How Smart Locks Add a Flexible Layer of Home Security for Seniors

Smart locks provide peace of mind for adult children concerned over the security of their live-at-home parents.

“Aging-in-place” is commonly defined as “the ability to live in one’s home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.” Your parents who want to age-in-place probably define this trend differently. They simply want to remain where they are comfortable, where they’ve lived for a long time and plan on living a lot longer. Not to mention they want to stay in a house that may be largely paid off and thus, is very affordable. Ultimately, they want to stay home.

There are many companies dedicated to making aging-in-place a reality. Today’s home automation technology is at the forefront of this movement. One home automation product that’s playing a central role in facilitating the aging-in-place trend is the electronic or “smart lock.” Multifunctional, easy to use and extremely secure, the latest generation of electronic door locks is providing live-at-home seniors with a high level of security, and their adult children with greater peace of mind. These new smart locks automatically lock doors and keep homes secure through the use of personal numeric codes as opposed to keys that can easily be lost or stolen.

They can also provide senior residents and their adult children with even greater access control, when the locks are a part of a home automation system such as those that use ZigBee or Z-Wave technology. With these smart locks, unwanted guests are kept out, while access can be granted to loved ones, caregivers and even first responders in emergency situations. And this access is allowed without anyone ever having to physically use a key.

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Uses Include Activity Monitoring, Customized Access
With today’s smart locks, information is both power and peace of mind. With traditional locks, there is no information provided. With early iterations of electronic locks, you could learn whether a door is locked or unlocked, but not necessarily by whom. Today there is capability to know not only who unlocked a door, but also who locked it or relocked it – and when. In addition, caregivers can potentially collect even more information about what is going on in the home.

There are three essential roles that smart locks can play in aging-in-place:

  1. Smart locks allow the adult children to monitor the elderly person’s activity. The lock itself can be a kind of “sensor” to provide information, but family members and caregivers have to play a central role in making this work. Locks can be programmed to send out E-mails and texts regarding who is accessing the home. Caregivers need to configure these communications around the specific information they want to receive. They also need to monitor these communications to ensure security and safety is maintained. For example, they need to monitor who is locking or unlocking a door. They need to be aware of any exceptions issued (such as short-term access to a service provider). If a lock has not been opened for a day or two, they need to flag this. And if the lock is determined to be unlocked, it can be locked remotely by the adult child.
  2. Smart locks can provide customized access. Individual access codes can be provided to any authorized people who might need access to the home and its residents. These can be service technicians, such as plumbers or electricians, or they can be health-care professionals authorized to enter in the event of a medical emergency.
  3. Smart locks can simplify caregiver management, and make it safer. Because access codes can be changed and multiple codes can be used, keys never have to be provided to caretakers. It’s a reality that caretakers such as housekeepers change over time; with smart locks, when caretakers change, codes can change, so there is never a worry about where stray keys have gone. Access can also be scheduled for a caregiver, designating specific times of day when their code will work.

Are ‘Aging-in-Place’ Benefits of Smart Locks Hitting Home?
The answer is “not yet.” Many potential customers may recognize the convenience that is intrinsic to home automation systems, and the enhanced security provided by smart locks. But they are not yet making the leap to understanding the role in specific applications such as aging-in-place.

It’s really up to security dealers and installers to sell the value to the consumer – with aging-in-place assets like monitoring senior activity, providing remote access and simplifying caregiver management. The technology to facilitate aging in place and make it more secure exists today. Dealers and installers just need to spread the word about the smart lock’s “aging-in-place” benefits in order to lock up sales in a market that may be growing older, but is also growing larger.

Bio: Keith Brandon is Divisional Vice President, Residential Access Solutions with Spectrum Brands’ Hardware and Home Improvement division.

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