Smart House for Seniors

ORLANDO – While most Americans aren't comfortable talking about aging, others are actively planning how to live independently. An experimental smart house of the future shows us what the future of elderly independence looks like.

Walter Kalaf knows what it's like to feel uncomfortable in his own home especially after knee surgery. "As we get older we need all the help we can get" Kalaf explained, "I felt a little insecure getting in and out of the shower."

Grab bars in the shower made a big difference. Kalaf told Ivanhoe, "Not having those to hang on to, I think I might of felt a little bit more uneasy about the possibility of falling."

That's why engineers at the University of Florida are studying ways of improving independent living and researching what they call a "smart house". 

Sumi Helal, PhD, Director of Gator Tech Smart House told Ivanhoe, "An important aspect of the smart house is that it has to address entrances doors, hallways, doors, everything has to be oversized."

"We have a sensor on the flush simply to know that the person has started their day, and to know that he or she is flushing" Helal explained.  "Another feature is a pull down cabinet, you have a grab bar."

Something else that's already in stores is a fast cooling stove that turns off automatically to prevent burns. And, special knobs monitor and lock water temperature while grab bars around the shower and a walk in threshold are also recommended.

Meanwhile, engineers are researching some futuristic ideas. A smart microwave that reads the food label and sets the cooking time automatically and an application that senses a person's tosses and turns and measures sleep quality.

But since not all of this technology is available at stores yet, researchers say low tech solutions are a great start to ensure quality of life and independence at any age.

An AARP report shows nine out of 10 people 65 and over would like to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.  For a list of more home safety tips go to AAPR home fit guide.