How Smart Home Tech Can Help Older Adults

Smart home technology isn’t just for young people. Older adults can also reap the benefits of a voice or app-controlled home, including home security, convenience, comfort, and connection.

We’ll explain all of the benefits of a smart home for seniors and the best products to consider for your loved one.



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1. Home security and safety

People of all ages benefit from a home security system, but there are a few pieces of equipment that should be top priorities for seniors.

Video doorbells

Best video doorbell overall

Let’s say the doorbell rings but your loved one isn’t expecting anyone. They might wonder if it’s worth getting up to answer the door or whether it would even be safe to do so. Plus, seeing the visitor through the peephole may not be as easy as it used to be if they’ve begun to shrink or stoop with age.

A smart video doorbell offers an easy solution. By using the doorbell’s smartphone app, your loved one can see who’s there without getting up or unlocking the door. They can even carry on a conversation through two-way audio.

View our full list of the best video doorbell cameras.

Smart door locks

Best smart door lock for seniors

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

With a smart door lock, your parent can unlock the door for guests with a simple voice command or through their smartphone. In some cases, the lock can also be incorporated into the security system so that it locks as soon as the system is armed. Or, it can be part of a home automation routine so that the door unlocks when your parent pulls up in their car after running errands.

Pretty cool, right? But the biggest benefit of a smart door lock—especially one with a keypad like the Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt—is the ability for you, a neighbor, or first responders to get into the house fast when there’s an emergency.

No more fiddling with a lockbox, looking for the hide-a-key, or trying to kick in the door. If you have access to the lock’s app, you can unlock it at any time and for anyone. Or you can create a PIN and share it with trusted friends and family members so they can get in through the keypad.

Don’t forget to give the PIN to the home security or medical alert monitoring center too. They’ll share it with dispatchers in the event of an emergency.

View our full list of the best smart door locks.

Security systems with senior-friendly features

When choosing a security system for an aging parent, you’ll want the basics like entry sensors for each exterior door and motion sensors for larger rooms and hallways to let intruders know they’ve been spotted.

But if you choose a few extra products and services, the security system doubles as a medical alert system:

  • Wall-mounted panic buttons placed in reach of the bathtub or at the bottom of the stairs allow your parent to get help if they fall.
  • A wearable panic button makes it easy to call for help anywhere in the home.
  • Visual alarm verification lets the monitoring center view camera footage so they dispatch the right emergency personnel (such as an ambulance versus a fire truck) and know what they can expect on arrival.
  • Medically trained monitors can give first-aid advice while simultaneously dispatching first responders.

ADT is the best home security system for seniors

Best home security system for seniors
ADT SafeStreets logo
ADT
Monitoring starts at
$27.99
/mo

ADT is the only home security company that offers all of the above. The only caveat is that you’ll need to sign up for ADT’s medical alert system and their home security system to get the panic buttons, but you might be able to get a discount on your monthly rate when bundling these services. Don’t hesitate to call a rep to make sure you get what you need.

Learn more in our reviews of ADT Home Security and ADT Medical Alerts.

2. Convenience and comfort

Once older adults settle into their favorite recliner, they usually like to stay put. (You would too if you had arthritis, a fused back, or a couple of metal knees.) And if they live alone, there’s no one to help out with minor tweaks—like adjusting the thermostat—once they’ve gotten comfy.

At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, smart gadgets make it possible for your aging parent to do all kinds of tasks from anywhere in the home, allowing them to simplify their life without feeling helpless.

Here’s how it all works.

Voice control through a smart home hub

One approach is to teach your loved one how to give verbal commands to a smart home hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Nest Hub. As long as they say the right voice cues, they can control any number of connected smart devices throughout their home.

The tricky part is teaching them exactly what to say to get the smart hub to cooperate. (I’m a whippersnapper and sometimes struggle myself.) Here are a few examples:

  • “Alexa, turn off the porch light.”
  • “Hey Google, make it warmer.”
  • “Alexa, turn on the Roku.”
  • “Hey Google, close the blinds.”
  • “Alexa, ask Smart Feed to feed the cat a snack.”

Of course, you’ll also need smart devices—like smart lightbulbs, a smart thermostat, a smart TV, smart blinds, and a smart pet feeder—for these commands to work.

Pros and cons of smart home voice commands for seniors

With voice control, there’s no need for your loved one to keep track of their phone to perform these commands. But it’s a good idea to place more than one smart speaker throughout their home so they can easily use it whenever the need arises.

Voice commands work best for people who have relatively loud voices and who can hear the hub’s feedback. For example, they’ll need to try again if Alexa says, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t do that.” App control may work better for people with hearing impairments.

Which smart hub is best for seniors?

Unless you’re a die-hard Google fan or already have some Google Nest products, we recommend choosing an Amazon Echo as your smart hub.

On the one hand, it’s a numbers game: more than 100,000 products are compatible with Amazon Echo or have the Alexa voice assistant built-in, whereas Google works with half as many products.1,2 So if you find a cool new smart gadget, chances are it’ll work with an Amazon Echo.

In particular, we recommend an Amazon Echo Show 10 for aging parents and caregivers. Jump down to find out why.

For more details, check out our head-to-head comparison of Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home.

Device control through smartphone apps

If your parent doesn’t warm up to the idea of bossing around a virtual assistant, they can control smart home devices through smartphone apps.

But there are some downsides to this method of smart home control:

  1. They’ll have to keep their smartphone handy at all times.
  2. They have to keep their phone charged and their reading glasses handy.
  3. The sheer number of apps that they might have to use can get confusing.

Fortunately, the app issue is easy to solve by connecting everything to a smart hub like Alexa. Instead of opening dozens of apps to try to find the one that’ll turn on the porch light, for example, they can find it in the Alexa app.

Everything else is a matter of preference. If possible, get a smart hub and teach your loved one how to use its app and its voice control features. The app can be used when silence is necessary (such as when the grandbaby finally fell asleep), whereas the voice options can be used when their hands are full.

Automatic smart home routines

You can also program smart devices to perform actions at a specific time of day or in response to a certain command.

For example, in the morning you might have the porch light turn off, the hallway and bathroom lights turn on, the TV or radio play a news station, the cat feeder serve breakfast, and the sprinkler system turn on. Your loved one won’t have to lift a finger.

At night, the lights could dim, soft music could play, and the doors could automatically lock. The possibilities are endless and completely customizable.

Light Bulb
Routines may improve health

Smart home routines are more than just futuristic fun. Sticking to a schedule helps people of all ages lower their stress levels and get better sleep.3,4 

3. Connection and independence

Smart home devices can also strengthen connections with older friends and family members while they maintain independence.

Amazon Echo Show 10

Best smart hub for seniors

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

A smart speaker and tablet rolled into one, the Amazon Echo Show 10 has a couple of features that are perfect for older adults and the people who love them:

  • Video calls with one or more family members
  • Audio drop-in so caregivers can talk to their loved ones without waiting for them to answer
  • Video drop-in with motion panning so caregivers can see what’s going on in the room and make sure their loved one is okay
  • A privacy shutter for the camera and microphone to prevent drop-ins at inopportune moments
Bell
Alternatives lack caregiver-friendly features

The audio and video drop-in features aren’t available on the Echo Show 10’s biggest rivals—Google Nest Hub Max and Lenovo Smart Display—which is why we’re Team Alexa for aging parents and caregivers.

The Echo Show 10 works with all of Alexa’s usual voice-activated commands, but you can also ask it to do some extra things, thanks to its screen:

  • Pull up recipes
  • Start a photo slideshow
  • Stream a TV show or movie
  • View live footage from your video doorbell or security camera

Put it anywhere your parent spends most of their time. It’s meant to stay put on a table or countertop, so there’s no need to lug it around.

Alexa Together

Remote caregiving assistance
Alexa Together
$19.99
/mo

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

For a monthly fee, you can add some extra functionality to your parent’s Echo Show device through Alexa Together. For example, this subscription gives your parents the ability to call 911 with a voice command.

The service is also compatible with a few automatic fall detection devices. You can even get activity reports to make sure your loved one is up and at ‘em each day.

But the really cool thing about Alexa Together is that you can remotely control your loved one’s smartphone. That might be a hard pill for your parent to swallow from a privacy perspective, but this feature does have some cool uses. For example, you can temporarily access their phone through your phone to set up reminders or smart home automations that they might not know how to program themselves.

Learn more in our full Alexa Together review.

Aloe Care Health

Best medical alert system for caregivers
Aloe Care Health
Aloe Care Health
Starts at
$99.99 + $24.99
/mo

A medical alert system helps seniors live independently while providing quick access to emergency medical technicians.

Of all our recommended medical alerts, Aloe Care Health does the best job of promoting a connection between loved ones and caregivers. It has some of the same features as Alexa Together, such as activity reports and voice-activated assistance from caregivers or professional medical monitors. It also includes a mobile GPS device and a fall detection device.

And if your loved one needs to call the pros, you’re instantly alerted through Aloe Care Health’s caregiver app and can even patch into the call.

Learn more about how this system performed during our tests in our full Aloe Care Health review.

Or, check out these resources:

Thumbs Up
Mobile GPS help buttons give seniors a confidence boost

Your parent might be more willing to go for a walk or run errands alone if they know help is just a button-press away. View our full lineup of recommended mobile GPS help buttons.

4. Memory care

Mild forgetfulness—which isn’t the same as Alzheimer’s or dementia5—is a normal part of the aging process. But it can start to have significant consequences if your parent can’t remember taking their medicine, forgets to show up for doctor appointments, or loses their car more often than they used to. Tech can help.

Smart medication dispensers

Smart medication dispenser
Hero Health
$99.99 + $29.99
/mo

Low-tech pill organizers are helpful for tracking morning and evening medications, but they don’t protect your loved one from accidental overdoses. A smart medication dispenser like Hero Health keeps the extra tablets locked away until the next dosing period.

You can also read our medication tracking devices guide for more options.

Lost item trackers

Bluetooth item tracker
Tile Pro
Tile Mate
$24.99

*Amazon.com price as of post date. Read full disclaimer.

Consider adding a Tile Mate tracker or Apple AirTag to your parent’s car keys and tucking a second one into their wallet. These trackers make it easy to find valuables without having to tear the house apart.

If your parent has a smartphone or smartwatch, turn on the “Find my phone” feature before it gets lost.

Smart hub reminders

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and other smart home hubs can give audio reminders about absolutely anything. Use them to remind your loved one to take their medication, to get ready for an appointment, or to wish someone a happy birthday.

Tech to help you care for a parent with Alzheimer’s or dementia

If your parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, use smart home technology to help orient them and manage any tendencies to wander.

This digital day clock shows the day of the week, time, month, day, and year in large letters. It also puts the time into context (such as “dawn” or “evening”) and gives visual and audio reminders about what to do at specific times—such as eat breakfast or go to the bathroom.

It’s also smart to use GPS trackers for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s just in case they wander away from home. But the tricky part is making sure they wear the tracker and don’t take it off. Motion-sensing cameras or pressure mats set up near the front door can also notify you when someone walks out so you can quickly follow.

Final word

Smart home devices make it easier for seniors to live alone without feeling disconnected or vulnerable. If your loved one seems intimidated, start with something fun like playing TV shows or music on the Echo Show 10.

Related articles on SafeWise


Sources

  1. Frederica Laricchia, Statista, “Total Number of Smart Devices That Are Compatible with Amazon’s Alexa as of July 2020,” February 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  2. Google Nest Help, “Services and Smart Devices That Work With Google Assistant.” Accessed April 20, 2022.
  3. Samantha J. Heintzman and Laura A. King, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, “Routines and Meaning in Life,” September 2018. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  4. Eric Sun, Sleep Foundation, “Healthy Sleep Tips,” March 2022. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  5. National Institute on Aging, “Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease?” January 2018. Accessed April 20, 2022.

Disclaimer

*Product prices and availability are accurate as of post date and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. Safewise.com utilizes paid Amazon links.

Certain content that appears on this site comes from Amazon. This content is provided “as is” and is subject to change or removal at any time.

Google, Google Nest Secure, Nest Doorbell, and other related marks are trademarks of Google LLC.

Cathy Habas
Written by
Cathy Habas
With over seven years of experience as a content writer, Cathy has a knack for untangling complex information. Her natural curiosity and ability to empathize help Cathy offer insightful, friendly advice. She believes in empowering readers who may not feel confident about a purchase, project, or topic. Cathy earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Indiana University Southeast and began her professional writing career immediately after graduation. She has contributed to sites like Safety.com, Reviews.com, Hunker, and Thumbtack. Cathy’s pride and joy is her Appaloosa “Chacos.” She also likes to crochet while watching stand-up comedy specials on Netflix.

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