much help. Smart homes, for example, can make their lives after retirement as comfortable as possible.
Terese Kitenic and JT and Emily Galea’s stories confirm this.
Who are these people?
Terese Kitenic is a 65-year-old woman. She moved to a townhouse in Waverly Woods, a 55-plus community in Marriottsville, Maryland, a few years ago.
Kinetic had two goals when she moved to that place. One – she wants to enjoy all the active-adult community offers. Two – she wants to prepare for a life of safety and comfort as the years go by.
Healthy octogenarians JT and Emily Galea have the same goal. They wanted to prepare their one-story house for the best life in their retirement.
Both homes incorporate essentials for safe senior living. That includes a primary bedroom, bath,
and living spaces on one level. The homes also feature smooth floors that would accommodate wheelchairs and rollators. On top of that, they have good lighting, which is good for seniors whose eyesight is getting poorer. And kitchens, baths, laundry, and storage areas are designed for safe, convenient use.
The two homeowners differ in how they approached incorporating technology for aging in place. Kitenic chose to start small, with only a few smart devices. On the other hand, the Galea home is jam-packed with high-tech enhancements.
Aging In Place
The president of Golden Age Living, Wanda Gozdz, is a residential interior designer and certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS). She describes it as “the ability to remain in your home as your lifestyle changes over time.”
Successful aging in place means supporting health, safety, and security. Home management systems that maintain a comfortable environment are important too. And so are communication and recreation systems that enable social engagement, stimulation, and entertainment.
Richard Caro is the CEO and co-founder of Tech-Enhanced Life, which has a website and programmers to evaluate the value of tech products for seniors. He said he sees aging-in-place technology as a means to help people maintain the daily life they have long enjoyed.
Caro notes that you don’t need tech systems to fix some issues. They only need simple solutions, like how jar-openers can help seniors enjoy their favorite jarred food. But smart home devices and other tech systems will definitely help with other issues.
Kitenic’s Smart Home
Terese Kitenic said she wanted tech tools that would enable her to live alone safely. Furthermore, she wants tech tools that will let her enjoy movies, music, and life in general.
Zachary Klaiman of DC-based Ztech, a company that provides technology and support for seniors, assisted Kitenic. She chose only three techs to put in her house. Therese bought a Ring smart doorbell, an apple watch, and some Roku devices.
Kitenic says that the smart doorbell in her home makes her feel secure. Its camera focuses on whoever is near the front door and even chimes when people walk by. Thus, she is constantly aware.
She already had a smart TV, so she augmented two other sets with Roku devices to stream programs and movies.
Terese Kitenic says she is open to adding more tech products to her smart home. But she is not in a rush; Kitenic says she will consider them when she sees a need.
The Galea’s Smart Home
The galea bought a 1,700-square-foot, two-bedroom house in a 55-plus community near where two of their children live. They raised the floor of the sunken living room to the same level as the rest of the space to make the structure accessible. Furthermore, they installed a curbless shower, replaced the kitchen cabinet shelves with pull-out units, and added handrails to the bathrooms. They also strategically located lighting to make the place easy to navigate.
Jeff, their son, who is the CEO and founder of Boca Tech and Automation, designed the tech side of the house. He developed a comprehensive system that reflects how the seniors use the space to maximize safety and convenience.
According to JT, the tech is tied to a central Control4 system. That allows them to control the whole smart home from anywhere using their smartphones and touch panels.
What smart home tech do they have? The Galeas has automated and scheduled lighting, motorized window shades, and motion sensor lights. Also, they have security cameras at the front door and around the house, sensors that detect open windows and doors. They also have a motion-activated driveway and garage lighting and automatic operation of the front door. Last, they have automated music, a smart thermostat, and Wi-Fi.
The system even offers healthcare. It is integrated with third-party devices that JT can use to read his blood pressure and heart rate. He can use the same devices to transmit results to his doctor.
The security system is also very effective. There are many small screens in JT’s home office, Emily’s quilting studio, and Jeff’s business office. They show live camera shots from security cameras around the property.
Smart home devices indeed made the lives of those seniors more comfortable. However, there is a glaring challenge we need to address. The Galeas are comfortable bringing tech to their home because JT has experience working in the tech arena. Also, Jeff is their project coordinator.
Not many seniors can relate to this. Older adults who did not grow up using computers, smartphones, and other devices are less inclined to buy smart home devices.
So, they need help through the whole process. Seniors need someone to choose the tech systems and set them up. That is the case now. But Madj Alwan, Executive Director of the LeadingAge Centre for Aging Services Technologies, says change is coming. He says that “In five years, retirees will be much more familiar with tech.”