Have you Boomer-proofed your Home?

Should you downsize your home?Your kids have grown, and they left you empty nested. You no longer need that big house and may have already considered downsizing. 77% of boomers have, considered it at least. But have you done anything about it? Less than 29% have a strategy for downsizing or modifying their home for aging in place.

Face it; you too are getting older, one day or one year at a time. You need to start planning for retirement, sometime. But like many boomers, you hate planning. Maybe it’s because you still feel young. Is that why you still don’t have a will or don’t manage your investments actively? Are you one of those people who don’t even open their 401k statements?

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An iPad for All Ages

No computer skills required … and now no computer either


iPad for the Ages - from Toddlers to Seniors

Flickr photo credits: Toddler by umpcportal.com, Senior by Courosa, licensed under Creative Commons


Everyone says the Apple iPad is intuitive, easy to learn, and easy to use. It almost seems tailored to toddlers and seductive to seniors. Grandparents and great grandparents with no prior computer experience can reconnect with family and make new friends online with email, social media, and video conferencing. But as easy and seductive as  iPad is, it still required a PC or Mac in order to download or upgrade its software. Not any more. Apple changed that last week with its iCloud announcement and its latest iOS 5 operating system.

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Need to Redo your Loo?

Revitalizing Your Home

Available in bookstores and at Amazon.com

Before remodeling, check out AARP’s free webinar, “Transform Your Bathroom Through Good Design and Innovative Products,” and their paperback book, “Guide to Revitalizing Your Home: Beautiful Living for the Second Half of Life.”

The webinar featured dozens of photos showing innovative ideas, many using universal design concepts. I selected a 21 sample photos to include in this article but encourage you to watch the webinar to see them all and hear the commentary.

Remodeling for accessibility can be quite attractive and increase a home’s value. Click on each image below to see the high-res version, and notice the design features, such as wheelchair accessible showers, folding shower seats and handheld shower heads, designer grab bars and mirrors, cabinets with knee space and storage, and smart toilets.

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Mini Eco-i-Lite: When a Great Product Review Turns Bad

Mini Eco-i-Lite, available at retailers like Amazon.com, Container Store and OfficeDepotBeing a digital home consultant and an advocate for universal design and simplicity, one of my favorite home automation gadgets is the nightlight with photocell. It improves the safety of moving about in a dark room, because it turns on when it’s dark and off when it’s light. Like magic, when you turn on the room’s light(s), the little nightlight turns off; and when you turn off the lights, the nightlight turns on again. That’s why I was happy to find a new version and wanted to write about it.

While visiting OfficeDepot in Houston, I discovered the Mini Eco-i-Lite. It only costs about $10 and combines the functions of a nightlight, power failure light, and flashlight. How cool is that? By addressing the combined benefits of safety, ease of use, and sustainability, it seems ideal for the elderly, so I bought one and planned to write a glowing review about it here. But all is not what it seems.

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Seniors Learn to Use & Appreciate iPad

The iPad may be the Ultimate in universal design. If cats can play games especially designed for them, and infants use iPads for play and as a learning tools, then surely seniors at any age can use this cool device for everything from emailing their children and grandchildren, downloading books and music and recipes, researching old haunts and finding out what they look like today, playing games, and even playing piano music on the touch screen. This article includes three embedded videos (below). One is about cats (it got 2,500 hits on YouTube), one about infants (from my local TV station), and one about seniors (from Colorado 9 News).

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Next Phase of Homecare Growth: Age in Place Technologies

By Nina Dunn, Spector & Associates, 5/12/2011

In the coming years, Americans will face demographic changes that will fundamentally shift our healthcare system and the way we age. The sheer number of baby boomers approaching retirement age, their affluence and their more progressive view of technology all influence the development of scientific innovations that will enhance the quality of life for those who wish to age in place.

Today, family caregivers and even seniors themselves are searching for a complete elder care solution, and Ambient Assisted Living might be exactly what they are looking for. Already popular in Europe, this concept can help our seniors remain socially active and stay connected and independent for a longer time.

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MEDCottage: a place for mom


MEDCottage introduces new way to care for loved ones

Home health care can avoid higher costs of institutional care in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but making space may be an issue. Fortunately, there are many options. You can give grandma the spare bedroom, convert a garage into living space, remodel the home, or add a small cottage on your property.

That last option is the idea behind MEDCottage, a charming modular home that serves as a “mini-medical facility.” It’s designed like a deluxe trailer for the elderly, but it doesn’t look like a trailer. I like the idea of relying on experts to integrate various systems, where the combined value is greater than the sum benefits of each part.

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Tablets Open the Digital World to Older Adults

by Angel Carl, Right at Home, May 17, 2011

With more than 75 computer tablets showcased at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, one industry analyst has christened 2011 as the “Year of the Tablet.” Accompanying all the buzz over this new technology is the promise it holds for connecting the disconnected, including older adults who have struggled with setting up a personal computer, installing software and dealing with annoying error notifications.

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A vision of cloud based accessibility

by Wayne Caswell, Modern Health Talk

About the submission

Lifted by the Cloud is a 7min vision video of cloud-based accessibility submitted by Modern Health Talk founder Wayne Caswell  as part of a contest sponsored by the FCC, the Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities, and Raising the Floor. It’s based on the author’s 2006 presentation on BIG Broadband and Gigabit-to-the-Home. The source PowerPoint slides and a script with additional information are available online. Read More …

Smart Toilets, a royal flush for Home Healthcare?

Passive devices like wireless motion sensors and Nike+ sensors in running shoes are great ways to monitor activity and progress, but what about your chemical makeup? Toilets, it seems, are ideal places to check bodily fluids automatically and on a regular basis. A Huffington Post article about Kohler’s smart toilet caused me to write this with my own twist and with more focus on home healthcare.

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In the Hands of Machines, about healthcare robots

Robots and other assistive technology may be inevitable in aged care moving into the future, but can they replace the human touch? Annie May reports. Reprinted with permission from Aged Care INsite, Apr/May 2011

Matilda the robot can read emotions

Click image to watch video: "Matilda the robot can read emotions"

Standing at just 40cm tall and looking suspiciously like the latest toy their grandchildren have been dropping hints about for their upcoming birthdays, Matilda the robot doesn’t give the impression that she has much to offer in the way of care for the elderly.

So when placed in front of an aged care resident to talk about her diet, the resident doesn’t have high expectations. But on admitting to having a love of sweets, Matilda is quick to inform her about all the negative health impacts this indulgence can have. Becoming slightly anxious, – whether a result of being lectured by a bright orange robot or at the thought of having to cut back on her sweets – the resident is then shocked at being reassured by the robot.

How can it be that this baby-face robot can read emotions and give a sensitive response? The result of a breakthrough by Melbourne and Japanese scientists, Matilda is one of two robots, the other her brother Jack, which has been developed with ’emotional intelligent’ software.

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Wanderers welcome: New technologies for resident safety

By Julie Williamson, 4/01/2011, with permission from McKnight’s Long-Term Care News & Assisted Living

Much of Julie’s advice for assisted living centers can also help people with neurological problems stay longer in the familiar surroundings of their homes, so I thank her for letting me republish it here.

As more seniors enter assisted living with mild to moderate dementia, operators are faced with a somewhat daunting dilemma: how they can keep residents who tend to wander safe, without stripping them of their independence and freedom to roam the community they call home.

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Do Hands-free faucets really harbor germs?

Hands-free Faucets Harbor Germs

A motion-activated faucet in a Los Angeles-area home. Such faucets at the Johns Hopkins Hospital were found to breed more Legionella bacteria than traditional manual fixtures. (Christine Cotter/ Los Angeles Times)

According to reporter Eryn Brown of the LA Times, the electronic hands-free faucets save water but can spread germs. So how’s that?

I don’t know, but apparently folks at Johns Hopkins Hospitals in Baltimore discovered that their new faucets were so much more contaminated with bacteria that they ripped them out and went back to the conventional lever-handle type.

Read whole story here.

Bathroom Solutions for the Ages

Marketers have noticed the changing needs and immense purchasing power of baby boomers, and their companies are responding with product design and messaging that’s directly aimed at this demographic. They are also realizing that products designed for seniors and the disabled don’t have to scream, “I’m old and frail or handicapped!”

KOHLER's Aging-in-Place line


Kohler’s line of “Aging in Place” products typifies good Universal Design since they can fit well in any bathroom. Rather than detract from the value of a home, Kohler’s products add functionality, comfort, convenience, and value. Although the Kohler products featured in their microsite target people with arthritis, osteoporosis and other debilitating conditions, they can just as easily benefit someone with a simple sprained ankle.

My point is that everyone has a disability sometime, so products should acknowledge and support that. It may be too dark or too bright to see clearly, or the home may have filled with smoke from a fire. It may be too noisy to hear, either from loud guests at your party or that darn smoke detector going off again. You may have both arms full of groceries and find that opening the door or turning on the lights is difficult.

Shown in this photo are:

  • Pedestal Sink with knee space for a wheelchair that provides an airy feel and makes the room look larger
  • Lever faucet is easy to turn on without twisting and helps eliminate scalding
  • Comfortable height toilet has grab bars nearby
  • Bath also has grab bars and an handheld shower head with adjustable height

Over the next few months, I’ll add more articles about Universal Design, but I wrote this one after visiting the Kohler site.

What’s it like to be Old?

In this 7min Flash video, NBC’s Peter Alexander reports on understanding & preparing for old age.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


  • 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day in the U.S. alone.
  • In 20 years, 72 million people (20% of the population) will be 65 or over.
  • MIT’s AgeLab is studying the problem with help from AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System), a special suit that gives wearers the experience of being 74 years old as they carry out daily activities.
  • The goal of MIT’s research is to help companies reinvent products and services for an aging population. [But rather than design specifically for the elderly, we encourage Universal Design concepts that work for everyone.]

For more info on the MIT AgeLab and their AGNES suit, see this New York Times article.

Household Tips for Aging in Place

Most Americans want to stay in their homes as they age.

Source: AARP & National Association of Home Builders

AARP says the vast majority of Americans over age 50 want to stay in their homes as they age. We’d rather stay in familiar surroundings with treasured memories and nearby friends and neighbors than seek assisted living and other options. Most homes, however, weren’t designed with that objective in mind. Often built by and for younger generations, they can pose hazards to someone with impaired mobility, balance or vision. Fortunately, some relatively inexpensive adaptations can accommodate life changes as we age. This article addresses the simplest of them.

Safety & Mobility

As we get older, or suffer an injury or other disability, our sore joints, weakened muscles, and a lack of balance, dexterity and vision make simple tasks difficult, including reaching, bending, lifting, and moving about more. This can contribute to accidents and affect our personal hygiene, nutrition, and well-being.

So remember what Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” With planning and preparation, you can help prevent falls and injuries rather than react to them.
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Technology and Collaboration for Quality Aging

By Dr. Joseph Coughlin at MIT (Copyright 2010)

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt of an excerpt, based on an original essay by Joseph Cough­lin, Direc­tor of MIT Age­Lab. Coughlin’s essay was part of Longevity Rules: How to Age Well Into the Future, a collection of 34 essays by leading longevity experts that help pol­i­cy­mak­ers and the pub­lic bet­ter under­stand the aging expe­ri­ence.

Aging is not for wimps. Liv­ing well takes lots of work, even if liv­ing longer is now com­mon­. Longevity cre­ates new tasks or “jobs” for indi­vid­u­als, fam­i­lies, professional care­givers and pub­lic agen­cies. Technology can help, but it’s just part of the answer. It’s too often dri­ven by those who are pas­sion­ate about inven­tion but lack inno­va­tion – that is, putting ideas to prac­ti­cal use. The ques­tions that should be asked by pol­i­cy­mak­ers, busi­ness and the aging com­mu­nity are:
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Home Healthcare – What role should governments play?

In this Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011 photo, Nippon Telegraph and Telegram Corp. Communications Science Laboratories staff imitates to brush his teeth during a demonstration of a wearable sensor attached to a wristwatch-like device during the NTT Research and Development Forum in Tokyo. Japan's top telecom company NTT says using this technology, what an elderly person is doing during each hour of the day can be shown on a chart. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Population aging is a growing global problem that technology can help address, but how do we make sure the technologies provide needed solutions to problems rather than distractions? Engineers too often create products because they can and then turn them over to marketing to find unfulfilled needs. A better way is to start with a true understanding of what’s actually needed and what solutions would be worth. Ethnographic market research is one approach to such discovery, but another is social media.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the Internet is not telemedicine but as a facilitator of common understanding. People can then come together online to share their stories and discuss individual issues, as well as the challenges of adopting proposed solutions. All of this can lead to innovative uses of technology, including telemedicine.

So what role should governments play? It seems to me that nurturing such an environment and private investment can be done with visionary leadership rather than much public funding of government chosen winners and losers, since that can lead to corruption.

This was my response to an article on a Japanese company developing sensors for seniors (http://www.federalnewsradio.com/index.php?nid=33&sid=2281892).