While robots may have not taken over just yet, the use of smart technology in our homes certainly has. The smart home devices market is forecast to reach more than 53 billion U.S dollars by 2022. This figure is staggering although it may not be that surprising considering how useful these smart devices can prove around the home and how accessible they have become.
Smart devices can help to automate common activities around the home, from controlling your lighting and heating, to monitoring your home’s security and even taking care of your grocery ordering and helping to keep your house clean.
One of the age-brackets that can most benefit from adopting smart technology are the over 65’s. According to the AARP, 87% of seniors would prefer to remain at home then move into assisted living facilities. Many of these people who often live alone, struggle with common household chores. Smart technology can help to automate many of these tasks for them, helping them to live independently and safer for longer and improving their quality of life.
In this guide, we will cover what smart technology is, the main benefits of using home automation devices and we will cover a range of smart devices that can help to automate common tasks around the home and make life easier and safer for you.
What Are Smart Home Devices?
Many devices that we now find in our homes are able to connect to the internet. These are commonly known as the Internet of Things (IoT), devices that can connect to your Wi-Fi network and that can talk to each other and share data.
Examples of smart devices that are commonly found in our homes, include lights, thermostats, doorbells, locks, vacuum cleaners, fridges and security cameras.
These smart devices can be controlled remotely via an app on your smartphone or they can be connected to a smart home hub such as Amazon’s Echo or Google’s Home which can be controlled with simple voice commands.
These home automation devices have been designed to improve safety, comfort and make life generally easier for households.
A smart doorbell for example, allows the homeowner to see who’s at the door by checking their smartphone, this means they can answer the door even when they’re not at home. Smart bulbs can be switched on and off remotely using a phone. Even if you’re on vacation you can still turn on the lights to ward off any potential intruders.
Are Smart Home Devices Easy to Set-Up?
The steps required to install a smart device will vary between different devices. On the whole though, they are relatively straightforward to set-up and require limited technical know-how. For most devices, it requires no more than connecting it to your Wi-Fi network and installing the app onto your smartphone and configuring the device.
Most devices come with helpful installation manuals that will guide your through the whole process. If you do get stuck, many provide a helpline that you can call where a technician will guide you through the set-up.
Benefits of Smart Home Technology for Seniors
Smart home technology can automate many things around the home and seniors can greatly benefit by adopting these smart devices. They can allow seniors to live at home for longer, more comfortably, allowing them to lead a more independent life.
Here are some of the major benefits of adopting smart home technology for seniors:
Safety can often be a great concern for seniors especially for those who live alone. Installing smart technology such as smart doorbells, smart locks can be a great way to protect their home and increase their safety.
Smart doorbells can allow someone to see who is at the door without needing to get up, allowing them to make sure the person at the door is someone they trust before letting them in. Smart doorbells are often fitted with motion detection sensors which means you can be alerted even if you’re not at home if any suspicious activity is detected.
If the user suffers with Alzheimer’s or dementia, a lock can be scheduled to open or lock automatically which mean they never need to remember to open or lock their doors.
Installing smart thermostats and smart lightbulbs can be a good way to cut down on costly utility bills. You can monitor usage and many thermostats can even learn from your heating habits meaning that your heating will only turn on and turn off when you need it to and not when you don’t.
If your memory is not what it used to be, and sometimes forget to turn lights around the house off, you can schedule them to turn off automatically when required.
Being able to adjust the heating or dim the lights while you relax on the sofa, without needing to get up can make for a more comfortable living experience.
Speaking to your loved ones while they monitor you over your indoor camera, can help to increase social interaction which is especially important for anyone that lives alone and who may feel isolated and lonely.
Playing your favourite radio station by simply issuing a voice command to your smart hub means you don’t have to walk across the room to do this and allowing you to rest your arthritic joints.
Seniors with impaired mobility or vision may struggle to get up to do common things such as turning the lights on/off, answering the door, making a call to a friend or family member or putting the radio on.
Smart hubs can make these tasks more convenient for the user as they can control these devices simply by providing voice commands. For example, if the user has an Amazon Echo, they can say “Alexa, turn on the bedroom light” this means they won’t need to get up which can help to prevent any nasty falls.
Allow Your Loved Ones to Check On You
Smart indoor cameras are not only a good way to protect your home against intruders but they can also allow your family and friends to check up on you to see that you’re ok.
Install smart cameras around the home and your loved will be able to see on their smartphone whereabouts you are at home and whether you’re ok. Many home cameras have motion detection technology which means emergency situations such as falls can be detected quickly and dealt with.
Best Smart Home Devices for Seniors
1. Smart Home Hub
If you mention the word smart home, the first picture that often pops into people’s minds are smart home hubs.
