Senior living has gone high-tech—here's how to get the look at home

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Planned retirement centers don’t have to be the only ones with the latest technology, if aging-in-place designers have anything to say about it. While at-home fitness gear used by NASA may sound futuristic, the “home of the future” is already at our fingertips. Lisa M. Cini, founder and CEO of Ohio’s Mosaic Design Studio, recently transformed a 1914 French Opera-style mansion into an aging-in-place showroom that manages to exude “approachable modernity” while keeping the original glory of the property.

Even further, we're able to apply some of those design and safety elements in residential homes, even if they're a bit less flashy. Here's what's possible—and what can work for your space.

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Smart flooring

Rick Robinson, the vice president of product development for AARP Innovation Labs, predicts that the aging-in-place home of the future will be “intuitive, based on artificial intelligence that learns inhabitants’ behaviors,” and “aware, so that feedback is offered proactively audibly, based on the situation.”

Uniting the two concepts is one of Cini’s favorite features at Woodland Manor—intuitive flooring that can be placed under various surfaces (including both tile and carpet) to sense falls and notify a caregiver. “You can also set it up so that the lights turn on when your feet hit the floor for midnight trips to the bathroom,” she says. Data is held on local servers but can be shared with remote caregivers and loved ones. “If you notice that your mom hasn’t gotten out of bed for two days or is going to the bathroom more than usual, you can be notified that she may be off her medications or has a urinary tract infection,” says Cini.

Sole with Sensfloor is a good example of this technology already available, but if you’re not ready to commit to new flooring, some lower-tech solutions might be worth a look. There are ways to help prevent falls, such as anti-slip mats, staircase modifications and path lighting.

Get the Asvin anti-slip bath mat at Amazon for $15

A vibration platform used by astronauts

Cini and Robinson say enhancing stability and stamina should rank high on the priority list for those aging in place, so there’s no underestimating the value of a space for seniors to focus on their well-being at home. Cini recommends the LifetimeVibe vibration platform, which was designed for seniors but employs the same technology NASA uses to condition astronauts. “Safety arms add stability while a 20-minute session has the same benefits as a two-hour workout,” says Cini. “It can help increase balance, increase bone density and reduce incontinence—all big concerns for seniors.”

While the LifetimeVibe costs nearly $3,500, there are other much-beloved vibration platforms for a fraction of that price. Of course, you’re not getting the NASA tech, but it’s certainly worth trying.

Senior living has gone high-tech—here's how to get the look at home

Get the Lifepro Waver Vibration Plate at Amazon for $170

More than just a recliner

Since seniors are less likely to be mobile, they are more likely to spend time or even sleep in a favorite recliner or armchair. It’s worth investing in the heavy-duty, ergonomic versions used at senior facilities—and these days, form is a perfect marriage with function, says Cini.

“Samuelson has a patented holder on the back of some of their chairs that looks like a design element, but it’s for a walker. You can hang it there and also use the holder to pull the chair in and out,” she says. “And, the Samuelson TILT line has durable fabric and is designed so if someone has an accident or just spills crumbs, you can pull up the seat and easily clean it out.”

See our top 9 power lift recliners

Height-adjustable countertops

Cini is just under 5 ft. tall, so she knows what it’s like to strain to reach the tops and backs of shelves, or simply to use a standard-height counter. And, with a husband who hovers over 6 ft., she knows the value of anything that’s height-adjustable. Woodland Manor is outfitted with accessible kitchen counters, toilets and sinks that move up and down to meet the needs of the disabled and those with mobility challenges—including bringing countertops down easily to wheelchair users.

If you’re ready for a whole-kitchen adaptive makeover, Pressalit Scandanavian Designs is a good resource. But there are plenty of kitchen mods you can make one piece at a time, like anti-slip floor mats, under-cabinet lighting and microwave drawers.

Shop microwave drawers at The Home Depot

The "Cadillac" of bathtubs

Each year, more than a third of seniors over the age of 65 slip and fall, with 80% of those falls occurring in the bathroom. That’s why Cini makes this room a strategic focus for all of her projects. At Woodland Manor, she’s installed the “Cadillac” of tubs, she says. “A lot of the senior entry tubs look super clinical or you walk in and then have to sit down. This is like getting into a car, you put the side down and sit in it without putting your legs over the side,” she explains.

Unlike most other tubs that have water jets that can cause contamination, the Assisto bathtub has a UV light for cleaning. Plus, the speedy draining function is a spa-like experience, Cini says. “One of the most miserable things is to sit in a tub where you have to wait for the water to drain out so you don’t slip when getting out of it. You’re just sitting there on your rear end, freezing,” she says. “When you’re older you lose so much of your body fat so you can’t hold onto a core temperature. So that six-second drain speed is really critical.”

Some at-home bathtub safety solutions could be installing grab bars, non-slip bath stickers and a bath step.

Get the Jobar International Bath Step with Handle at Amazon for $50

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