Bring the Future to Your Home Today

By Lindsay Hutter, GHI Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer

Second Feature of “The Home of the Future” Series

When Goodwin House at Home Member Carolyn Sand hears her doorbell ring, she doesn’t head for the door—she reaches for her smart phone. Like many of us, Mrs. Sand has outfitted her home with smart technology. She uses the Ring Video Doorbell System, which notifies her both audibly and via her smart phone when someone is at her door. It also records all motion events at her door, so she can view any activity (live or recorded) on her phone or computer at any time.

“I really like the Ring system. It gives me comfort knowing that I can see who’s at my door, especially when I’m here alone,” says Sand. “I mostly use my smart phone to see who is at the door, but I can also connect the system to my laptop and iPad. This way, I don’t have to get up when it’s not necessary or if it is someone whom I was not expecting or don’t know.”

The Ring doorbell is just one of many tech options available to make both your home and lifestyle more efficient and safe. And while new technology may intimidate some people, the Baby Boomer generation typically does not shy away from innovation. In fact, by 2030, experts estimate that technology designed specifically to assist older adults to be a $30 billion industry.

“Our members are more and more comfortable with new technologies, both with products in their homes and with the ways they are communicating,” shares Beth Robinson, a Goodwin House at Home Member Services Facilitator. “Just the other day, one of our members Facetimed me to better articulate an issue they were having. I am seeing GHAH members’ confidence with technology expand rapidly.”

a young boy and his grandfather use a smart speaker

Your Home Gets Smart(er)

We can all picture the familiar images of a family in the 1920s hovered over the radio to listen to FDR’s Fireside Chats, a group of 1950s teenagers gathered around their brand new television set to watch Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show or young adults in the 1980s strutting down the street with their Walkmans attached to their hip. Throughout modern history, technology has been a hallmark of Americana, constantly changing everyday life.

In the past century alone, inventions ranging from vacuum cleaners and electric washing machines to frozen foods and microwaves have made serious impacts on home life. Today, these are all household standards. And today’s tech takes these standards to new heights—these now classic technologies enter a digital era, making it even easier for us to benefit.

For most of us, the entry point of home technology is voice activation devices, such as Alexa or Google Echo. At both Goodwin House Life Plan Communities, apartments can be connected to the reception desk via the Alexa system.

“I like the voice-activated features in my home,” shares resident Carol Lewis. “My Alexa at home is programmed to call the reception desk if I need help, and that is a comfort.”

Fellow resident Betty Reinecke agrees: “Personally, I love my Alexa! It is a valuable safety device to call the reception desk in an emergency as well as a way to access other voice activated devices in your home such as lights or multimedia.”

Voice activation is just the beginning. Smart home technologies are evolving quickly, and here are just a few that are currently available: 

  • Smart thermostats can be activated by remote control, smart phones, tablets or voice command, eliminating the need to get up to adjust temperature settings.
  • Smart smoke and carbon monoxide alarms connect to your phone so you receive an alert as soon as smoke, a fire or carbon monoxide is detected.
  • Smart lighting provides sensors that detect when you enter a room and when you leave, so you can set them to come on or off as you wish. Besides being a great safety feature, smart lighting can provide savings to your electric bill.
  • Smart leak detection systems can alert you to a leak before it becomes a problem. Placed around the house by sinks, toilets, aquariums, etc., the detectors pinpoint leaks and shut off your water in five seconds or less.
  • Smart appliances are everywhere you look in home appliance stores. Smart refrigerators can track your grocery list and even submit orders to participating grocery stores for delivery. Wondering if you need to pop by the store to pick up milk or butter? You can view the inside of your fridge from a mobile app. If you also wonder whether you forgot to turn off the stove, a smart appliance will turn off automatically or let you check its status from your phone.

PERSonal Safety

According to a recent study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, it is estimated that between 2015 and 2035, the number of people over the age of 75 living alone will nearly double from 6.9 million to 13.4 million. For those living alone, and for their loved ones, personal safety can become a real concern.

For peace of mind, consider a Personal Emergency Response System or PERS. Installing a PERS will give you and your family peace of mind that you can connect with authorities, family and friends, whenever you need help.

“All Goodwin House at Home members receive a complimentary PERS when they join our program,” states Robinson. “We think this is an invaluable tool, especially for those who live alone.”

Companies such as GreatCall and MobileHelp offer a PERS that goes beyond pressing a button you wear around your neck when you need help. Their products can detect a fall both in and outside your home, and they alert a call center without anyone having pushed a button.

For loved ones who might feel better to keep a closer eye on someone, companies such as BeClose and Lively offer products that monitor activities to watch for any problems. For instance, if a sensor is attached to a favorite chair, but that chair has not been “activated” for a certain amount of time, a caregiver may see that as cause for concern and reach out to check in.

Regardless of whether you are considering a PERS, a smart refrigerator or smart lighting in your home, the ultimate goal of technology integration is to enable vibrant, safe and independent living.

Next Month: How Smart Homes Are Eco-Friendly

With our first two “The Home of the Future” features, we’ve focused on how smart homes can benefit humans. The third and final post in this series will explore ways these new technologies benefit the environment by introducing innovations in sustainability.

* The Home of the Future blog series was inspired by FutureHaus, a student-based research project led by Virginia Tech’s Center for Design Research (CDR). The CDR team has developed a prototype of the ideal smart home—a compact living environment that combats global environmental challenges while solving some of the most rudimentary personal living frustrations.

Lindsay Hutter is the Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer for Goodwin House Incorporated (GHI). GHI operates two Life Plan Communities – Goodwin House Alexandria and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads – as well as the Goodwin House at Home program for aging in place and a range of other services to support, honor and uplift older adults.