These devices allow you to issue voice commands to do useful things. The hub helps to connect your smart home devices together, allowing you to control such things as light bulbs, thermostats, locks, doorbells and security cameras.
Using a smart hub, you can perform such things as:
- Turn on your lights on
- Adjust the thermostat
- Monitor the camera in the living room
- Unlock the front door so the carer can come in
- Ask your robot vacuum cleaner to hoover the kitchen floor
Not only can a smart hub control your smart home devices, but it can also act as an extremely useful digital assistant.
Useful things that the digital assistant can perform include:
- Listen to music or listen to your favourite radio station
- Find out the latest news
- Play an audio book
- Set a reminder to go to the doctor’s appointment for next week
- Find out what the weather is going to be like tomorrow
- Make a phone call
- Ask for a recipe to make chocolate brownies
- Order groceries
- Set-up a timer
- Get traffic updates
As these devices are voice-activated they can prove particularly useful for the elderly. Not only are they ideal for the tech-adverse seniors who may struggle using a laptop or smartphone but they can also be useful for individuals with disabilities. Users with reduced hand dexterity can use their voice to perform common tasks therefore avoiding having to use a keyboard or touchscreen which they may struggle with. Users with impaired mobility or vision can control their heating, lighting or other smart home devices while they’re in bed or relaxing on the sofa without needing to get up.
There are a wide variety of smart hubs on the market. The best known ones are manufactured by Amazon and Google. Amazon’s entry level one is called the Echo Dot and the latest one from Google is called the Google Nest Mini. The mid-range ones which are larger and boost better sound performance are Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home.
The Amazon Echo is now in its 3rd generation. It boosts 0.8″ tweeter and 3″ woofer speakers with Dolby audio sound. The sound quality is now as good as it’s pricier brother, the Echo Plus. With its sleek looks, it definitely won’t look out of place in your home especially as it’s come in a choice of four colors (charcoal, heather gray, sandstone and twilight blue).
With its Alexa voice assistant, you can control compatible smart home devices, making it easier to turn your lights on, adjust the thermostat, lock the doors or control the camera in the lounge. Want to talk to someone in the lounge while you’re in bed? No problem, you can use the device like an intercom allowing you to talk to anyone in the house.
You can use voice commands to set-up timers, remainders, calendar events or listen to music from Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn, Amazon Music as well as from other music providers. You can also check out the news, weather or find out how busy the traffic is before you head out as well as lots of other useful things.
2. Smart Home Thermostat
Smart thermostats are not only an efficient and convenient way of controlling your home’s heating, but they can also help to lower your energy bills. They allow you to control your home’s temperature directly from your smartphone, tablet or laptop as well as from your smart home hub.
As the thermostat can be controlled remotely, you can control your heating from anywhere, whether that be at home or while you’re out and about. If you’re returning home and you want to turn the heating on beforehand, you can do this directly from your smartphone allowing you to come back to a nice warm home, perfect on a cold winter’s day.
There are a wide range of smart home thermostats on the market, the one that we recommend is Google’s Next Learning thermostat.
The Nest Learning Thermostat connects to your Wi-Fi allowing you to easily monitor, schedule and control your home’s heating from your smartphone or tablet and it can also be linked to your smart home hub (Alexa or Google Home).
As you can control the Nest thermostat directly from your phone or simply with your voice, it means you can control your heating from the comfort of your sofa or bed without having to get up which is ideal for users that suffer with impaired mobility.
One of the benefits of the Nest Thermostat is that it is self-learning. After a week of using it, the thermostat will get to understand your heating habits and it will program itself. As it automatically adjusts your heating to match your personalized needs, you won’t have to worry about manually scheduling your thermostat yourself. As your heating will only come on when you actually need it, it can help to lower your energy consumption and therefore reduce your utility bills.
Installing the Nest Thermostat is relatively straightforward as demonstrated in the following video:
The smart thermostat also features geolocation technology, it senses when your home is empty and it turns your heating down, helping to reduce unnecessary energy usage. You can also check your energy history allowing you to see how much you’ve used and why.
3. Smart Bulbs
Every year in the U.S., one out of four over 65’s suffers a fall (source).
These falls can result in serious injuries such as broken bones and head injury which can cause the person to lose their confidence and their independence.
One of the best ways to prevent these falls is to ensure adequate lighting is used throughout the home. Smart bulbs can prove an effective way of keeping the home properly illuminated.
Smart bulbs can be programmed to turn on and off at set times so the user never needs to remember to do this themselves. They can be controlled via your smartphone/tablet as well as through a smart hub allowing you to turn your lights on/off with your voice. As a user can control the lighting without needing to get up, it can help to prevent users from tripping over in the dark.
