Technology is making great strides for your parents’ ability to remain in their own homes. We want to introduce you to devices that are both under development and recently available, to help your parents say, “No, thanks,” to moving in with you or assisted living.
If Mom doesn’t want to hear about the “convenience” of living in a senior community, she isn’t alone. 90% of seniors want to stay in their own home. Which is why researchers at Washington State University are working on Smart Home in a Box, a series of electronic sensors that will automatically alert a nurse or family member of any significant changes in mental or physical health. (Just like Santa, it knows when you are sleeping. It knows when you are awake.) Think of Smart Home in a Box as an invisible Roomba that constantly monitors your loved one’s well-being without any effort from you. No emergency alarm to press, no numbers to dial.
Nest, a division of Google that markets home automation products, is also exploring new products to keep seniors safe in their home as long as possible. It’s not just about installing shower bars. One device would automatically turn on the lights when Mom or Dad gets out of bed at 3 a.m. and will also let them know when they are dehydrated. Another Nest device in development will help prevent falls.
Nest has many available technologies, today, that provide virtual “eyes” and “ears,” such as its home security system, camera products that let family members check in on loved ones and only let specific people into the home through smart locks.
Lighthouse AI makes a camera with 3-dimensional sensors and a two-way speaker that allows you to check up on family members 24/7. Another company Cherry, whose slogan is “The AI that cares for your loved ones,” is in the process of launching a system of wireless sensors with the same goals. These systems replace those wearable pendant alarms you see in “Help. I can’t get up” TV commercials.
How many times has your aging mother (or you) left home, and then wondered if the stove was still on? CookStop, an automatic, motion sensitive stove turn-off device, will power down the kitchen when no one is in the room for a period time you set.There’s nothing “geriatric” about the cool devices that can turn a not-so-smart home into a techno wonderland. How about thermostats and light switches that respond to the sound of your voice? Or our favorite – the Samsung refrigerator that restocks itself via Fresh Direct.
Who doesn’t need a remote control key or cellphone finder? Cube makes one that is waterproof and does both. It’s a two-piece system. Attach the device to your keychain or phone and keep the remote in your wallet or purse. Lost your purse? The Cube can find it. TileMate offers the same tracking of keys, cellphones, whatever – without batteries to replace.
If Mom is snug in bed binge watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and the doorbell rings, she can reach for her cell phone and see who’s there. The Ring is the video doorbell with two-way audio, night vision and movement sensors that allows one to see and speak directly to petitioners, deliverymen and your local home invaders.
Ikea gets smart
“The smart home has been possible for some time, but with two major dilemmas,” says Björn Block, who heads up Ikea’s Home Smart division. “It’s too complicated, and too expensive. Soon it will be super easy to install and super easy to understand, at a price tag you haven’t seen before.” Ikea’s “Home Smart” products are limited to lighting for now, but they are cheap, easy and will speak to Alexa, and Google Assistant.
Doc in a Box
If you or your parents have heart issues, no need to make an appointment for an EKG. KardiaMobile captures a medical-grade EKG plus your weight and blood pressure in just 30 seconds. Anytime. Anywhere. No wires, gel or sticky stuff. Just two fingers placed on its sensors that read the electrical signals of the heart. It works with most smartphones and Androids and sends monthly reports to the patient’s phone to share with the doctor. A comforting device for anyone with an irregular heartbeat or A-Fib. (Doesn’t work with pacemakers.)
Not to be outdone, the Apple Watch 4has an ECG feature that not only tracks your heart rate but tells you if you are at risk for atrial fibrillation, giving you time to seek medical help before you are in danger. It also offers fall detection and an emergency alert.
Freedom Guardian Medical Alert WWatch doesn’t just track heart rate and activity level; it tracks and connects the user to a family member with a GPS system, SMS messaging, calendar alerts, medication reminders, and a three-day weather forecast.
Forgetting to take meds can be life-threatening. On average, someone age 65+ takes five medicines a day. CareZone is a free app that buzzes the phone when it’s time to take pills. The coolest feature: Take a photo of a pill bottle, upload it, and it gets transcribed and added to the medication list.
One or a combo of these devices could really tip the balance between staying home or moving to an assisted living facility for your aging parents, and many of them useful for anyone who needs to be reminded occasionally (i.e. Where did I put my damn car keys?)