Aging in Place

Recently, I tuned in to an NPR program that was discussing the concept of 'aging in place,' inspired by an insightful article in the Sun Times. As the host engaged in a conversation with her two guests, I was intrigued as they explored various aspects of traditional aging in place concepts, from the installation of safety equipment like shower grab bars to employing plug-in LED lights in hallways and on stairways to prevent falls. They emphasized the importance of having a communication plan for emergencies, ensuring that those choosing to age in their homes have a way to reach out to loved ones or first responders if the need arises.

The discussion also touched on how to determine the correct timing for seeking additional assistance from in-home care companies, which offer services ranging from personal care and bathing to meal preparation, laundry, grocery shopping, and light housekeeping. My sister owns one of these types of companies, Wisdom Eldercare which serves clients throughout the greater Chicagoland area , so I have direct experience with the remarkable level of care and services she and her caregivers provide to their clients. Undoubtedly, these types of services play a crucial role in supporting individuals who wish to maintain their independence at home.

While the conversation covered these essential considerations, it surprised me that neither the host nor the guests mentioned the significance of embracing and understanding technology to assist in the aging-in-place journey even once. Although I attempted to bring this perspective into the conversation through a call-in, I unfortunately wasn't selected to participate in the conversation. Since I couldn’t bring the technology component of aging in place to that conversation, I'd like to share some of my thoughts and insights on leveraging technology for successful aging in place here.

In recent years, the term 'Smart device' has become increasingly prevalent, reflecting a lucrative market where companies aim to capitalize on producing 'smart' products. Everywhere you turn, be it on TV, radio, or the internet, you encounter references to Smart Speakers, Smart Assistants, Smart TVs, Smart Watches, Smart Lights, Smart Doorbells, Smartphones, and more. At its core, a 'Smart' device is simply one that can connect to the internet. The importance lies in their capacity to assist, and I want to highlight a few ways in which they can enhance the aging-in-place experience.

Smart Speakers are a category of smart devices that I find to be among the easiest to incorporate into your home, offering a wide range of features that prove immensely beneficial for aging in place. Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Google have introduced Smart Speakers such as Apple HomePod, Amazon Echo, and Google Nest devices, each equipped with their own Digital Assistants – Siri and Alexa for example. These devices can answer queries, from simple ones like checking the weather to assisting with more complex tasks like controlling lights, locking, or unlocking doors, accessing security cameras, and even instructing a robot vacuum to clean the kitchen.

For Smart Assistants, via Smart Speakers, to interact effectively, the other connected devices with which they are communicating and controlling must also be 'Smart.' Incorporating Smart LED lights, door locks, cameras, and even robot vacuums into your home offers a seamless integration of additional Smart Devices. Picture someone ringing your doorbell, and with a simple voice command through a Smart Speaker, you can engage in a conversation with them, see the visitor, and even unlock the door—all made possible through the wonders of Smart Devices. Or imagine a scenario where your dog has knocked over their bowl of kibble and hundreds of tiny pieces of dog food are scattered all over the kitchen floor. With one simple voice command to your Smart Speaker, you can instruct your robot vacuum to clean it up eliminating the need to get out the broom and dustpan.

As we consider the various elements contributing to successful aging in place, let's not overlook the tremendous potential of technology. Integrating Smart Devices into your home can empower you, providing a level of convenience, safety, and independence that complements the more traditional measures previously discussed. Embracing technology ensures that you not only adapt to the changing times but also thrive in them, creating a blend of modern innovation alongside the desire for a comfortable and secure home environment.

And, as we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology, let us not forget the profound impact it can have on our lives—ushering in a new era where the golden years are not just lived but lived exceptionally well, thanks to the synergy of thoughtful planning, caregiving, and cutting-edge innovation.