Tips and Technologies to Help Seniors Remain Safe and in Their Homes Longer: Part 2--Home Automation

seniorsHome Automation Can Make Independent Living Safer and Easier for Seniors!

In Part 1, I reviewed the concept of a Personal Emergency Response System for seniors.  As its name states, it is used for emergencies.  Home Automation technology, on the other hand, is useful for making life safer or easier and for seniors and their families.

What I used for over 30 years as my home automation was X-10.  X-10 operates by a variety of types of controllers or timers sending signals across the electrical circuits within your home to be able to turn on or off lights and appliances or to dim lights.  The lights or appliances are plugged into special boxes that receive the on/off signals sent over the electrical circuits.

X-10 technology is still available and is among the least expensive types of basic of home automation.  It has become less reliable over the years, mainly because there are so many more types of electronics putting “noise” onto our power lines.

As I looked for an X-10 replacement, I reviewed a number of technologies.  I chose Insteon which is sold mainly by Smarthome.  Insteon has the blend of capabilities I wanted, but is still among the more affordable choices.  You can find many other options as well and there are companies out there that provide the installation and support if you aren’t a do-it-yourself-geek!

I recommend using home automation technology for senior care in 3 main ways:

  1. As a whole house system
  2. As a solution for a specific few problem areas in the house
  3. As an automatic solution based on individual’s movements

As a whole house solution, you will need some fairly strong technical skills, but you can accomplish the most.  At is most advanced state you would have a dedicated controller that you can program either via the device itself or from a computer.  The controller may even be on a home computer network and be accessed from the Internet or a cell phone.  The controller can turn lights and appliances on/off at pre-determined times, or based on conditions.

So how would you apply this for an aging parent?  Imagine lights coming on automatically in dark hallways or bathrooms each evening at sunset.  Your loved one isn’t tempted to walk down the hall in the dark and trip on a throw rug.  Then, the lights go off automatically at 10 PM just after they typically go to bed.

If you want a little less hi-tech, you could use automation to solve specific problem areas.   For example, when we enter our house from the interior garage door, we enter into a very dark hallway. Our burglar alarm panel is inside this door and often our hands are full of groceries.  When that door opens, a sensor  automatically turns on the hall light.  Nice!

Finally, you can automate based on the movements of an individual.  For example, you can have a motion detector in a bathroom that turns on the bathroom light as soon as someone enters.  Many elderly falls happen in the bathroom during the night without adequate lighting.  Sometimes a little nightlight just isn’t enough.

As you might have guessed, I have just touched the surface here.  If you have more general questions, please feel free to email me and I will try to help.  I love this stuff!