Good Health: Smart House to help seniors around home

University of Florida researchers working on home safety

By Frank McGeorge - Reporter

DETROIT - The population of older Americans is growing faster than ever, and many people are living longer than ever before. Many of those senior want to stay in their homes as long as possible, and Dr. Frank McGeorge took a look at how engineers are trying to make that easier.

With more than 78 million baby boomers just reaching their 60s, the number of seniors hoping to live independently into their golden years is quickly climbing. Unsurprisingly, a nation that is increasingly dependent on smart phones is hoping a "smart house" may hold the key.

"As we get older, we need all the help we can get," said Walter Kalaf, who knows what it feels like to be uncomfortable in his own home, especially after a knee surgery.

"I feel a little insecure getting in and out of the shower," Kalaf said.

Grab bars in the shower made a big difference, and that's just the start of things engineers at the University of Florida are testing to improve safety.

"An important aspect of the smart house is that it has to address entrance doors, hallways, doors, everything has to be oversized," said University of Florida researcher Sumi Helal, Ph.D. "Another feature is a pull down cabinet. You have a grab bar here and you're able to reach easier."

Something else that's already in stores is a fast-cooling stove that turns off automatically to prevent burns. Special knobs can also monitor and lock water temperature.

A walk-in shower threshold is also recommended.

There are also some futuristic ideas that would make the Jetsons proud. A smart microwave reads the food label and sets the cooking time automatically. A sleep application can sense a person's tosses and turns to measure sleep quality.

While some of the technology is still in the works, researchers say low-tech solutions are a great place to start in ensuring a high quality of life and independence at any age.

While we wait for the smart house of the future, the AARP has created a home fit guide to help seniors and their families make their existing houses safer. It feature important advice for each room of the home.

You can find the guide by clicking here.

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