Let's Connect the
Aging in Place Homeowner
to the Outside World
2009 was the year in which broadband access for the 65+ demographic doubled from 19% to 30%. For baby boomers, make that from 50% to 61%. What are people doing with all this connectivity?
Well, according to Forrester's just-out survey, 70% of those 55 and older use social technologies once per month -- to connect themselves to others outside their home. Older adults also look online for health-related advice -- 31% of all Internet usage is spent accessing more than 62,000 health-related websites.Or maybe they wish to purchase a product, find a restaurant, get directions, get a job, or watch a video sent by a family member. High-speed internet is as essential to accessibility as the widened doorway -- in fact it is the virtual widened doorway to information and the outside world.
So let's think about universal design principles applied to technology in the home. First of all, check to see if the owner has a good combined plan for high speed internet access and telephone, maybe a plan that includes TV.
Are there Internet jacks in every room near surfaces where a laptop can be easily used? Does the home have wireless, so that laptops become portable? Are household members able to easily share and physically access a printer? Are shelves for storing supplies (like paper) near the printer? Can chargers for cell phones, smart phones, and computer be easily plugged in and accessed without tripping over them? How about a touch screen and enlarged font software for the laptop or computer in the kitchen?
Think long-term, the way designers think about doorways. For those owners who are afraid of computers, can the home designer recommend a local technology services provider? A good set up now will be ready later if telehealth monitoring, home chronic disease self-testing, passive activity monitors, fall detection devices, in-home care robots, environmental sensors are ever needed.
All will be more effective if the house has wireless home network to collect information and that the information can be transmitted quickly and easily via broadband. And even houses of older seniors should be tech-updated to accommodate those highly connected 100-year-olds surveyed in the Evercare study. Tech-phobic today doesn't imply tech-phobic tomorrow.
The future will make the present look technologically uninhabitable. In our baby boomer aging future, the vast majority of us will expect to experience web cameras, virtual doctor visits (via camera), Internet-based telephones, voice recognition security systems, GPS location cell phones, video family get-togethers, home fitness programs and even more music downloaded to our MP3 players. Our homes will be our tech-enabled castles -- easy to traverse in every way.