My Story: What I Wish Aging at Home Had Meant for My Mom


*This story was originally posted on LinkedIn, here.

My husband and I have invested part of our time and business focus in Aging in Place, and we started working on this focus about a year ago. The more we learned, the more I realized how important it was to have a conversation with my mom - my only living parent - about finding her a suitable living space that was safe and closer to me. Mom had some health issues, and her home, my childhood home, was not at all suited to her physical needs.

It's hard to talk to our parents about aging at home, about making changes to their lives and downsizing. It was hard for me. Mom cherished her home and all the memories in it with my dad and me and all the family and friends in between. She didn't want to leave it. But when I finally got up the nerve to talk to her about it, she surprised me by saying she knew she was going to have to move, and I promised I would help her. She had a couple of different areas in mind, and I had my eye on a house close to ours that would have been perfect for her. I loved the idea of having her nearby and being able to send my daughter out to visit her whenever, and of being able to see her more often, easily.

I got the guts up to talk to Mom about moving and aging in place after Kevin and I did a presentation for one of Mom's retiree groups about what it meant to age at home, independently, and some of the changes that made sense to start considering. I remember very vividly saying in front of all the retirees -- her friends -- how important it was to me to make sure my mom was safe and comfortable and could continue to live the super active, independent lifestyle that was so much a part of her. I remember looking at my mom and seeing that though she was a tad embarrassed by the attention, she was also pleased, and teared up a little at my words.

But I really, really wish I'd talked to her sooner, and managed to convince her to move closer to me. Maybe then I would have noticed the multiple doctor appointments she went to with no resolution, and how she regularly had a 'stomach virus' that never seemed to go away.

Your takeaway here should be this: if you're the retiree, start talking with your family now about where you're going to live, or what changes you're going to make to your home, and get them involved and engaged. If you're the family -- like me -- then visit our website or AARP's or Next Avenue's and find some talking points and get the conversation started.

You've probably guessed by now that my mom died, only a few months ago in April of this year, at the age of 66. She died very unexpectedly after a week-long stay in intensive care. At the time of her death, I was 30 weeks pregnant, so our son will never know her. As her only living beneficiary and sole survivor of her estate, I made all of her healthcare decisions, right up to turning her ventilator off. It was heartbreaking. I am now dealing with her estate, her home, and I can't help but wish desperately I'd had her closer to me, that I'd convinced her to make a transition sooner to a smaller, truly accessible space.

There is no point to dwelling on the past, to wishing things had been different, but I hope that if you're reading this, maybe you'll be able to find the courage to think ahead to aging in place, to aging at home, and make plans accordingly.

Aging at Home with the Help of Voice-Activated Tech

We just recently posted a piece on the general value of tech in aging-in-place ready home. But voice-activated tech may be some of the most valuable out there.

Explains Laurie Orlov, principal analyst at  Aging In Place Technology Watch, “The idea is that you can monitor and manage a chronic disease at home," according to an article from MobiHealth News.  With voice-activated technology that reminds us when and how to take our medication, when doctor's appointments are coming up and where they'll be, and can help us turn lights and appliances galore off and on, not to mention dial important phone numbers if we need help, more and more of the 65+ age group are able to stay at home, rather than face re-hospitalization or move into a permanent nursing home facility. 

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Voice-activated tech can be adjusted to comprehend just about any language or level of speech, a huge plus to that side of IoT. According to AARP's Andy Miller, Senior Vice President of Innovation and Product Development, “We were going to launch [an app-based offering], but then we said ‘Why can’t we make this observational?’ I want to take that to voice,” Miller told MobiHealthNews. “Conversations can be making Mom feel good about interaction, and at the same time you can be extracting little nuggets of information. ‘Hey Mom, how did you sleep last night?’ ‘Hey Mom, what did you have for dinner?’ All these little pieces of information that really matter.”

So voice-activated tech offers our parents peace of mind, and us. It gives the 65+ generation more independence, the freedom to choose to age at home, and simultaneously allows their children, their caregivers, the ability to ensure they're safe, healthy, and well cared for. Having the security of that knowledge makes it possible for those of us on the caregiving side to live more freely as well.

Have you had experience with voice activated technology in your home or made it part of an aging in place plan?