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Smart home technology may help senior citizens remain independent

Robert Kneschke/Shutterstock

A new survey by the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) reveals some results that go against the generalization that seniors won’t adopt smart home technology, especially when it comes to their health.

The survey is revealing, even by its predictions. By 2022, the CTA expects the market for connected solutions for seniors to reach nearly $30 billion, while the largest section of that submarket, safety, and smart living technologies is expected to triple in size between 2018 and 2022, reaching over $17 billion. Sixty-five million baby boomers are about to outstrip the traditional age for retirement, and how society reacts is going to be interesting.

The CTA says that health and remote care is possibly the most promising segment of the active aging market. However, the survey refers to specialized cases like monitoring blood pressure remotely and other platforms for remote health care from technology companies like Honeywell and Intel-GE.

The survey was interesting as well in that it didn’t just interview seniors. In addition to surveying more than 700 seniors who are 65 or older, the CTA also interviewed 750 caregivers aged 18 to 64 who either have a living parent or relative that they care for.

The technologies the survey touches on are diverse, which comes as no surprise given the number of solutions that are either readily available or in progress to help seniors live independently. Safety and smart living areas included safety monitoring, emergency response, communication, home control, automation, and home robots, not to mention autonomous vehicles.

Meanwhile, health and remote care questions looked into personal health devices that supply reports, remote diagnosis and monitoring, and/or virtual consultation to communicate with a doctor or other health professional.

Finally, the survey’s queries into wellness and fitness included questions about fitness-tracking devices, diet and weight-loss tools, wellness monitors that track things like sleep, meditation, pain management, and brain health, and personal sound amplification devices that augment traditional devices like hearing aids.

The survey found that 64 percent of seniors were ready to embrace safety and smart monitoring technology, while 61 percent would adopt active aging technology in order to live more independently. Augmenting those results was the fact that younger caregivers can be effective technology advocates, which is important given that nearly a quarter of caregivers surveyed indicated that they are the sole decision makers for their seniors on medical and other living matters.

Emergencies are naturally a concern — if you’re old enough, you suffered through those “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercials — but the survey revealed that seniors are also worried about everyday tasks, like taking medication. While it’s logical that seniors are worried about these issues, it’s interesting that caregivers are far more worried about accidents: 70 percent of caregivers were concerned about seniors taking their meds, while over 60 percent were worried about accidents like forgetting to turn off the stove.

Naturally, there are a bunch of barriers to widespread adoption. Three-quarters of seniors said they would need help adopting new products in their home and nearly the same percentage said new technology is too expensive. Privacy also continues to be a big deal, with equal amounts of seniors and caregivers exhibiting some distrust of smart aging products and solutions.

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