For 40 years, Vicky and Kyle have lived in their suburban home. The house is where they have gathered a lifetime of memories. Each square meter of their three-bedroom split level is a monument to the work of their shared life. But the aging couple now finds this symbol of their shared success, becoming a challenge.
Vicky and Kyle's unspoken strategy is split and conquer. Kyle takes the lead on yard work, car maintenance and device repair. He can still do most jobs around the house. However, certain tasks, such as having an annual rental of the ladder, to replace the batteries of dozens of smoke alarms scattered throughout the house, have gone from rituals to major tasks.
Vicky is actually the home manager's purchasing manager, responsible for grocery and pharmacy shopping. She takes the lead in arranging doctoral agreements and helps Kyle maintain a diet and medicine regime to deal with her diabetes. Diagnosed with macular degeneration, she makes most changes during the day, as night driving has become more difficult.
Vicky has an idea of the challenges ahead. While she cared about her parents, she saw how all the big and small tasks required to live at home independently can become unmanageable. Neither Vicky nor Kyle are sure how long they can hold it up.
They are not alone. According to an AARP survey, 77% of adults over 50 will be in their current home as they age. However, only 46% think they will be able to do so.
77% of adults over 50 want to stay in their current home as they age. However, only 46% think they will be able to do so.
How can older adults like Vicky and Kyle solve what constitutes a constellation of challenges in maintaining their homes and their independence? The solution will probably not come in the form of an outstanding moonshot (such as a discovery of the youth fountain), but rather as a battery of small innovations that work together to achieve something greater.
What my MIT AgeLab colleague Chaiwoo Lee and I imagine is a convergence of sensor, communication and AI technologies that transform the home into a platform of services to keep us connected, provide convenience and care when we age.
The growing intelligence of the daily digitized objects has made it possible for everything from kitchen appliances to home heating systems to control tasks by themselves. Many of these products are well-known: the Nest thermostat, the internet-enabled refrigerator, smart televisions, home surveillance systems, even the humble Roomba. Although home automation and entertainment automation is not new, the introduction of AI-based smart speakers, such as the Amazon Alexa and Google Home, has made connecting and controlling various technologies across the home much easier for people of all ages. These smart "hubs" are the basis for future connected homes.
Read: How to find the best place for you to retire
Smart devices alone do not make the home of a service platform. It's the combination of these devices along with an increasing number of on-demand service providers that create an ecosystem for services that will support the demands of retirees like Kyle and Vicky who want to stay in their homes.
Kyle Home Maintenance Routine will be much easier with home systems that not only monitor your home, but automatically connect to trusted service providers. The company Notion, for example, offers a multi-sensor system that can detect everything from air temperature to water leakage. Big home insurance companies now offer insurance discounts for homeowners who use such systems.
It is important to determine leakage, but that is the hard part. Notion has continued to work with Home Advisor, a professional pre-screening repair company, so when a leak is discovered, the home is connected to a vacant plumber. Intelligent device-plus service transforms a simple sensor into a comprehensive home service.
The home also develops as a platform for connected healthcare. AI-enabled devices and services help people deal with medical conditions, such as Kyle with their diabetes, and discover changes that can predict health care.
How should the home-like service be marketed, sold and maintained? These are the issues that have barely been answered even as Balloon's Internet balloons as a product category.
The Black & Decker home-mate Pria combines a clever medication manager with communication technologies that allow family members to monitor the cohorts, put on health reminders and video chats with a distant loved one.
Telehealth and teletherapy providers such as Teladoc are now delivering home video consultations with physicians for acute conditions such as influenza and smooth behavioral problems such as depression. Philips recently announced Sonicare Teledentistry, a service that allows users to share their brushing data remotely at a dentist.
In addition to connecting residents with care providers, the home can also be an active health and safety monitor. MIT startup Emerald is introducing autumn detection and health measurement technology that does not require users to wear a pendant or sensor. Instead, Emerald monitors activities and detects changes in behavior, such as lack of movement or change in motion, which predicts the likelihood of a fall.
Overall, these technologies can help Kyle and Vicky live better when they age and stay in their homes longer. But such an extensive range of devices also presents new questions and responsibilities to their users, not to mention the companies that hope to make money by selling them.
How should the home-like service be marketed, sold and maintained? These are the questions that have barely been answered even as the balloons as a product category. Few people will buy and integrate these devices and services at a time. Consumers can find great value in combining technologies and services that at first glance can seem like the world apart. The question is what kind of businesses are best suited to act as suppliers and brands for an expansive home technology package.
Technical behemoths like Amazon and Google look like the most talented players, given their resources and expansive presence, but others may arise. Home insurance companies can enter the business not only to insure against risk but sell tools that reduce or prevent risk. Communication companies such as cable and wireless providers, tools, and peer-to-peer companies such as UPS can find new ways to combine technologies and services together as branded platforms. Best Buys introduction of new services and technologies to support family caregivers can be seen as the beginning of a new service industry category for home logistics for an aging marketplace.
Another great advantage for Best Buy in this area is that it is a successful, well-known technical support support from the Geek Squad, which could solve the problems of installation and maintenance for a complex array of technologies. The fact that these devices will occupy the intimate room of the home makes their reliability and maintenance even more important. Few people, regardless of age, stay cool when they discover their smart toilet is on the fritz, and they will reward the aid effectively and efficiently. A supplier committed to play a role in the installation and continuous support for their products will have a doctor up on the competition.
A final question returns us to the older buyers and users who want the most from a home planning platform: How will retirees like Kyle and Vicky afford this? Storage for retirement has always led to accounting for large ticket costs such as housing and health services. Technology-oriented services are like a new and hitherto unrecognized pension cost. Aging baby boomers have come to believe that Wi-Fi connectivity is a basic need. Soon, technical services that were once considered a convenience will be crucial to care and a necessary cost for retirement well.
This cost can prove to be a moving target. It is difficult enough to predict which technologies will be available in the next decades without having to foresee what their prices will be. Potentially high costs can also present an equity problem as far as the less wealthy can afford important tools to age well.
In view of the widespread desire among older adults to age in place, many will consider the cost that is worth it. The internet has made life easier in every way; and turning the home into a service platform ̵
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