Another benefit of smart bulbs is the security aspect, you can programme your bulbs to turn on when you’re not at home to help make your house look occupied.
Some of the best smart bulbs currently on the market are the Philip Hue ones:
The Philips Hue smart bulbs are not only energy efficient, they use 80% less power than an incandescent bulb but they are also long-lasting. The LED bulbs can last up to 25,000 hours or up to 23 years, whatever comes first.
The Philip Hue bulbs are compatible with most smart hubs and they integrate with voice assistants including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit. Not only can you brighten and dim the bulbs, but you can also control the intensity and colour (16 million colours) allowing you to create mood lighting to suit all situations. The lights can be controlled via your phone or via voice commands if you’re using a smart hub and a timer can be set-up allowing you to turn your lights on and off at particular times throughout the day.
The Philips Hue starter kit is a good option to go for, the kit comes with a hub and three LED Smart white and colour light bulbs. Setting it up is a breeze, simply connect the Philips hub to your router via Ethernet cable, screw the led bulbs into your desired lamp and finally download the Hue app onto your smartphone and pair it to your hub.
4. Smart Doorbell
Having to answer the door to a cold caller or a stranger can often be frustrating especially if you suffer with impaired mobility and you may sometimes struggle to get to the front door in time. By installing a smart doorbell however, you can see who’s at the door via your smartphone, tablet or PC without having to get up to open the door to them.
When someone rings on your smart doorbell, it will stream the video footage directly to your smartphone, PC or tablet allowing you to identify who the person is. Not only can you see who is at your door, but you can also speak to them via the two-way microphone.
Smart doorbells are not only extremely convenient as you don’t need to get up to see who it is, but they also allow you to answer the door even when you’re not at home so you will never miss a visitor ever again.
Seniors may often be wary about answering the door to a complete stranger, smart doorbells can not only increase safety but they can provide extra assurance that the person they’re opening the door to is someone that they trust.
There a wide range of smart doorbells on the market, the one that we recommend is the Ring Video Doorbell 2 which is simple to install and has great HD video quality footage allowing you to see clearly who is at the door.
If you’re wary about purchasing a smart doorbell because you’re unsure how to install one, don’t be. The Ring Video Doorbell 2 does not require any professional installation as it can operate wirelessly using it’s rechargeable lithium-ion battery, it can be hardwired however if you prefer.
The doorbell connects to your Wi-Fi, and it will send a notification to your smartphone or tablet when someone is at your door. The 1080 HD streamed video footage allows you to see clearly who is at the door and you can speak to them across the 2-way microphone.
Not only will it alert you when someone presses the button on the doorbell, but it can also alert you when motion is detected which is useful to spot potential intruders or any suspicious behaviour. The camera is fitted with infrared night vision so you can see who’s at the door even when it’s pitch black outside.
The doorbells is compatible with Alexa devices, your smart hub can alert you when someone is at the door. You can speak to visitors as well by saying “Alexa, talk to the front door” and you can also trigger the motion sensors when required.
One of the stand out features of the doorbell, is if it’s get stolen, Ring will replace it free of charge for you which is a nice touch.
5. Smart Lock
Smart locks compliment smart doorbells well. They are particularly suited to seniors who are unable to stand for too long or for anyone that is forgetful and often fails to remember to lock their doors. Smart locks allows someone to lock and unlock their doors remotely using their smartphone or smart hub without needing to get up.
If you have a carer that visits you daily, you can schedule your door to unlock automatically before they arrive so you will never need to remember to do it yourself. Some models are even fitted with fingerprint readers that allow a door to be opened by a trusted person such as a family member or friend when they scan their fingers over the device. This eliminates the need for a key which is ideal for users who suffer with arthritis who may struggle with a fiddly key.
The Schlage Sense smart deadbolt is a secure lock that allows you to lock and unlock your door easily with your smartphone/tablet or by entering an access code on the illuminated touchscreen without the need for any keys. The lock can be locked and unlocked with a physical key if required though.
The lock is compatible with Alexa devices so you can instruct to it lock or unlock with your voice. Using the app, you can set-up schedules as to when to lock and unlock your doors, and you can manage access codes and you can also check usage history.
You can create up to 30 different access codes. These can be assigned different access schedules to restrict access i.e. during certain times or days of the week. For example, if you have housekeeper that only comes round in the morning, you can set-up an access code that is only valid from 08:00 – 12:00.
The lock is relatively straightforward to install and as it’s powered by its own battery it requires no hardwiring (as demonstrated in the below video).
6. Smart Indoor Camera
If you worry about your aging parents or a relative and you live far away, you may want to consider installing a smart camera in their home. They allow you to view your loved ones remotely using a smartphone, tablet or PC so you can check-up on them to see if they’re ok, and make sure they don’t require any assistance.
