Home Safety

The Pros and Cons of a Connected Home

- Home Safety

Technology is advancing faster than most of us can imagine. For those hoping to keep their senior loved ones at home longer, the new products on the market offer welcome solutions. In fact, connected devices – also known as the “Internet of Things,” or “IoT” – are expected to make up more than a billion dollars in annual U.S. sales by 2020. Seniors’ homes will certainly represent a significant portion of that revenue!

While these innovative tech ideas are certainly to be credited for the number of older loved ones experiencing more enriching lives through the practice of “aging in place,” they are not all that’s needed to keep mom or grandma in her home. For many, these solutions aren’t even solutions at all – as they assume certain amenities that may not be available in the senior home.

Let’s look at the benefits and drawback of the much-touted “connected home” – especially as it relates to senior care. An honest review of what’s working, and what’s not, should be explored before deciding on any of these products for your own situation.

Pros

1. Connected homes can improve communication.

Hardly anyone writes letters these days. While grandma may feel left out when she doesn’t receive that regular postal mail treat, connected homes give her a new – and often more consistent way – to send and receive communications to friends and loved ones. With everyone else using Facebook, text apps, and the latest photo sharing programs, your senior can stay part of the community she loves the most. Many connected homes have ways to keep in touch in every room, from the security camera by the front door to the Wi-Fi connected fridge in the kitchen!

2. Health and safety are number one.

Younger generations use the majority of their connected devices for research, social activities, and entertainment. While they are moving to incorporate more security and health services (in the form of security cameras, for example), it’s a ratio that still favors fun over functionality. For older consumers who don’t desire the amusement that connected homes provide, safety holds an amazing allure.

Knowing that they are protected from break-ins, can get help in a fall, or won’t mix up their meds in the middle of the night are all advantageous ways to utilize connected tech in the home. It is true that a segment of forward-thinking seniors only have to be introduced to the allure or Netflix and the ability to watch any home and garden show on demand to love the idea of Wi-fi, for example. For those who are resistant to embrace smart home tech for the fun of it, however, health and safety has been making converts of our oldest and wisest generation for a while now.

3. Institutional advantages are finally here.

Some of the perks of living in a retirement living facility include community, 24/7 support, and security. While living alone in the home can’t be made to be identical to living in an aging home, many institutional advances are now available to the everyday consumer through connected homes. Some of the same security systems, temperature controls, emergency service alerts, and medication management tools are now here for the average person to own and use on their own. These tools (coupled with skilled services in the form of nurse visits, meal prep services, and house cleaning) can offer a very similar atmosphere to the more innovative retirement communities. If it’s built on tech, it’s likely available to you — right now — for your home enjoyment.

4. It’s cheaper than you think.

The newest consumer tech to the market is priced at 400 – 800% above what ends up being the average price just two years later. That’s the nature of tech, and home automation is no different. The same security camera systems that cost thousands of dollars are now available for well under $400. Since many of our senior loved one’s homes are smaller (especially if you chose to “downsize” in the past few years), the need for more than a few cameras isn’t likely. More manageable homes mean you can get by with some of the smaller packages for products offered in home automation. That is good news for seniors on a budget who want the security and convenience of today’s tech but are making it on a pension or Social Security budget.

Cons

1. Customer Support is limited.

Currently, many of the medical alert devices on the market give you the option to connect to a 24/7 dedicated call center, where trained professionals can help answer questions or gauge the level of assistance needed. This can prevent costly and unnecessary calls to 911. For most of the connected home devices marketed to seniors, however, they are connected by wi-fi and directly send the caller to 911.

Not only will this likely result in accidental or unwarranted calls to already-stressed emergency call services, such as the police and paramedics, but the sheer thought that 911 will be activated is also enough for worried seniors to avoid using their devices for any help at all. A proud senior who may be unsure if they are experiencing a “true” emergency may forgo reaching out for help through their devices if they think their situation isn’t threatening enough.

2. Wi-Fi is required.

Most older Americans still read the newspaper, watch the local news on broadcast or cable TV, and listen to the radio. Their lives have been functioning quite well without wireless or broadband services, and they likely won’t switch over just for the opportunity to have a connected home. Since Wi-Fi is viewed by many seniors as an unnecessary, extra expense, it makes many a truly connected home impractical at the moment. When attitudes toward Wi-Fi change, and those who grew up using internet start to age, we’ll see this tide turn. For now, however, some seniors are a hard sell for installing Wi-Fi in the home – especially if they don’t use it for their own interests.

