In-home devices that utilize “smart” technology can help enable aging adults to stay in their homes longer and make life more convenient and safer. For family members who can’t be in the home as much as they would like, the devices allow the family to monitor, be aware, and somewhat control what is happening in their loved one’s home.

Choosing the Technology

The field of smart home technology is rapidly growing, which can make it challenge to find the ones that are appropriate for your loved one.

Some seniors are quite knowledgeable on the subject of smart technology and smart devices. For those who are, they should be consulted on which devices to place in their home and their purpose. No technology, however smart, is worth anything if it is unnecessary, unused, and unappreciated by the senior.

Tips on Setup

Most smart devices have a companion app that allows setup and the ability to manage the device remotely. These require a Wi-Fi connection, and the senior’s home should have sufficient bandwidth if multiple devices or devices that stream video are being used.

If you do plan on several devices working together, be sure they support the same smart-home software platforms. Most smart devices are simple to set up (using a smartphone), able to send notifications and, in many cases, provide remote access control.

Security Systems. There are do-it-yourself home security systems with several capabilities and options:

  • Sensors that detect when a door or window has been left open
  • Cameras
  • Smoke detectors
  • Motion sensors
  • Water sensors
  • Glass break sensors

One example of a do-it-yourself system is the Ring Alarm 5-Piece Kit. The Ring Protect Plus is an example of a professional monitoring plan, which offers access to a live person at a call center, 24/7, who will react to needs and emergencies. (The best option unless family members plan to cover every hour of the day and night.)

If a complete security system is not needed, you can pick and choose from several options:

Lights and thermostat controls. Thermostats can be run on personalized, automated systems. They can also be voice or remotely controlled, and monitored from a distance.

Smart smoke detectors. When smoke or carbon dioxide is detected, these devices sound a loud voice alert that lets occupants know what room the threat is in. The detectors also send smartphone alerts to family, friends, or neighbors. An example would be the Google Nest.

Emergency contact systems. These systems have become more sophisticated. Some can detect falls and certain types of cardiac arrest, and can send help automatically.

Communication devices. The Amazon Echo Dot allows anyone to control it by making verbal commands. Though it does not connect to 911, it can connect to family, friends, and caregivers. The Echo Show is a smart speaker with a built-in screen and camera. Alexa on the Echo Show can be used to schedule reminders about appointments and medication doses.

Medication managers. Other devices can be programmed to let seniors know when it is time to take medications, and provide notifications about physician checkups and appointments.

Digital pill dispensers such as MedMinder dispense medications to seniors. A caregiver fills the medicine tray and can remotely schedule when medications are to be taken. The device unlocks according to the schedule to make the medications available, and beeps if they have not been taken. The family caregiver is notified as well.

Reminder Rosie is a talking clock that can be programmed to remind seniors to take their medication via a prerecorded voice message from a caregiver. Personal messages can also be recorded with other reminders such as “it’s time to exercise.”

Telemedicine enables health care providers to remotely deliver clinical health services and information to patients via interactive and video telecommunications through devices like smartphones, tablets, home computers, or laptops. The connection between patients and care providers is through a program, app, or web site with video and audio capabilities.

Leak detection sensors. Smart sensors that detect water leaks can be placed in areas where they are likely: hot water heater, tub, sinks, etc. When water is detected, a loud alarm sounds and smartphone alerts are sent.

Video doorbells. These devices allow video screening of anyone who comes to your loved one’s door. The notification will be delivered to the senior and to a family member via smartphone.

Smart plugs. A smart plug is controlled by an app and lets a person turn on and off any appliance that plugs into a standard wall socket. This can help if you wonder whether or not your loved one has turned off an appliance, or has forgotten to leave a lamp on to guide them during the night. They can also be activated by voice command so that seniors can control them without leaving a chair or bed. Smart plugs can be put on a schedule to come on at certain times, or be paired with a motion sensor to light up a dark hallway.

Smart refrigerators. Depending upon the features of a particular model, these appliances can analyze the refrigerator contents (such as if you are running out of milk), and make shopping recommendations. Some models provide alerts if the refrigerator door has been left open. Along with this alert, family member’s smartphones receive information on what is inside the fridge. The family member can send and receive notes, and make calendar entries that appear on the fridge’s screen. Here is a review of some models.

Smart stoves. With the iGuardStove, a monitor detects motion (or the lack thereof) in the kitchen and can identify if the stove is on or not. If no movement is detected in the kitchen for a set period of time, the stove is shut off.

For more tips to make aging in place easy and safe, visit our Senior Home Safety articles.