The key to small home living for seniors is the new technology that provides home dwellers with the personal assistance they’ve never had before.
Spoken word voice-activated technology can provide medication information, access to shopping, direct contact with a physician’s office, the day’s news or the music of one’s choice. You may have heard of Amazon’s Alexa, the oddly tubular structure to which people speak and give commands from locations throughout the house. Amazon’s Echo Dot is a small disc and gives access to Alexa’s offerings even more conveniently and unobtrusively. Offering similar benefits are Google Assistant, Bixby by Samsung, Siri from Apple and Cortana from Microsoft.
Meanwhile strategically placed sensors can detect when someone has fallen or has stayed in bed too long, immediately conveying an alert to a loved one living in another location. Leading technology companies are developing these monitoring systems, which go by such names as Wellness from Alarm.com or MyNotifi. They are designed not as personal “spies,” watching everything you do, but as motion sensors programmed to give appropriate warnings, enhancing the safety of seniors living alone.
This new technology is crucial to supporting small home living which, otherwise, would amount to stashing older people out of sight and out of mind. That appalling idea is not what granny pods, in-law suites and microapartments are all about for this age group.
This cutting-edge technology is still in very early stages, with advances occurring almost daily and many questions remaining: Will seniors have access to the wi-fi or broadband that enable these technologies? Can sensor technology remain relatively secure and immune to hacking? Will seniors and their loved ones want to deal with these devices and pay their costs, which are relatively minor compared to assisted living and skilled nursing care but still there? Will manufacturers come up with compelling ways to market these devices to homeowners and apartment managers?
All this continues to be worked out, but a good way of keeping track of these developments can be found at the online newsletter Aging in Place Technology Watch, offered for the past decade by aging technology guru Laurie Orlov. Says Orlov, “Voice-activated is our third level of technological innovation, following introduction of the cell phone and the connected web. Useful voice activation has finally become feasible and therefore will become part of our lives.”
Her newsletter can be found at ageinplacetech.com.