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Home Technology to Help the Elderly
In this article we are going to investigate what technology is currently available and the benefits it can offer.
Top Home Automation Services for the Elderly.
- Personal Assistant / Information / Entertainment
- Household Chores
"Get answers, play songs, tackle your day, enjoy your entertainment and control your smart home with just your voice."
It's not essential to have an assistant to introduce home automation but having an interface that people can talk to is much better than having to learn a new device.
The big players in personal assistants include Google (Google Home), Amazon (Alexa), Apple (Siri) and Microsoft (Cortana). Although many people use iPhones, Google Home mini (at about £40) and Amazon Echo dot offer the best value speakers with a home assistant built-in.Researchers are also investigating whether assistants could help alleviate loneliness and provide low-level companionship to the elderly and house-bound.
Useful services include: telling the news or weather, adding thing to shopping lists and even getting the shopping delivered. Also setting alarms and timers could be useful for medication prompts or diary appointments.
Talking to an electronic device does take some getting used to. For Alzheimer suffers it probably isn't worth trying. However the benefits of some of the home automation services now offer merit investigation - especially security for dementia suffers.
Google Assistant is able to make phone calls to any UK phone for free. The calling feature allows outgoing calls to most phone numbers in the United Kingdom, but does not support calls to emergency numbers or premium rate numbers. As well as making it very easy to call relatives, this could also be very useful in the even of a fall.
The Amazon Alexa service (pictured above) can only call others alexa enabled devices - but can include video calling.
Many elderly people spend a lot of time in their homes. TV and radio are essential. Smart TVs and home assistants allow people to say what they want to watch rather than fumble around with remote controls.
Radio stations can be streamed on demand, and there are many subscription - and free - services available. Including the BBC iPlayer, Netflicks and Sports.
The main advantage of having smart lights - together with a home assistant - is that the elderly would be able to easily turn the lights on before they get out of bed, or after they have got in. At best this reduces the chances of tripping and falls, at worse it is very convenient! "Turn on the bathroom light", "Turn off the light in the lounge" etc.
There is also a security benefit. Lights could be turned off and on at certain times when away from the home - or even in the home at night. It is also possible - using the 'if this then that' (IFTTT) protocol - to link the lights to other smart devices - so when the security light goes on, other lights in the house switch on for a random duration.
Being able to control the heating automatically helps reduce cost and provide greater convenience. From an elderly care point of view, it should be possible for relatives to check on the temperature of the house and check it isn't too cold (or hot)!
Heating is very configurable, so only the rooms that are used most are kept at the right temperature - heating in the bedroom could be turned on 30 minutes before bed time. Likewise the heating in the lounge can be turned on when the lights are in the morning.
We have already touched on security that can be added using lighting. But there are many additional options. The most interesting is replacing the door lock with a smart lock. Instead of using a physical key, fobs or applications on smart phones can be issued.
This helps when you are using a care company by replacing a keysafe with 'virtual keys' that can be easily revoked. Also alerts can be set if the doors are unlocked or accessed.
Yale are a trusted company in the smart lock sector. Their service offers the below benefits
- Control your door lock and other connected devices with an app
- Automate your door lock and set it to open when you arrive home or lock when you leave the house.
- Automate other connected devices and set them to turn on or off when you lock or unlock your Yale door lock.
There are also a well-established range of cameras for use in the home or on door bells - so relatives can keep an eye on things, or the elderly can check who is at the door before answering.
Unfortunately. solutions in this sector are, as yet, limited. The best service on offer is the vacuum. However, having a little robot vacuum cleaner moving round the place is likely to be a trip hazard, so possibly not great for the elderly.
Turning on previously 'dumb' devices still means that they have to be physically filled and emptied. But being able to turn the kettle on in the morning might be a small convenience?
Setting up Home Automation for the Elderly
Unfortunately, setting up home automation is not straight forward for many people. Controlling devices at home requires a 'hub', the actual smart device, broadband, a Wi-fi network and a tablet or smart phone to set everything up.
Companies offering 'hubs' and home automation services include Nest, Phillips Hue and Hive.
Basic Smart Home Setup Stages
- Purchase a broadband connection (from BT/Virgin/TalkTalk etc).
- Once activated, install the broadband router - creating the network.
- Install your home assistant (Google/Alexa etc) and add it to the network.
- Connect the home hub (for example Nest) to the router.
- Install the application software to your smartphone or tablet
- Install the smart device - for example the light or thermostat (each device ranges from very easy, e.g. light-bulb - to rather complicated e.g. Radiator theromostat)
- Check that the home assistant can 'see' the new smart device and give everything a check
If you would like some help installing, setting up or managing a smart device or home network. Please feel free to get in touch - initially by email - at firstname.lastname@example.org