Aging in place: Smart Care makes it possible for seniors25. October 2022 Published by Jana Greyling
Many seniors, not only in Germany but worldwide, want to keep living at home for as long as possible. Researchers all over the world have found that the overwhelming majority of elderly people prefer to remain in their current home rather than move into a senior residence, as a recent study by the BCG shows. The Americans call that “aging in place” and it stands for “staying and leading a self-determined life in your own four walls in old age.” This trend is gaining in popularity and credibility worldwide, especially as an alternative to living in retirement homes. The desire to retain a sense of freedom and control over your own life is one of the most frequent motives for aging in place, and it is essential for many seniors’ overall well-being. The saying “home is where the heart is” may be a well-worn cliché, but it’s as true as ever. Home is the most important place in a person’s life and provides a sense of intimacy, comfort and security. To ensure that this feeling is also preserved as we age, more and more seniors in America are turning to the smart home. This blog article summarizes the most important aspects of this trend.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define aging in place as: “The ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.”
Recent studies show that even when thinking about a future in which they may need regular help with dressing, eating or other everyday tasks, more than 60% of older people would prefer to age in place if they could. According to the BCG’s experts, one of the reasons for this aging in place trend is the cost aspect.
The consultants assume that the costs of caring for the elderly will also rise over the next ten years. Since at least the mid-1990s, expenditure on elderly care in OECD countries has outpaced general health spending and GDP growth. That is attributable to increasing investment in therapies and clinical procedures for aging consumers, labor costs for the specialists who have to provide these services, and the general continuous increase in healthcare costs, which is double the rise in consumer prices.
Another critical challenge is the growing demand for elderly care due to demographic trends and the population’s declining state of health. Currently, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a shortage of residential facilities that provide care for the elderly, and demand is expected to increase when the pandemic subsides. Many people who are now 65 will likely live into their 90s. From 2020 to 2030, those over 65 will grow as a percentage of the population by 3% – a much higher rate than for the overall population. And chronic diseases are prevalent in this population group. 85% of elderly people in the U.S. and 80% of those in Australia have such a disease; 37% of elderly people in Singapore have more than three chronic health problems.
Example of Canada
Many elderly people live with multiple chronic diseases and require support to cope with their daily life. Recent Canadian studies suggest that 11% to 22% of older adults who had recently transitioned into nursing home care could have stayed in home or community-based care with the appropriate supports in place. However, that doesn’t just mean family and friends helping them.
In particular, new technologies, smart home solutions and innovations can help support the decision to age in place. Canada is now preparing for what that means for its social, fiscal, and medical institutions and what innovative solutions are required to support the elderly in their desire to be able to live at home even in old age.
The program plan comprises four key areas: safety, health, connection (which primarily denotes the reduction in barriers to mobility, transportation and social engagement) and standards.
Smart home solutions for seniors
Age-related physical and cognitive decline can make daily life difficult for seniors. At a certain point, older people become dependent on the help of others to accomplish everyday tasks. That’s when complete independence is no longer possible. However, with the help of family members, friends, and professional caregivers, seniors can maintain some of their independence and continue to live at home. The most important thing is for elderly people to have control over their routine, activities and life choices.
Smart home technologies and related services can make daily tasks easier for the elderly and improve their overall quality of life. They have the potential to play an important role in helping older people age in place. According to a study by the insurance company The Hartford and the MIT AgeLab, the five biggest concerns among elderly Americans within their home are:
- Home maintenance (40%)
- Safety and security (18%)
- Making day-to-day life easy and convenient (16%)
- Saving money (8%)
- Saving energy (8%)
Brett Caviness, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors, says smart home features that offer convenience, security, and energy efficiency can appeal to buyers of all ages, and even more so as they age. “As consumers age, they become savvier about finding easier and more efficient ways to manage their life between work and spending quality time with family and friends.” The prestigious New York Times wrote at the start of this year: “As people get older, many may need a support system, including family, caregivers, and a residence that has been outfitted to accommodate the common frailties of age: reduced vision, decreased mobility, increased risk of falls, and more. Smart-home devices – such as small sensors, discreet cameras, smoke alarms, and voice-activated speakers – can make everyday life safer, more convenient, and more social for older adults.”
It is important that the smart home system adapts to the needs and requirements of the elderly. “As we get older, we need to think about taking extra safety precautions in the home to help with potential decreased mobility, increased risk of falls and reduced vision that can come with age,” Alexis Abramson, Ph.D., a gerontologist and spokesperson for Comfort Keepers, an in-home care company for seniors based in Irvine, California, is quoted as saying in the article “Expert Recommended Smart Home Upgrades For Aging In Place” in the Forbes magazine. Many of the smart problem solutions also assist family members, for example, in caring for parents in their home.
Gigaset smart care
That’s exactly what the Gigaset smart care senior citizens assistance system does, for example. It keeps an eye on the home of elderly relatives to see if there are any irregularities in their daily routine – and reliably informs family members by push message or, optionally, even by automated phone call in the event of an alarm. That’s ensured by various intelligent sensors mounted on windows, doors and in the rooms of the senior’s home, as well as an alarm button and the smart care app. A single glance at the smartphone is all it takes for the family members to know whether their parents are okay.
Aging in place is generally considered the best option compared to moving into an assisted living facility, and it’s also what most older adults prefer when considering how and where they want to age. As smart technological devices become more and more advanced, that is easier and easier to do in your own four walls. These smart tech aids mean that a caregiver doesn’t have to be at the home around the clock, since the technology helps monitor movements and maintain routines, for example.