Kitchen 2.0: Alert1 Rates Kitchen Technology for the Modern Senior

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Created by Tracy Layden
 

As the US population ages, the senior care industry faces a significant shortage of caregivers. Alert1’s research has shown that providing regular care for a senior has significant financial, emotional, and health related challenges for the caregiver.  Alert1 believes new technology will help support caregivers so that they can deliver the level of support seniors deserve. But in spite of the explosion of new products over the past few years, few of them have seen wide-spread adoption.

Alert1 is prepared to support the senior care industry in accepting this new technology. In this article we will discuss products for the kitchen that will help both seniors and their caregivers.

It is critical to make the kitchen senior-friendly. Seniors interact with the kitchen every day, which increases the risk of burns and cooking fires. Some seniors need encouragement to eat, because age-related changes affect how the body processes food. New technology can help with everything from burn and fire prevention to assisting seniors in getting the nutrition they need.

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Smart Refrigerators

lg fridgeSmart Refrigerator by LG®

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Overview

Many seniors do not get the proper nutrition. They may have trouble remembering to go grocery shopping, or can’t remember what they need once they are at the store. Others go hungry due to an empty larder or fall ill due to expired food. A 1990 study by Ross Laboratories found that 30 percent of seniors skip at least one meal a day, and 16% of seniors consume fewer than 1000 calories a day. This is not enough calories to stay healthy.

Smart fridges make it easy to keep track of the food in your refrigerator. They use either barcodes or RFID scanning to track your stock, and they can communicate with you via your smartphone. Want to know how many yogurt containers you have left? Just text your fridge and ask, and it will respond with the amount. Smart fridges also feature an internal camera, so you can see your fridge’s contents to determine what you need while on the go. No more forgetting to write something on a list.

How It Helps Caregivers

Smart refrigerators are great for caregivers. Caregivers can now check if their senior has been eating enough and if there is a sufficient amount of food left for them to eat by peeking into the fridge. They can stop and stock up on food to bring before they go the senior’s house, rather than having to make multiple trips.

Market Adoption

We believe smart fridges are ideal for caregiving situations, but it is unlikely the everyday consumer will want to switch to a smart fridge. The high cost of these appliances discourages immediate adoption when the consumer already has a working fridge. Unfortunately, the market in general has not yet accepted smart refrigerators. Once more retailers carry these appliances, we predict that adoption will be slow. They will begin to gain traction as they are integrated into assisted living facilities and added as people remodel their kitchens and build new homes.

Monitored Smoke Detectors

smoke detector Monitored smoke detector by Alert1®

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Overview

According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires and home injuries. If a fire occurs while cooking, you want everyone in the home to be notified immediately. But what if no one is home or the senior has their hearing aids out? Read more about our emergency protocol with smoke detectors here.  More than just an alarm, they allow you to have personalized response procedures. It is incredibly important to have a smoke detection system installed throughout the home and especially in the kitchen.

Monitored smoke detectors make sure help is sent. Monitored smoke detectors pair with medical alert systems to protect both seniors and their homes 24/7. If a fire is detected, an operator will call the senior. If the senior does not answer, the operator will call either alternate numbers or 911 directly, depending on what the user specifies at setup. If the senior is at home and does not hear the alarm, help will still be sent.

How It Helps Caregivers

Monitored smoke detection can dramatically decrease the stress caregivers endure. They can outsource constant monitoring so that they can enjoy their time outside of the senior’s home without having to worry about being on call at all times.

Market Adoption

Smoke detectors are extremely important to have through the kitchen and the entire home. They are reasonably priced, and their value is well worth the cost. Monitored smoke detectors offer additional protection customized especially for seniors. There is an additional monthly cost associated with the monitoring, and some require a medical alert system to function. ADT®, Nest®, and Alert1® all carry monitored smoke detectors.

We expect monitored smoke detection usage to increase, both for consumers and assisted living facilities. The personalized response and additional safety combined with a low monthly monitoring fee and easy installation create a product that is sure to catch on. 

Stovetop Monitors

stove monitorStovetop monitor by CookStop®

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Overview

As we age we become more forgetful, and forgetfulness can be disastrous when it involves cooking. According to the National Fire Protection Association and US Fire Administration, the stovetop is the number one cause of household fires in North America, and leaving the stove unattended is responsible for 70% of these fires. In addition, adults between the age of 65 and 75 have a fire death rate twice the national average, and seniors between 75 and 85 are four times as likely to die in a fire.

