Developing Better Living in Place Solutions
By now the news has been sounded. The Baby Boomer generation, the largest generation of people in the United States is either approaching or already in early retirement, and in many cases, the infrastructure to accommodate their ideas of independent living doesn’t exist. While an immediate issue for aging seniors, it still highlights an overall lack of focus for living in place measures in the country’s current housing stock.
Catering predominantly to younger, single families, the design and layout of most US homes bear few accommodations for those with limited mobility. But it’s not as though one needs to choose between catering to one client or the other. Universal design principles function under the idea that every part of the home is usable, no matter the capability of the individual.
It’s interesting, then, to see how smart home design has similarly progressed. I’m not saying give everyone a smart home, but for professionals looking to provide a living in place solution to clients, there is plenty of technology that, when approached from a holistic angle, can drastically improve the quality of life for the individual.
A Chore No More: Motorized Shading Lets the Light In
No matter what age or capability, people will often follow the path of least resistance. If a task becomes too cumbersome or challenging, one may simply opt out of it. For seniors, this pattern is seen constantly with the dilemma of the sink, where elderly residents in nursing homes may forgo hygiene and hydration if the task of reaching the sink is viewed as too difficult given their limited mobility.
Shading suffers a similar problem. The scene of an elderly individual sitting around in darkness has less to do with a light sensitivity and more to do with the tedium of raising and lowering all the shades throughout the house each day. It can get to the point where people with limited mobility simply opt to keep them closed, viewing the task as too much of a hassle for little perceived benefit.
The issue is that light is one of the most important elements when designing for one’s health and wellbeing. Motorized (or automated) shading solves this issue by diminishing the exertion on the part of the homeowner. When set to a schedule, shades can raise and lower themselves throughout the day without any input needed. Even if control of the shading is delivered via a remote, that still eliminates a potentially cumbersome process from a homeowner’s life.
Voice Control Opens a World of Simple, Personalized Automations
For those with limited mobility, voice instead can become a powerful tool for controlling home functions. Voice assistants like Alexa, Google Home or Josh.AI for more extensive set-ups can act as central hubs for home functions and even be used to program specific notifications. A reminder to drink water or take medication be set to issue at regular intervals through the integration of the hub.
Other custom integrations can also be added based on the lifestyle and home set-up of the individual. For instance, say a client frequently forgets to turn off the back porchlight before returning to their bed on the second floor of their home. Then, when they are in their bed, they notice the light out back flooding into their room, potentially impacting their sleep.
Connecting a smart light through a voice control hub, a simple command can be programed to shut off the light, rather than requiring the individual to walk back downstairs to turn it off. While simple, this level of customization allows the professional to identify specific pain points in a client’s daily routine and develop specific, targeted automations surrounding that.
Sensors and Relays Take the Effort Out of Healthier Home Functions
The growth of the sensor market has come with the rise in intelligence across nearly all technology that could ever be present in the home. Using air quality as an example, a simple monitoring sensor can be combined with either a whole home or in-unit air purifier to help keep the indoor air quality at healthy levels based on parameters set by the professional.
Lighting can be made to act based on motion through simple solutions that only require the replacement of a light switch in many cases. Combined with circadian lighting, this can also facilitate better sleep schedules which can improve occupant wellbeing as well as alertness, potentially reducing chances of accidents, especially among elderly homeowners.
Newer retrofit technologies have even made it so that the average swing door of a home can be set to respond through specific sensors in the case of those with greatly limited mobility. With Z-Wave compatibility, devices like AutoSwing open access to a robust network of controls, relays and sensors that can create specific living-in-place solutions that maintain the home-like aesthetic for residents.