Tech to Help South Africa’s Seniors Live Independently
As people get older, hazards abound in most homes and doing simple tasks can seem monumental as a result of deteriorating eyesight, impaired mobility and the risk of falling. While family members and caregivers can provide them with support, ageing adults might feel that this reliance is stripping them of their independence. Today, smart home devices can provide a solution to this challenge as many are voice activated, enabling them to switch on lights, play music and make phone calls from anywhere in the home. At the same time, this can give those who care for seniors the ability to help from afar since the technology can also be controlled via a mobile app.
However, many older adults have high anxiety and fears about new technology. In fact, 53% of seniors say learning a new device is more stressful than going to the dentist[i]. Despite their fear and frustration, they are increasingly embracing modern technology[ii]. “Smart home technologies in particular can enhance seniors’ lives by helping them to be more independent and providing them with a more convenient way of living,” says Dr Andrew Dickson, Engineering Executive at CBI-electric: low voltage.
“Automating repetitive and even difficult tasks like remembering to turn a geyser on and off or accessing switches in hard-to-reach places can mean that seniors have fewer things to worry about and more time to spend enjoying their golden years,” he adds.
With this in mind, Dr Dickson outlines five ways tech can improve the lives of South African seniors and their caretakers:
1. IoT devices: By using these, homeowners can make their electrical appliances smart, allowing them to be scheduled and managed from an app. For example, a heater can be turned off when no one is at home or set to run only when the weather is cold. Most smart devices can be managed daily utilising basic or complex timer settings. Additionally, many are able to react to environmental conditions such as weather or the setting and rising of the sun, and automatically switch specific loads under these conditions. This ensures that the environment is always optimal for the homeowner.
2. Automated reminders: As people age, they are more likely to be taking several medications. To help them remember what to take when, there are handy intelligent devices that can assist. A smart medicine box, which looks like an ordinary LED-display clock, can be programmed to set off an alarm up to seven times a day to remind patients that it’s time to take their medicine. Inside the box is the medication required, neatly separated into compartments, while an automated voice message instructs the patient on which medicine to take.
3. A guiding light: There are many other ways in which smart homes can help seniors. An obvious example is installing motion-sensor lights which turn on as soon as someone walks down a passage which can help to alleviate anxiety about falling.
4. Smart security: Smart locks are another way to enhance safety using IoT. A smart lock is an electronic mechanical system that allows users to open and lock doors using a virtual key. This can be done through facial recognition as passwords and fingerprint access may be trickier for seniors who may struggle with remembering or whose fingerprint is fading. Smart locks reduce the stress for seniors of having to remember their keys when they lock themselves out of the house and alleviate carers from having to carry around extra sets of keys. This can be supplemented with a smart security system that can be accessed remotely, offering peace of mind to caregivers.
5. Smart swimming pools: For seniors, pool maintenance can be a hassle especially when timers and switches are tricky to reach. A smart controller can enable them to switch on their pool pump as required via an app on their phone.
“Smart homes can simplify the lives of seniors which could be encouraging for those who might still be somewhat scared of new technologies,” concludes Dr Dickson. “Fortunately, there is a wealth of support and knowledge available to help seniors and those who care for them to make the smart transition.”