July 10, 2019 4 min read

Guest content by Jill Weeks - pre and post retirement author, blogger, speaker and radio host.

Where you live in retirement is important. Should you move or stay?

Renovate? Renew? Downsize? Upsize?

There are many decisions to be made.

And what type of features do you want in your home?

‘Ageing in Place’ is preferred by many people. This is where you stay in your home rather than moving to, for example, a retirement community or an assisted living facility.

One area that is becoming increasingly popular, and may assist ‘Ageing in Place,’ is home automation.

Do images of robots sliding through your home come to mind? Well, it’s probably best to think of it as technology that manages (or ‘automates’) various tasks within the home.

Home automation, of course, is not just for those who are in an older age group.

It seems there are a myriad of ‘solutions’ – which is great for those who are technologically minded.

To cut through the ‘cables’, we asked Daniel King, of Intelligent Home a few questions.

What types of technology are popular with older people? Ease of access and operation is key. Products such as app control for the alarm (such as Alarm.com) which can remind you to arm the alarm when you are a certain distance from the home, are very user friendly.

Adding scenes to Alarm.com such as the welcome home scene when the alarm is deactivated is popular – disarm the alarm, open garage, turn on lamps and, even, start playing music. You can also have a reminder set to whether a front door is unlocked (requires additional hardware) or if you have left the garage door open.

iPad control which have large easy to access buttons can be used to control TV systems and have a Netflix button is becoming more popular.

What are some of the best automated home features? Some of the home automation features are being directly focused on our ageing population. Notifications on cameras that someone is outside is a great way to know when someone is about to knock on the door.

Adding aged care features such as: notification of lack of events can alert that something is wrong. For example, if the alarm is not activated and the cameras have had no motion for more than 15 hours – this triggers a ‘notify’ alert.

Other triggers include: ‘sensor mat next to bed has not been activated’ and it's 10am – ‘alert’. ‘Medicine cabinet has not been opened by midday’.

What do you think are the main reasons for people adopting home automation? Ease of use and lifestyle convenience. Each person has different requirements and we can tailor our automation options to the client.

What are the design trends? We are moving into an era of true home automation where homes are requiring less human interaction. The trend is integrating systems that are intelligent enough to adapt and respond to the home’s environmental conditions. Automatically adjusting climate control, turning on and off lights at a particular time of day, ensuring doors are locked at night etc. This not only offers convenience, but also peace of mind for family members by implementing a level of assistive technology.

We’ve identified a movement towards the concept of wellness and we’re becoming more conscious of the health of our indoor living environment. There’s a growing number of systems and products to improve the overall health of our home and wellbeing, focusing on the quality of air, water and lighting in the home.

There’s a growing demand to use technology for energy and sustainability. There’s a shift towards products that can assist the homeowner by monitoring energy use and create energy savings by automating climate control and managing appliances.   

There are many new products to keep us connected. Relatively inexpensive devices like Echo Spot allow family members to keep connected (Skype your kids directly from a device in your kitchen) or add a ‘Ring Doorbell’ and see who is at the front door.

Is home technology ‘hard to learn’ for this generation? We find that keeping it simple is the best way. Anything new to any generation takes time to learn.

A new car is something which everyone is forced to learn, in order to drive it.

We make every effort to keep the systems simple and easy to use, that work with their requirements to allow it to become easy and a desire to use.

Daniel said it’s important to actually make sure we use the technology. ‘It’s pointless spending money on technology if people don’t end up using it’, he says.

Voice control which was originally seen as a gimmick has really found its place in the world. We have elderly clients who know how to voice navigate but can’t use a remote.

We were told a story by one of the team that their grandma was bought an Alexa as a bit of a gag joke, however she uses it to set a timer for cooking. She has always struggled with the dials on the oven but now doesn’t need to worry as Alexa will remind her when things are finished’.

What are some ways people could ‘put their toe in the water’ with home automation? Purchase an Echo Spot for $199 as a mid level voice control unit with a great display and have a play – ask it jokes, check the weather, ask it to play your favourite song.

We can then add this device to talk to a doorbell, notifications, alarm systems, music (Sonos), TV integration, air-conditioning. (All must be ‘works with’ brands and products).

Is it expensive? This can be as long as piece of string, however as mentioned above, depending on what is required it can start as low as a few hundred dollars.

We are constantly adding products to our repertoire which allow a step by step approach to solutions.

In some cases, the ailment of age may drive a higher cost to make the lifestyle liveable for some.

Where is home automation heading? Home automation will eventually (and is starting to now) become a part of everyday living.

We will most likely see the end of “apps” as we know it, with the rise of digital assistants which can help with everyday tasks. That’s true automation!

Article originally published online on www.where2now.net, an information resource covering a wide range of retirement lifestyle planning issues.

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