There comes a time in many people's lives when they need to decide whether they'll enter a nursing home, move in with family and friends or tough it out on the old homestead. Increasingly, people are choosing to spend their golden years the same way they spent all their other years -- living independently in a home of their own. For cases such as these, the Aware Home Research Initiative is helping develop a lot of useful solutions. To learn more about the aging in place phenomenon and the impact it's having on home building, read How is an aging baby boomer generation changing the design of homes?
Probably the most obvious design elements of a senior's Aware Home would concern the ways it's adaptable for people dealing with chronic conditions. The halls and doorways are wide enough to pop off a few wheelies in a wheelchair, and the bathroom comes with handy rails. In case an elevator becomes a priority, there's a section of the house that could easily be converted into an elevator shaft. Don't get your hopes too high: Elevator installation is very expensive, but having the potential space ready can cut the cost significantly. For more tips on preparing a house for someone farther along in years, read How can chronic care management be integrated into home design?
Apart from these physical attributes, an Aware Home could offer several other technologies to assist someone aging in place. Digital family portraits and discrete motion sensors allow family members instant access to updated information on their loved one's condition and recent activities. There's a program to help people keep track of their medicines with reminders when it's time to take a prescription, advice on potential drug interactions and other tips to keep their health at a premium level.
Another possible application would take photos of the person while they were cooking. That way, if their memory is going downhill they can keep better track of what step of the recipe they're on. This is just one of the many ways an Aware Home could be used to boost someone's failing memory.
An Aware Home could also be programmed to take environmental readings, such as measuring the temperature in the house and questioning the resident if it seems too hot or too cold. It could track how often a person eats and how mobile they are. If the worst should happen and an elderly person hurts him or herself or becomes ill, the house could take the necessary steps to get them help.
Now that we've seen some of the ways an Aware Home could enhance the life of an elderly person, let's take a look at how it could be of service to whole families on the next page.