"Smart" Home Innovations Enhance Life for Seniors

Posted by — October 13, 2005

If the phrase “The House of the Future” makes you think of old re-runs of “The Jetsons,” think again. By combining recent innovations in intelligent home design with some simple physical changes to your house, you can create a home that will run more efficiently and economically. Plus, you can help ensure you will be able to stay in your home and live there safely for years to come.

These are the hottest innovations riding the wave of the future, and some simple ways to plan for your future too:

Home Automation Systems Automated home technology is used to make the electronic devices around your home act “smart.” It can link common devices like telephones, security systems, fire alarms, lighting and even personal computers.

For example, you can connect all your light fixtures together in one control center allowing you to adjust the lights and settings for your home with an indoor keypad or remote. Program lights to turn on automatically to safely illuminate the walkway from your garage to your back door when you get home at night.

More advanced systems monitor the temperature in your home throughout the day and can be programmed to make adjustments. Imagine your home “knowing” it should open or close the blinds or drapes. It would also be able to alter the heat or air settings to maintain even and consistent temperatures, providing energy savings as well.

In addition to temperature and lighting systems, another way of automating your home is through the Internet. A networking system can enable the computers in your home to communicate with one other. The major benefit of this system is that all computers have instant Internet access at the same time, and they can all connect to one common printer.

Safety Monitoring An important advantage of the new automated systems is their ability to monitor and communicate the health and safety of the home’s occupants. Through the automated home system, wireless technology allows information to be communicated directly to health professionals, police and fire departments. Home medical equipment can be linked to the automated network to provide remote readouts of the user’s medical status on a daily basis. Physicians, visiting nurses or concerned family members can use this information to prevent a medical emergency. Some systems are more expensive to install than others, but review the options you think you may need to allow you to live independently in your home.

Intelligent design is about more than just incorporating new technology. As you begin creating a plan to stay in your home in your elder years, consider making some physical changes to your house to ensure your safety and the safety of others as well.

Bathroom Modifications This room presents the most concern for both children and aging adults. More than 400 people a day go to hospital emergency rooms because of falls in the bathtub alone. To prevent accidents in the bath, make sure your tub/shower surface and flooring are non-skid by placing a tub mat or tub treads, designed specifically for this area, onto the floor surface in the tub and shower. If you have difficulty stepping into and out of the tub, invest in a tub grip or transfer bench to make this transition safer.

In newer construction, consider a stand-alone shower that is wide enough to accommodate a wheel chair and has a built in shower bench. Be sure to include a grab bar in this configuration too.

The average toilet seat is 14-inches off the ground, which can be too low for individuals with arthritis, knee or back problems. Raising the height of the toilet seat to 17 inches can make a big difference. This can be accomplished with special toilets or the use of an elevated toilet seat that attaches to standard toilets. The benefit of an elevated toilet seat is that it can easily be added or removed as needed.

Many people worry that making adjustments in the bath with safety items makes the room look clinical. Fortunately, you don’t have to install institutional-looking items in your home. Take a look at the line of bath safety items from Home Care by Moen. Their line of ADA-compliant products for the bath combine safe, solid construction with an appealing, stylish design and include a Dual Tub Grip, a Transfer Bench, a Shower Chair, Locking Elevated Toilet Seat and decorative grab bars that resemble towel bars for décor-friendly safety.

Don’t forget to make safety modifications to the rest of the home. Add handrails to steps, both indoors and out, to give added security when climbing stairs. Consider expanding doorways throughout your home to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. Special hinges are available to give doors more space to swing open in either direction, allowing for more room to maneuver as well.

Keep hallways clear of furniture and clutter to maintain easy access in moving about. Install carpeting with a low pile, like a Berber, or use two-sided tape to keep area rugs adhered safely on the floor to eliminate the possibility of slips or falls.

In the kitchen, it may be beneficial to invest in new cabinets that give you the flexibility to customize the configuration of the shelves and drawers to meet your future needs. For example, some cabinets are available with adjustable heights so you can open them from a standing or seated position (from a wheelchair).

Start planning now for a home that can grow old with you. By incorporating some of these tips, you can successfully have a home of the future, for your future. For information about this article, e-mail jen@luxuryrealestate.com.

--ARA

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