How to Introduce Smart-Home Tech to Seniors
Slow, steady, and discreet is likely the best approach when it comes to incorporating smart technology into the lives of older parents and relatives.
Much has been written about the “aging in place” trend, and it’s no wonder why. More seniors than ever are expressing a desire to live out their golden years in their own home, apartment, condo, or adobe hut, rather than the assisted living or senior housing options available to them.
You only have to look at the numbers: A University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging asked a national sample of adults ages 50–80 about their perspectives on aging in place. The overwhelming majority – 88% – felt it is important to remain in their homes for as long as possible (62% very important, 26% somewhat important). Only 12% rated it as not important. The bottom line is, seniors would prefer to stay in the comfort of their own homes, as long as they can do it comfortably and safely.
And that’s where technology comes into play. As a smart-home or security dealer, you’re aware of the myriad devices that can be used to give older healthy adults comfort, safety, and peace of mind: smart locks to ensure that a caregiver has arrived or that the seniors are getting to their doctors’ appointments; sensors on refrigerators to monitor eating habits; voice-activated smart speakers to simplify device control; and much more.
Most often, it’s adult children or caretakers who are purchasing the equipment, for two reasons:
- Many seniors don’t realize (or are unwilling to admit) they need the assistance that smart-home devices offer.
- While a percentage of the older population might have a basic understanding of the technology, it’s more likely that they’ll require the guidance of someone slightly more tech-savvy.
Addressing a Sense of Intrusion
So, let’s suppose a customer has made the decision to invest in some smart-home tech for mom and/or dad, and their folks have actually agreed to go along with it (good news, considering it can be difficult to gain buy-in on this strategy). They’ve grabbed every device imaginable – smart locks, door sensors, motion detectors, smart doorbell, even gadgets to ensure they take their medication. They’re all set to go over to their parents’ house and set it all up, or they’ve hired a professional installer to make sure it gets done right the first time.
Unfortunately, this well-thought-out plan does not account for an often-neglected element: the potential intrusion into the lives of seniors.
Let’s face it, these smart-home devices can literally be lifesavers, but they are also not invisible. Mom and pop can see the blinking of the interior camera. They can hear the ding of the refrigerator sensor if the door has been open too long. And they sure as heck can see the lights automatically illuminating the hallway when they visit the bathroom in the middle of the night.
These scenarios can be somewhat unsettling for seniors on two levels: One, they are constantly being reminded that they are being watched/observed. Two, if they really haven’t embraced modern technology in general (how many of our parent still don’t own a cell phone?), introducing such a large volume of it can be quite unsettling.
The lesson here? By all means, your customers should incorporate this remarkable technology into the lives of their older parents, relatives, and even friends. But it’s likely best if they can do it slowly. Maybe they start with a smart lock, since your customer’s folks already have a lock on their door – thus, the change in routine will be minimal. Perhaps, after a short time, they can introduce a refrigerator sensor – it’s only going to beep if they leave the door open too long, which hopefully won’t be very often. The automatic hallway lights could be a good next step, since most of the day they will be off anyway.
Suggesting a Different Way
Ultimately, your customers can develop their own approach to this undertaking. Maybe they feel their elderly parents can handle a large bundle of new tech at one time. Or it may be that their parents’ health is waning at a rate that warrants faster action.
At this point, you may be asking, why does this matter to me? If someone wants to purchase a truckload of smart-home equipment, who am I to tell them they shouldn’t? And you would be right. You shouldn’t tell them that they shouldn’t. The gentle suggestion here is simply that if your customer is interested in assembling a comprehensive package of smart home technology, you might strike up a conversation about how and when it will be installed. The purchaser may not even have considered the privacy concerns or the fact that they’ll be furnishing their parents or relatives with a huge pile of devices that could even overwhelm a technophile.
Your customer has likely been wrapped up in the health issues of their folks, trying their best to help them remain safe and comfortable in familiar surroundings. Asking them about how they will get all this new equipment installed – and at least suggesting a methodical method that desensitizes the senior a little bit at a time – could go a long toward ensuring that all this newly bought technology will become incorporated into their seniors’ lives discreetly, with as little disruption to their daily lives as possible.
That’s the side of aging in place that doesn’t often get discussed. But for the sake of your customers, their elder family members, it should. And it will show a sensitivity on your part that your customer will appreciate – especially in what is likely a very trying time in their life.
Erik Glassen is the Senior Brand Manager for Kwikset, a leading developer and manufacturer of electronic locks.
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