According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the country's elderly population will grow by more than double to 80 million between now and the year 2050. That means roughly one out of five adults in the United States will be over the age of 65. One of the biggest challenges in the next 30 years will be how to meet the demand for quality living environments for the burgeoning population of older adults. This will require modifications to much of the existing housing stock, as well as the need to make changes in new construction today that will accommodate older residents' needs in the future. But aging in place is not just about the home. The aging of the population will affect every interior environment-private, commercial, and public-especially in our healthcare arena.
Because of evolving healthcare models, shortened recovery times and hospital stays have increased the need for outpatient and in-home care and for accommodations for live-in caretakers and caregivers. In the past, this has meant providing an additional bedroom or sleeping area for a temporary caregiver. However, going forward, that solution may not be enough.
Studies show boomers want to age in place-not in the hospital-and they are putting necessary technologies into their homes now that are going to help them do so. Thousands of products already in development will make older Americans' activities simpler and safer, helping them to stay involved in their communities while maintaining their lifestyle.
Elder-friendly homes will likely incorporate robotics and mechanical helpers that move around the home like our remote vacuum cleaners do today. They'll operate in combination with home automation-the wired sensory framework of the home itself. A house will “know” whether its occupants are at home or out, for example.
Instead of patients checking out of the hospital, caregivers and nurses will begin to check in at the home seniors reside in-just like the old fashioned doctor's call to the house. And when the doctor or nurse isn't visiting, health-monitoring technologies will keep tabs on the patient's medication regimen and well-being. Think of it: As one sleeps, a sensor-laden bed pad will check for irregularities in a patient's vital signs. An accompanying electronics box stores monthly data and brings abnormalities to the attention of the patient and the doctor digitally. In the morning, a patient's smartphone-like pill dispenser will remind them to take medicine and at the appropriate time alert the doctor to renew prescriptions. Refrigerators will even let homeowners know that the milk is going to expire in three days and offer breakfast suggestions to maintain healthy cholesterol. Luckily, interior designers can help with the specification and integration of all of these new gadgets.