3. Voice activation is not reliable.

Talking to your home may seem strange to many of us, and while we are starting to embrace asking Siri for sports stats or Alexa for our next toilet paper order, the oldest generation isn’t yet a good match of this technology. Not only is the mere act of talking to a home ridiculous for some seniors, but it may also be difficult for frailer adults to speak loudly and clearly enough for some tech to pick up what they are saying. In the case of a senior who has fallen ill or is in real trouble, there’s nothing more reliable or dependable than the push of a button from a traditional medical alert pendant or assistive telephone device.

4. Setup isn’t always so simple.

While younger generations may be used to the concept of “plug and play,” for a senior who isn’t already using a smartphone, Roku stick, VOIP, wireless printer, and Wi-Fi thermostat, there can be quite a few challenges to becoming an efficient “smart home” aficionado. Starting from ground zero can be daunting as a concept, but even the execution of piecing together all the components – and teaching the senior how to use them – can take time.

Many of the electronics stores and manufacturers have a limited amount of customer support but may not be trained in dealing with users with mobility, hearing, or speech limitations. Securing the system, developing easy-to-remember passwords, and training seniors how to reset the system or troubleshoot in the even of wi-fi connection issues may take a more highly-trained professional to implement. Older consumers who are used to using connected devices may embrace them, but as upgraded models will require continual change, it may be an overall concept that is harder to sell to someone who likes things the way they are.

Is a connected home for you or your senior loved one?

The answer is always “depends.” While the best intentions can be declared and made by purchasing the more reliable tech on the market, if your family member won’t use it or do the bare minimum to maintain or ensure it’s functionality, it can be difficult to justify. In the case where the right home tech can keep your senior in the home longer, the answer may lie in being very honest about the situation. By explaining that these products are “different” but “necessary” the idea of home automation can be sold quite easily. Most of us have come to be very attached to the homes we have lived in over the years. It only makes sense that they continue to serve us well until our very last, wonderful days.

5 Home Security Tips for Your Senior Loved One

- Home Safety

When someone we care about ages, it can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions that need to be made regarding health care, financial responsibilities, and independence, and this means some important matters – such as home security – can be overlooked. When it comes to making sure your senior loved one is safe, however, it helps to have an action plan that covers the basics. Here are some of the most effective ways to ensure that their residence is a secure and healthy environment for them to live out their best years.

  1. Ensure Outside Security

With so many scary news stories warning us of burglars and package pirates, it may not seem like anyone can be safe these days. The good news is that criminals tend to look for “soft” targets, and having a home that looks protected is more than half the battle of keeping bad guys away. Even if your loved one can’t afford the most up-to-date security system, any visible deterrent will help. Adequate lighting near all of the entrances, as well as sturdy and modern-looking locks on all doors and windows, may be all that is needed to tell crooks to “keep walking.”

You’ll also want to put yourself in the situation of your loved one and see what it’s like for them to greet guests. Do they have to open the door to see who is outside? Is it difficult to make out visitors from a safe distance? Will they need to choose between privacy and security? Ensure that their doors and windows allow for them to see what’s going on without putting them at risk. If a doorbell is installed, make sure it works and that it can be heard from all areas of the home.

  1. Foster Communication

If something does go wrong, does your loved one know who to call? If so, is there an easy way to get ahold of help 24/7? With so many medical alert systems on the market today (and at reasonable prices), there is no reason for them to ever be alone in an emergency.

In addition, their traditional phone should be portable, or older corded devices should be placed where they can get to them quickly in all levels of the home. Family members’ numbers can be placed into the speed dial setting for help with a button push. All devices should be checked regularly to ensure they function well and don’t need batteries or components replaced.

  1. Protect Against Smoke, Fire, and Poison

We are usually very good at making sure our own homes are protected, but when is the last time you asked about the fire alarm installed in your loved one’s residence? Annual smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector checks are essential for any home, and many local agencies will be happy to perform these at no charge. Ask about radon tests, which are sometimes given out for free from city offices and county extension agencies. A small kitchen fire extinguisher should be placed in the home, as well. (“Push-button” models are quick to activate for even those with even limited mobility or strength.)

While rare, food poisoning can be even more harmful to an older person, as they often have a weaker immune system. Regularly check for expired foods or recalled items, and keep a temperature monitor in the fridge and freezer to ensure they are keeping the temps required to combat bacteria and spoilage.

  1. Prevent Falls

Falls are currently the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in our oldest populations, with one in four people over 65 falling each year. According to the National Council on Aging, the fear of falling can make it hard for our older loved ones to live happy and fulfilling lives – often leading to depression and further physical decline. Fortunately, falling doesn’t have to be a normal part of aging, and many falls are completely preventable (with little cost and effort!)

Taking steps to prevent falls can be as simple as going through the home with your loved one and watching how they move. Do they avoid areas, tip-toe, scoot, or maneuver in odd ways? They may have already formed habits to avoid falling, instead of taking action to fix the problem. This is your time to ask them about the “danger areas” they already know about while committing to making them safer.