We want seniors to be independent, and that includes having the ability to prepare their own food if they choose. But we also want them to stay safe. Stovetop monitors reduce the risk of cooking fires for seniors who want to cook for themselves.

Monitors have a motion sensor that can detect if you are next to the stove. If the stove is left unattended, the monitor turns off the stove so that it is not left on. You can configure the device for different levels of protection, depending on your needs. Other devices can be set to turn off a specified amount of time after no activity is detected.

How It Helps Caregivers

These monitors allow seniors to be more independent by keeping them safe, reducing the stress of their caregiver. Caregivers will appreciate the lessened duties when the senior in their care can cook for themselves.

Market Adoption

We believe automatic stove shutoff devices should be installed in every home. Anyone can accidently leave the stove on. Prices hover around $400. As one of the cheaper additions to a kitchen, we expect their adoption rate to increase. They do not require seniors to buy and install an entire new appliance, so they are ideal for both consumers and already existing facilities. Stovetop monitors can be found from retailers such as Cookstop®, HomeSense®, and Stove Guard®. 

Induction Stoves

ge inductionInduction stove by GE®
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Overview

A hot stovetop can cause horrible burns if touched, and it easy for seniors to forget the stove is on. You don’t want to have to keep consistent watch to keep seniors away from the stove or prevent them from using it. Induction cooking can eliminate the risk of stovetop burns.

Induction stoves use electric currents, rather than open flame, to cook. They detect and only turn on when specialized cookware is present, and only the pot gets hot – the stovetop surface always stays cool to the touch. As an added bonus, induction stoves are perfect for those in wheelchairs due to their low vertical space requirement.

Induction cooks faster and uses less energy than other stoves, and is very easy to clean with its smooth surface. According to the US Department of Energy, there is a 12% saving in energy for an induction cooker versus a smooth-top non-induction electrical unit. Induction stoves allow you to be comfortable with seniors cooking in their own kitchens without the fear of burns.

How It Helps Caregivers

When seniors can cook for themselves, their caregivers have fewer tasks to juggle. Induction stoves can help seniors feel more independent which decreases the risk of depression. It creates a better situation overall, increasing the quality life for the senior and the caregiver.

Market Adoption

Many big appliance manufactures supply induction stoves, including Bosch®, Siemens®, and Electrolux®. Although induction stoves are great at reducing fires, there are some significant hurdles to their widespread adoption. Foremost, they require copper, glass, or aluminum vessels in order to function. Seniors are unlikely to purchase an induction stove if it will require them to replace all of their existing cookware. It is also unsuitable for seniors with low vision – the flat burners can be difficult to distinguish.  However, induction stoves are easier to install than other appliances. With little vertical space required, they can be installed on a countertop without demolishing the cabinets underneath.

Green Dishwashers

electrolux dishwasherGreen dishwasher by Electrolux®
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Overview

Once all the cooking is complete, there is cleaning up to be done. Many seniors have trouble with both the repeated reaching and bending over and the long periods of standing required to do repeated loads of dishes. Green dishwashers, while aimed at helping the environment, will also help senior’s back health.

Green dishwashers aim to reduce the amount of loads each dish-washing cycle requires. They fit large amounts of dishes at once, helping seniors avoid long periods of standing. For the cost-conscious they minimize both energy and water costs.

How It Helps Caregivers

Whether it is the senior or the caregiver who does the dishwashing, they will be thankful for the reduced number of loads and reduced water bill.

Market Adoption

Green dishwashers can now be found in all major appliance lines, and green technology is being implemented in models with varying price points. We expect green dishwashers to be ubiquitous in the future, but adoption will be slow. We expect newly installed appliances to be green, but consumers are unlikely to replace their dishwashers until necessary.

Market Adoption

The biggest obstacle in the widespread adoption of this new technology is the price. Appliances will have the slowest adoption time due to their cost and the hassle of installation. It can be cost-prohibitive to replace a still-working appliance with a more expensive version. Full kitchen remodels and in newly-built assisted living facilities are more likely to feature this new technology. Smaller items like monitored smoke detection and stovetop monitors will see a faster increase in adoption due to their lower price and ease of installment. Consumers will need to have to balance benefit, ease of installation, and cost. It will take longer for high-priced and less essential items to integrate into the marketplace.