How I got my grandmother hooked to Audible

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Home Automation

Amazon Alexa

First, Evelyn Moore tried to read books with a magnifying glass. Then, she turned to a tablet to make the words on her e-books larger. Eventually, she couldn’t even see that. The 95-year-old was losing her sight, and with it, one of her favorite hobbies.

“She wasn’t able to read anymore, and that was a big loss,” said her son James Moore.

Last year, the younger Moore had an idea: What if he could get his mom a device that could read books to her without the need to navigate a control screen that she had a hard time seeing?

That device turned out to be the Amazon Echo, an internet-connected smart speaker that responds to voice commands. James Moore figured that he could buy his mother audiobooks from Audible, then teach her to use voice prompts to have the Echo play the audiobook.

At first, Evelyn Moore was a little wary.

“It took a little while to convince her of it,” James Moore said. “Her thought was that we’re going to have wires everywhere.”

Eventually, she agreed to try it. It’s been nearly a year, and she’s listened to 178 books.

Smart home gadgets like the Amazon Echo can provide an extra layer of comfort and protection for older adults who want to stay in their own homes as they age. They can also give caregivers or adult children like Jim Godek a means to monitor them, especially if they don’t live close to one another.

Evelyn Moore isn’t alone. Roughly 90 percent of seniors intend to continue living in their current home for the next five to 10 years, according to a survey taken by the AARP in 2012. But change — in the form of new technology — can be scary and intimidating. How do you tell your parents you want them to use a smart home device to help them live independently?

“Starting any kind of conversation with the elderly can be tricky,” said Barbara McVickers, an elder care expert, and author. “Mom and Dad sometimes don’t want to talk about this. They see this as a role reversal. They still want to be in charge. It becomes a tug-of-war with the parents wanting to be autonomous and the child caring about the well-being of their parents.”

Here are some tips on how to start a conversation with your parents about upgrading to smart home tech for their benefit — and yours:

  • Include them in the conversation instead of telling them what to do. “If we just go blaring in there as adult children, they’re going to really dig their heels in,” McVickers said. Listen to their own concerns, and share your own, too.
  • Call a family meeting to talk about how you want to help your parents. Bring in your siblings or other family members who provide care for your parents so “everyone is deciding together what is best for mom and dad,” McVickers said. Consider bringing in a third party your parent’s trust so they can provide some perspective, too, such as their physician, insurance agent or a family friend.
  • Provide a real-life example of how a gadget could help. Do you have a friend whose parents’ home got broken into who could have benefited from a security system? Use stories like that to illustrate the need to add some devices to their homes. And discuss how a device could help make your life easier, especially if you are the primary caregiver. McVickers suggests that you make a statement like this: “I’m doing this out of love and safety, but we need to know how we can help you age the way you wish.”
  • If your parents are on board with adding a smart home gadget to their routine, pick something that’s simple and requires little interaction. New technology is intimidating, and something too difficult to learn can turn off aging parents. For your parents to successfully make a new device a part of their lives, “it almost has to work flawlessly without their interaction,” McVickers said. (Check out these smart home devices that are easier to use.)
  • Install new devices for your parents and write down step-by-step instructions for how to use them. “If Mom and Dad can’t use it, it’s not helpful at all,” McVickers said.
  • Make sure your parents have a reliable internet connection and Wi-Fi network if the devices you choose rely on Wi-Fi. Here are some Wi-Fi systems that will help make sure your parents and their devices stay online.
  • Reevaluate how your parents are doing with the new device.Check in regularly to see if the device is helping them. Stay on top of your parents’ needs since they could change and require new and different technology.
  • Know when to accept defeat. Your parents might be adamant against changes to their routine. “There’s a certain point you can’t do anything else,” McVickers said. “They’re adults. Forgive yourself if you don’t get everything in place.”For Evelyn Moore, the introduction of the Amazon Echo into her home has had a huge impact, according to her son.”She has made the comment that she can look forward to something brand new every day when she gets up,” he said.

    They’ve added a smart thermostat to Evelyn Moore’s home that she can voice-control, too. But all of the additions have to be on her terms.

    “It’s still her life,” James Moore said. “I can have all the input I want, but it’s her choice.”

How to be a Smart Airbnb Host

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Being an Airbnb host can be simply great fun and rewarding, or leave you in disgust with a ‘never again’ feeling. Very few hosts will feel worry-free without having at least some insight into their guests’ stay.

As a host, one thing you can do to keep an eye on things — without being too snoopy — is to install a few smart gadgets around your space. Here are seven essentials every Airbnb host should consider.

Smart Locks

Smart Home Automation

With physical keys, you run certain risks that could be avoided altogether with smart locks. Physical keys can be copied, of course. But it can also be a little more difficult to enforce check out times, especially if your Airbnb property isn’t nearby or if you’re out of town.

With a smart lock, like those from August or Schlage, you can give temporary access that begins with check-in and expires after the check-out date and time. You can also assign different access codes to guests and others (such as cleaners) to see who is entering or leaving the property.