Many indoor cameras are fitted with motion-detection technology which starts recording once they detect any movement. This not only allows you to keep track of where your loved ones are around the home but it can also be used to detect any suspicious activity such as intruders which you can be notified of with an alert that can be sent to your smartphone.
Many seniors who live alone or who struggle to get out, are often vulnerable to loneliness and social isolation. It is important for them to stay in regular contact with their friends and family. Indoor cameras can help with this problem as they normally feature a two-way microphone which means you can speak to them while they are at home.
There are a wide variety of indoor smart cameras to suit all budgets. The smart cameras from Wyze are great for the price conscious and best of all they are also incredibly easy to set-up.
Considering the price, the smart indoor cams from Wyze are certainly great value for money. It can livestream full HD footage in real-time to your smartphone. Video footage can also be viewed by family members so they can easily check in on you to see that you’re ok. Simply get them to download the Wyze app and invite them to your account and they’ll be able to remotely access the camera.
It has night-vision so you can easily spot things even when it’s dark. The camera features two-way audio so you can speak to your loved over the Wyze app allowing you to always stay in touch.
Want to control the camera with your voice? No problem, it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant devices. Just say “Alexa, show me the kitchen” and you’ll be able to view a live stream from your kitchen.
The camera can be configured so that you get notified when a person is detected on camera. This is a great feature and allows you to keep an eye of things. For example, you may want to make sure that your parent’s housekeeper is indeed popping round every day to see them.
Wyze provides 14-day cloud storage for free (no subscription plan needed), you can also use a SD card to store relevant video footage as well.
Fitting the camera is a breeze, it has a magnetic base which means it can be fitted anywhere without needing any complex installation as demonstrated in the below video. While it only comes with one camera, you do have the ability to add multiple cameras.
7. Robot Vacuum Cleaner
Hoovering can prove a real challenge for anyone that suffers with a disability that impacts their mobility. Attempting to lug a heavy hoover around the house can often seem an impossible task especially for anyone that is unsteady on their feet.
If you want a clean and dust-free house, but you struggle to use a conventional vacuum cleaner due to a disability, you may want to consider investing in a robot vacuum cleaner. They will do all the arduous work for you and keep your home looking spotless without needing to lift a finger.
Robot vacuum cleaners are usually fitted with sensors, they get to learn the layout of each of your rooms. They are intelligent enough to avoid crashing into obstacles such as furniture which allows them to clean each room thoroughly and only requiring minimal assistance if any. They usually can be controlled remotely using a smartphone or via voice commands (Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) if you have a smart hub.
The majority of the robot vacuum cleaners have a compact design so they can easily fit under low lying objects and tight spaces such as couches, tables etc which ensures all areas of your home get a good clean. While robot cleaners are generally more expensive than a conventional vacuum cleaner, they can prove a real lifesaver and invaluable for anyone that struggles with hoovering.
If you’re looking for a robot vacuum that does all the work for you, and I mean everything without having to lift a finger, the IRobot Roomba i7+ is the one to check out:
The IRobot Roomba i7+ really is one of the most intelligent and advanced robot vacuum cleaners currently on the market. It will do everything for you, even taking care of empting its own dustbin when it’s full.
The vacuum intelligently maps each of your rooms allowing it to efficiently navigate and clean all areas around the home and it can automatically recognize different rooms. The Imprint Smart Mapping technology that the vacuum is equipped with is able to learn as it goes about cleaning, therefore allowing it to become more efficient. Keep Out Zones can also be set-up, allowing you to specify areas around the home that you want the vacuum to avoid.
When the robot’s battery is running low, it will automatically return back to its charging dock. Once it has enough power, it will resume its cleaning duties.
It is compatible with voice assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant and it can also be controlled via the app using your phone so you can even instruct the vacuum to clean when you’re not at home.
8. Smart Plugs
Smart plugs are one of the most economical and simplest ways even for the tech adverse, to convert their home into a smart home.
It converts your dumb devices into intelligent ones that can be controlled via a smart hub or smartphone. Connect a lamp or a coffee machine to a smart plug for example, and you’ll be able to control and schedule these devices via your voice or through your phone while you’re in bed or just relaxing on the sofa or even when you’re not at home.
The Kasa smart Wi-Fi plug by TP-Link allows you to control your electronical devices from anywhere using the Kasa app on your smartphone without needing a hub. These smart plugs are also compatible with voice assistants such as Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana allowing you to control connected devices with just your voice.
The app allows you set-up schedules as to when to turn your devices on and off and you can easily control each outlet individually or as one as demonstrated in the following video: