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Give your parents a new lease of life

Emiratis over the age of 60 make up only 1% of the population, but this statistic is growing as the population ages. In the complex, busy world of the UAE, younger people no longer take the time to look after their parents and grandparents as they age. Luckily, our health in the UAE is generally very good, and remains so into our later years. However, because of the rising prevalence of diabetes, elderly people in the future may require more home-based, long-term care, which one study argues will minimise the need for government intervention.

One solution for looking after the elderly is the employment of brand new technology in a Smart Home.

What is a Smart Home?

We’ve all heard of Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, but a Smart Home goes further. Surpassing the idea of a gadget, this integrated technology regulates everything from movement sensors, the telephone, fridges and ovens, to a sensor inside a medicine cabinet to tell if it’s being opened regularly or not.

The key to living in a Smart Home, especially for the elderly and particularly for those living with dementia, is that it resembles a “normal” home. The idea is that the person living in the house doesn’t even realise the technology is there – they’re just going about their day while the technology monitors them in an indirect way. There’s no cameras, no wires, and it’s not intrusive. People with dementia respond better to familiar surroundings, so having a home that feels like their own home, with discreet technology to monitor them, is better for both the patient and caregiver.

These monitoring systems – movement sensors placed inside medicine boxes, bedrooms and lounges, and on fridges and doors – can be linked to an app on the caregiver’s phone. An instant report on how the patient or parent is moving, whether they’ve taken their medication properly, and if they haven’t moved in a long time can be sent direct to the linked smartphone.

Some eldercare experts even predict that the practice of elderly parents living with adult children will be a thing of the past soon. Elderly parents will live by themselves, with more independence, for longer, thanks in part to the idea of Smart Home.

How do we make a home Smart?

Stringing together these various bits of technology is no mean feat for an individual, even for our ‘Digital Native’ younger generations. But luckily, there are companies, such as du, that specialise in introducing the Internet of Things into our homes.

It starts by retro-fitting our everyday items within the home to respond to signals via the person’s WiFi connection. For example, doorbells, telephones, plugs, lighting, heating, and movement sensors can all be fitted with WiFi receptors to be monitored for usage frequency, or made to respond to commands.

Lightbulbs can change colour when it’s time to take medication, a great solution for forgetful patients, or when the telephone rings for the hard of hearing. When the action has occurred, the sensor in the telephone handle or the medication box triggers and the lightbulb goes back to normal.

These triggers help caregivers monitor the patient without being intrusive. Other technology is able to learn and recognise patterns, and when this pattern breaks, the application notifies the caregivers. This puts the carer’s mind at rest, and gives the parent or patient an enhanced feeling of independence.

And this is just the start of a Smart Future. The Internet of Things has boundless possibilities, but the question remains: how far do we allow artificial intelligence to monitor and control our lives?

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