Video Doorbell

Smart Home Automation

Unlike controlling when someone has access to your Airbnb, it can be difficult to police how many people are staying. If you charge additional fees for extra guests, you probably want to know how many people are actually crashing at your place when you’re not there. Or if you have a strict no-pet policy and suspect a guest might be sneaking in a furry friend, you’d probably like a way to check on that.

You can monitor who is coming and going with something like a video doorbell. SkyBell or the August Doorbell Cam come to mind.

This is also a nice failsafe, in case the guest loses or forgets their access code or their phone is dead and they can’t unlock the smart lock. They can simply press the doorbell, which will give you two-way audio (and one-way video) communication with your guests and you can unlock the door for them.

Smart Thermostat

Smart Home Automation

With a smart thermostat, you will never have to run by your rental to turn on the air conditioning before a guest arrives or off after they leave again. Something like a Nest or Ecobee can determine when people are at home or away and adjust the controlled air respectively. And a thermostat as simple to use as Nest can make it easier for your guests to make themselves comfortable.

These simple automation will save you a lot of hassle and some energy costs over time, especially if your rental remains vacant for extended periods.

Smart Lights

Smart Home Automation

Smart bulbs are more tricky. They continue to work as normal lights, even without a phone app to control them. But without something like an Alexa or Google Home speaker or dedicated controller, guests won’t get to enjoy the full benefits of having bulbs that can change colors or operate on a schedule.

The perks of smart bulbs are more for the host than the guest, however. With connected lights, you can see if a guest happened to leave lights on when they checked out. Or you can set the lights to a schedule to simulate someone being home when the property is vacant.

Security Camera

Smart Home Automation

You definitely don’t want to make your guests feel uneasy, but most will understand if you equip your space with security cameras both indoors and out.

Security footage is one of the few protections Airbnb hosts have against theft. Investing in something like Nest Cam Indoor or Axis will be well worth it should something ever go missing or if anything expensive gets damaged.

If you go this route, just make sure you clearly list that they’re present and working on the Airbnb listing and keep them out of sensitive areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms.

 

 

Your Health is now a number; 42%, $2500?

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Smart Home Automation

According to a recent article in the New York Times,  our health status and potential health care expenses can now be determined if we belong to the 42% or 58% of the population. Read here:

7 Great Apps that bring Grandparents and Grandchildren together

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Smart Home Automation

With society’s increase in (and reliance on) technology, many people have feared that we are losing the important face-to-face interactions that help us connect and better understand each other. Although spending quality face-to-face time is important, for grandchildren and grandparents who are separated by geography or unconventional family structures, connecting online via social media and other communication tools like Skype is a great option.

“70% of teens say the computer increases the quantity of their communication with family members living far away, and 67% say it increases the quality of those communications,” IKeepSafe reports.

These apps are a great way to connect, especially for families who live apart:

  1. Ancestry websites are a great way for grandparents and older grandchildren to explore their family’s heritage together. Some popular ones include Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.
  2. Keepy:  Share art-work, school projects and other things that grandparents love to put on their fridge (but don’t have room for).
  3. Kindoma: Draw, play or read together in real time.
  4. Redeo: Lets you read together while your young grandchild turns the pages.
  5. Scoot & Doodle: Collaborate together on homework.
  6. SkypeVoxerooVoo and Rounds are examples of apps that allow you to send photos and videos, talk and text in real time.
  7. Wheel of Fortune is a popular game app that grandparents and grandchildren of all ages can play together, no matter the distance.

Essential Health Apps Every Senior Should Have

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Smart Home Automation

Aging Digitally

 

Seniors have found that, with the right repertoire of apps, smartphones and tablets can promote major lifestyle improvements. Smartphone and tablet apps allow seniors to:

  • Keep their minds active and engaged
  • Stay connected with friends and family
  • Keep abreast of news and world events
  • Set reminders for physician appointments and to take medicines
  • Pay bills online
  • Research and receive pertinent medical information
  • Listen to their favorite music
  • Stay well read
  • Easily take and save notes
  • Be entertained

Here are some essential medical information apps every senior should have:

  1. Lumosity: Evidence shows that seniors who keep their minds challenged and their brains active mitigate their risk for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of dementia. Health claims aside, many puzzle-lovers enjoy Lumosityjust for the fun it provides. Lumosity is an ideal app for seniors, is continuously being updated with new puzzles and brain games, and is a great addition to any senior’s cell phone or tablet.
  2. Medisafe: Despite their best efforts, even seniors without memory problems can have a hard time keeping track of their medicines or fully complying with a treatment plan. Medisafe is a robust tool that seeks to help older adults manage their medications, set reminders, and create status reports about how well they have stuck to their medication regimen. At the same time, Medisafe takes privacy extremely seriously, and you can be confident that your personal medical information is safe and secure.
  3. WebMD: No app can replace a physician, but for medical information in the digital age, there is no name as trusted as WebMD. You can ask the app questions, which it responds to with highly relevant articles written by physicians who are specialists in the topic in question. It allows you to browse high-quality articles, and even get updated information about how current weather conditions may impact your health (for example, through reports on air quality and pollen levels).
  4. My Recovery app, designed by a surgeon, would help patients prepare for their operation, to understand what to expect during and after their hospital stay, and to guide them through any necessary rehabilitative physiotherapy exercises individually tailored to their needs.
  5. Blood Pressure Companion: If you want to obtain more comprehensive blood pressure data on your iPhone, try Blood Pressure Companion. This app not only lets you measure your blood pressure and heart rate, but it will also send you a test reminder. Over time, collected data will help you look for patterns in your readings. If you add your weight in the app, you may even see your blood pressure drop as you lose pounds. This is an ideal app for recording information between doctor’s visits — feel free to share your data with your doctor at your next appointment.

