In-home care and smart home – shared interest, not yet connected

Smart home technologies are not part of the home care solution set.  Despite the labor shortage that is impacting the home care industry, technology in the home, especially smart home technology, is not part of the home care solution set. Yet with appropriate use of sensors, cameras, and voice interactions, families and home care providers could improve the wellbeing of older adults, many of whom are alone at home for long stretches of time. What is needed and will emerge over the next five years?

Opt-in collection of meaningful data.  Older adults are rightly skeptical about technology designed to monitor them – equating monitoring with spying on them and invading their privacy. Instead, tech offerings need to be perceived as an in-home team of services, unobtrusively managing features that make a home an inviting and comfortable place while protecting the individual’s autonomy and privacy.. 

Pattern recognition. AI and Machine learning is mainstream in multiple domains, including an increasing acceptance in healthcare.  But it is beginning to matter in the care of older adults. Multiple tech firms are now deploying pattern analysis and machine learning in the care of older adults, enabling comparison of patterns to user baseline profiles, identifying trend lines in behavior and supporting appropriate alerting of staff in the event that pattern changes require alerting staff, or identifying improvements in wellbeing – such as increased activity, exercise or family engagement.

Home as a caregiver. Multiple tiers of service will further emerge based on user status and preferences. One size supposedly fits all is the characteristic of many individual smart home technologies today. This won’t work for older adults moving forward, instead it will be multi-tiered offerings, customized remotely, adjusted as a person becomes frail.  Smart home technology will be used by home care companies to help compensate for labor shortages, warning of in-home issues during those times when the care recipient is alone.

[Part of the series preceding “Future of Smart Home and Older Adults” upcoming report]