A Case-in-Point: Smart-Home Tech and the Elderly

By Brad Hunter

Updated March 24, 2017

Earlier this week, I attended the “Remodeling Futures Conference” held at the Harvard Faculty Club, and put on by the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.  There was a record turnout, including members of the remodeling industry, academia, industry associations, and government (Census Bureau).  

There was a focus on home automation, covering smart-home trends, and a look at the future of home automation.

smart-home-kitchenOne of the most memorable and instructive use cases was actually the father of one of the panelists.  The panelist said that he bought a popular voice-control system (Echo) to give it a “test run,” installing it for his elderly father, so that, when he needed to make his way to the bathroom at night, he could say aloud “turn on the lights to 20%.”  His father used the system and found that it made his life more comfortable, taking away the risk of falling (and I can speak from my own personal experience with my mother that a fall can have a devastating impact on an elderly person).  When it came time to remove the Echo, his father said “no, please leave it here!  I can’t live without it!”

I often talk about our industry through the use of statistics and charts, but I found that personal story to be as instructive as any graph I have ever seen.  Some remodeling industry observers have scoffed at the idea that elderly people will be open to using smart-home technology.  My belief is that they have little appreciation for many of the features that young technophiles will gravitate toward, that may just be “cool,” but that there are many aspects of smart-home technology that will be accepted as practical, and even necessary

Excerpt from HomeAdvisor’s Aging in Place Report 2016:

7 Life-Simplifying Smart-Home Gadgets for Thriving in Place Smart-home technology isn’t just for tech-savvy homeowners or those with an in-house technical team — i.e., kids. Here are the top seven smart-home technologies that are making it possible to thrive in place — regardless of age:


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