How Analyzing Daily Events can Help in Healthy Aging

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Aging in place is a key, heartfelt aspiration for everyone; if you need to go to a nursing home or institutional facility, current costs are up to $90,000 a year per individual. Being able to understand how we can facilitate better aging, aging in place, is a really important goal.

ORCATECH has long been invested in facilitating “Aging in place,” or promoting technologies that allow elders to live independently for as long as possible. ORCATECH’s complete sensor platform is installed in the home of our research participants, allowing new technologies to be tested with great data resolution for target outcomes.

Preempting healh challenges not only saves us a lot of money but helps us lead to lead a more fuller and better quality of life.

New Heart Device Saves Lives

Following recent government approval of the device that reduces stroke risk by closing a small hole in the heart, a Scripps Health patient has become the first on the West Coast to be implanted with the gadget.

On Nov. 11, Scripps Clinic interventional cardiologist Matthew Price, M.D., placed the device, called an Amplatzer PFO Occluder, in a female patient during a 45-minute procedure in a laboratory in the Scripps Clinic on the campus of Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla.

The implant involves a relatively low-risk, minimally invasive procedure, during which the patient is awake the entire time. Using local anesthesia, the interventional cardiologist threads the device through a catheter introduced through a needle hole in a vein in the leg and up to the heart.

Once the tip of the catheter is positioned in the hole, a pair of mesh and polyester fabric discs are unfolded and clasped together, closing the opening.

The procedure came just two weeks after the Food and Drug Administration cleared the device for use in the United States.

As many as 30 percent of Americans have a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a small connection in the heart muscle separating the right atrium from the left atrium that in most people spontaneously closes after birth. In almost all cases, the defect is not a problem and does not require treatment.

But it appears this hole may play a role in certain types of strokes that have no other identifiable cause, like high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation or atherosclerosis. In such strokes, called “cryptogenic,” the PFO might provide a path for a blood clot to pass through the heart and travel to the brain where it causes a stroke.

“Patients who experience a cryptogenic stroke tend to be younger than patients who suffer other types of strokes, and recurrent stroke is something we want to avoid at all costs,” Dr. Price said. “For cryptogenic stroke patients with a PFO, we can now offer the Amplatzer PFO Occluder implant as a treatment to greatly reduce the chances of a follow-on stroke.”

The Amplatzer PFO Occluder is currently the only device approved in the United States for PFO closure.

Want your home to be Lighting Smart

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Smart Home Automation

Smart lighting control is not a new thing. It’s been around since the dawn of home automation. It may be one of the oldest options, but it’s still one of the most important—and the one that may be the most difficult to live without.

1. Type of system. If you want a wired system, which is deemed the most robust and reliable, you’re going to have to get a pro. However, wireless systems are often easy to install (although pros do them, too) and are typically scalable.

2. Scene options. Probably one of the main reasons you want a lighting control system is for convenience. Make sure your system can deliver “scenes,” which can trigger several fixtures, dimming levels, and/or colors, all at the touch of a button.

3. Colors abound! Do you want the option to change the room color based on your furniture, party theme, or mood? There are several color-changing smart bulbs that can be easily tied into your smart lighting system.

4. Integration features. There are several ways to integrate lighting control into a larger smart home system, so make sure your lighting products are compatible with other devices you have (or want) around the house. For instance, lighting control is often paired with motion or contact sensors, so lights turn on when an unexpected visitor approaches or when your car pulls into the driveway. One of the newest ways to control lights is by speaking your wishes to a voice assistant, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

5. Types of control. If you don’t want keypads, don’t opt for a system that needs them. Many of today’s smart lighting systems offer different control options, including keypads and remotes. Most also work with smartphones and tablets, but make sure the system you choose isn’t an iOS or Android exclusive—or you may be out of luck.

6. Type of Bulbs. LED light bulbs are all the rage, so make sure the lighting system you select can not only control LEDs but can also dim them. If you’ll have a combination of different types of bulbs, like some incandescent and some LED, choose a system that can easily handle the control of both types.

7. Geo-fencing. By connecting your home lighting control system to your smartphone, you can set the home lights to automatically turn on when you are within a certain distance of the home. On the flip side, you can set the lights to turn off when your phone is more than one mile away.

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