Some common fall hazards in a home include:

  • Stairways in both the home and outside
  • Loose carpeting or misplaced rugs
  • Electrical and extension cords
  • Bath and shower surfaces
  • Toilet that is too high, not seated properly, loose, or broken
  • Wet floors from leaky fixtures or humidity
  • Clutter on floors, stairs, and furniture

Fall hazards can change. Keep an eye on new developments in the home, and look into devices that can alleviate some of the stress of near-falls, such as safety railings, anti-slip mats, and shower chairs.

  1. Keep Finances Secure

Older loved ones are more vulnerable to financial schemes and scams, which often center around technology that they may not be familiar with or resemble legitimate communications from their bank, health insurer, or the IRS. Take time to learn about new scams regularly, and discuss the red flags for each. Foster open communication so that your loved ones feels safe telling about near scams or even ones that they have fallen victim of. Reinforce the following rules regarding sensitive personal info: 

  • Never give out your Social Security Number
  • Keep your Medicare card safe, including the new cards (which will be mailed out without SS numbers in the future)
  • Don’t share bank account or credit card information over the phone
  • Never assume you’ve won a prize or lottery that you don’t remember entering
  • Never pay a fee to accept an award, prize, inheritance, or settlement
  • Keep tax and financial records secure, in a locked and fire-proof safe, and away from visitors and hired help

Above all, stress that nothing is so urgent that it can’t wait for your loved one to take a message and consult a relative or professional for guidance. If someone insists action must be taken immediately on a financial matter, it is more than likely a scam.

It can take some time to make the home as safe as possible, and that’s OK. Big changes are made up of many, many small changes, and just doing a few things here and there will have positive effects for your loved one. If you have a family care plan, consider placing a to-to list of all of these items in the back, along with an action plan for who is responsible for each. With some help, the safest place to live can be the same long-time home that your loved one already knows and cherishes.

How Your Social Media Activity Could be Jeopardizing Your Security

How Your Social Media Activity Could be Jeopardizing Your Security

- Home Safety

More than 15 million Americans were victims of identity fraud in 2016 

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Candle Safety Tips For Valentine’s Day & Every Day

Candle Safety Tips For Valentine’s Day & Every Day

The romantic glow of a candlelit room can generate more heat than light – unless the candles start an actual fire. Even if you’re careful with your candles, there’s still a chance that sparks will fly. These candle safety tips will help you heat up your relationship without burning down your house.

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Crime Mentions in Music

Crime Mentions in Music

- Home Safety

 

Our culture has always influenced music. One recurring theme in modern music is crime. While every musical genre is different, most include some mention of illegal activity.

But how much of music mentions crime? Which musicians sing about it the most, and which types of crime? And has music always been like this? 

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Firearm Background Checks per State

Firearm Background Checks per State

- Home Safety

There is no way to know how many guns will be sold in the U.S. this year.

To better understand the patterns of gun sales in the U.S., we examined the number of background checks initiated through the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in 2016 (through August, the last month data were available at the time of this writing). We compared the data to privately conducted background checks, as well as the total number of registered firearms in each state for the year, to ascertain not just how many guns are being sold, but how many guns are possibly being sold without extensive background checks being conducted. Read on to see what we uncovered.

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Tracking Down Guns

Tracking Down Guns

- Home SafetyHome Security

While you might feel safe living in a state with strict gun control laws, it is possible for weapons stolen or reported missing to end up in an entirely different state. To help detect firearm trafficking and solve firearm crimes, as well as track movements of guns associated with crimes, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) provides critical information that helps domestic and international law enforcement agencies.

We took a look at the journey many guns go on after they are purchased. Continue reading to see what we discovered about tracing lost or stolen guns in the U.S.

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Crimes for Cash

Crimes for Cash

Hypothetically speaking, what would you do for a large sum of money? Would you punch someone? Vandalize public property? Rob a bank? Kill somebody? Just how much cash would it take to make you commit these acts? Humans are complex beings. If these questions – and the answers – make you uncomfortable, you’re far from alone. 

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Summer Crime Rates Rise Along With The Thermometer

Summer Crime Rates Rise Along With The Thermometer

- Home SafetyHome Security

“Those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” can get really crazy. Summer crime rates increase, particularly in large cities. Learn about the effects of temperature on criminal behavior – and how to protect yourself and your property.

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Home Security Cameras Help Police Catch Burglars

Home Security Cameras Help Police Catch Burglars

- Home Safety

 

“Burglaries are difficult crimes to solve because there are usually no witnesses,” police say. Fewer than half of burglaries are reported to police and only 10% of those cases are solved. Your home security system is your first line of defense – and a home security camera may provide the only clues police have about the burglar’s identity.

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