Novelty vs. Necessity
For so many of us, having a smart home is a bit of a novelty. We like the convenience, we enjoy toying around with the new technology, plus it just makes us feel – really cool, right? For the elderly and disabled, smart home tools and products aren’t a novelty, they are a way for them to maintain or increase their functional capabilities and provide them with independence. Keep reading to find out how smart homes can empower disabled homeowners.
We call this assistive technology. For the visually impaired, something as simple as locating a phone number can be impossible. For those individuals with mobility issues, being able to flip on a light, change the channel on their television or just closing their blinds for privacy can be a struggle. So many of us go into autopilot when performing the mundane tasks of our daily lives that the thought of not being able to perform them does not even cross our minds.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”#52bac3″]For the visually impaired, something as simple as locating a phone number can be impossible[/pullquote]
But for many, being able to do those things on their own is the difference between being able to live independently or needing assistance at home or even an assisted living facility. Thanks to advancements in modern technology, there is now a plethora of incredible products on the market that can help those who need assistance, to live life freely in their own homes.
Mobility & Voice Control
One of those incredible assistive products is Echo. In 2015, Amazon released Echo, a wireless speaker and voice command device. For someone with mobility issues or sight limitations, Echo is a game changer. When Echo connects to its voice service, Alexa, which is hands-free and voice controlled, it acts as a personal assistant of sorts by providing the user with everything from phone numbers to the weather forecast. It allows for an individual with impairments to be up to date, informed and in control of the world around them.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”#52bac3″]It allows for an individual with impairments to be up to date, informed and in control of the world around them[/pullquote]
But Echo doesn’t just provide informational services, when connected to other smart home devices, like Samsung’s SmartThings Hub, Echo provides the user voice control over systems in the house like lighting and temperature. This sort of technology can provide someone bound to a wheelchair or with limited movement to have the ability to control many aspects of their environment without seeking assistance from others which makes the user feel more confident and, most importantly, allows them to be self-reliant which is the ultimate goal.
Safety is another important issue for the elderly and disabled who want to live independently and there have been great advancements in home security over the years. Many security systems now offer voice activation services and there are even bluetooth activated deadbolts, like the August Smart Lock, which offer safety at the touch of a button. AT&T is working on developing an in-home monitoring service for the elderly that takes the same technology that senses break-ins to alert a friend or family member if their loved one is experiencing fluctuations in routine, etc.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”#52bac3″]…this allows the individual to have the freedom of their own home while giving their caregivers peace of mind[/pullquote]
While some might argue that such technology is an invasion of privacy, for an individual who wants to keep living independently but requires daily monitoring, reminders for medications and has health concerns, this allows the individual to have the freedom of their own home while giving their caregivers peace of mind.
Help From Nonprofits
Assistive technology is on the rise and adaptive equipment is being installed in many homes and facilities around the country for the disabled and elderly. As a matter of fact, there are multiple nonprofit organizations benefiting disabled veterans like Building for America’s Bravest and R.I.S.E., both which customize homes using assistive and adaptive technology in order to meet each individual’s needs and requirements based on their strengths and weaknesses.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”#52bac3″]…there are multiple nonprofit organizations benefiting disabled veterans[/pullquote]
Through donations, these organizations can outfit homes with assistive technology that enables these wounded heroes to continue living a dignified life and allows them to be as self-sufficient as possible. Each individual has his or her unique needs or limitations and these homes help them maintain their self-reliance and functionality with products like moving cabinets, smart appliances and even automated showers.
Prioritize & Start Small
Of course, unless a person is independently wealthy, setting up an entire home to be completely automated can cost a pretty penny. Start by choosing the area of most concern and tackling that issue and then add upon it. If mobility is the biggest obstacle in a person’s life, installing smart lighting so lights can be turned on and off remotely is a great place to start. And in lieu of Amazon Echo, using an individual’s smartphone is a great introduction to setting up voice-activated requests and tasks using either Android’s Ok Google or iPhone’s Siri.
[pullquote align=”right” color=”#52bac3″]…setting up an entire home to be completely automated can cost a pretty penny[/pullquote]
Pinpoint your biggest obstacles and start with finding smart solutions to those problems first. Save luxury items (like the iRobot Roomba Vacuum which cleans your floor at the push of a button) for later. Customizing a smart home to an individual’s specific needs is part of what makes this technology so amazing. Being able to provide the person in need with the tools for them to be self-reliant and take care of themselves allows them to hold on to their pride and boost their self-esteem despite their limitations and physical struggles.
Freedom, Independence & Hope
A decade ago, a smart home seemed like a luxury item and out of reach for many, but nowadays these assistive technologies are more easily accessible for those who want it, but more importantly for those who need it. Loss of vision, hearing or mobility affects the way these people function in their daily lives. No one, including those with limitations, wants to have to rely on constant assistance of others to meet their daily needs or conduct their daily chores.
Smart homes, through the use of assistive technology, compassionately allows for the disabled and elderly to maintain control over their environment and daily activities and offer a more positive quality of life by allowing them to maintain their dignity. These smart homes and assistive technology possibilities empower the lives of the elderly and those with disabilities. With all of the physical and emotional stress they have had to endure, a smart home helps give them strength and hope for the future.
Do you or a friend or relative benefit from assistive technology? Share the most beneficial technology and resources you’ve found in the comments. And don’t forget to join our newsletter below for more smart home analysis like this.