ROSEVILLE, CA -- You don't have to go to Disneyland to see a futuristic home model. Eskaton Senior Services, along with collaborating sponsors, including Intel, have built the senior home of the future complete with high-tech innovations, senior-friendly design elements and green technology at Lakemont's Eskaton Village Roseville. Built to be a teaching tool for architects and senior home builders, the demonstration home is the latest in smart home technology and open to the public for touring.
Spurred by the approaching Baby Boomer's entrance into their senior years and their desire to age-in-place, Eskaton created a Certified Home Program and started research on the senior homes of the future collaborating with 19 different expert entities. Sheri Peifer, vice president of research and strategy planning said Eskaton's focus was to bring quality home design for seniors into the public forum. "We want to be a positive catalyst in bringing senior home issues to people's minds," said Peifer. "We want people in the business to know that homes can be beautiful and still be barrier-free and livable. Then we want them to take this knowledge out to their circles."
Extra wide doors and hallways provide easy access and maneuverability by those in wheelchairs or who use walkers. No steps at entry ways or into the shower provide safety to homeowners. Accidentally falls are among the leading contributors of senior deaths. Building senior-friendly elements into the home from the ground up is a cost-saving measure compared to retro-fitting items such as pull-bars and emergency devices, according to Peifer.
Lakemont Homes built the demonstration home from the ground up working with the architectural firm of Jeffrey DeMure & Associates. The company's Northern California Division President Tom Bors said building the home was a rewarding experience. "In fact, the reaction to the master bath shower has been overwhelmingly positive so moving forward, a zero-threshold shower will be standard at Eskaton Village Roseville," said Bors. "Our patio homes at Eskaton Village Roseville and Eskaton Village Placerville already incorporate several other of the universal design features included in the demonstration home."
Appliances are all located for ease of use. The microwave is set at waist high level with an adjacent counter. A drawer-styled dishwasher with a top-loading feature allows seniors to sit down for use. Clearance under the cook top also allows seniors to sit while they cook.
Kathy Hatten, Eskaton's demonstration home educator said LED bulbs are in all the recessed lighting and are just one of the many features that make the home inexpensive to live in. "We've used the LED's wherever possible," said Hatten. "On the average, they'll only have to be replaced after eleven years. That's a great savings to homeowners." Other lights are on sensors and turn on when someone walks into the room and then turn themselves off when room is vacant. Bathroom vanity lights come on dimly at first so sleeping eyes have time to adjust. Other green features include solar panels to provide half of the energy used in the home. On demand water heaters save on energy and water.
The demonstration home has already been toured by several builders and is being well received, according to Hatten. "We've had a modular senior home builder from Placerville say they would use a number of design elements from us," she said. "That's very exciting to know this project is catching builders' attention."
High tech is scattered throughout the house. Vital signs such as weight, glucose level and blood pressure can be taken daily and are immediately relayed to health professionals over a computer terminal. A touch screen panel in the center hallway enables the user to see if there's someone at the front door, turn on and off lights, see the weather and set the thermostat.
Dr. Cheryl Osborne, director of gerontology at Sacramento State University said she believes seniors will adapt to the technology. "I would expect that some would 'shy' away from it until they realize how user-friendly it is," she said. "But most would be intrigued and love the challenge of learning about all the demonstration home offers to assist them in their quest of remaining as independent as possible."
Another system is set up on the large-screen television in the living room. The GrandCare System allows family members to monitor the well-being of the elderly family member from any distance. Discreet sensors will notify family if no movement is detected for an extended time period. Medications are housed in a sensory box for monitoring and reminders will be sent to resident and family members if not taken when prescribed. This system also enables e-mails and photo exchanges to take place between family members.
Keeping the homeowner connected to the community and to needed services is set up on another touch screen. Seniors can see when events will happen in the village or order a meal to be sent to their home from the community lodge. Housekeeping services and home-repairs can also be ordered over the device. Peifer said keeping seniors connected to the community and to a network of care givers are the most important asset they could have.
"Lakemont has numerous communities planned and will use these concepts in building senior homes," she said. "This isn't rocket science, but well-planned and thought out. The basic designs that make these homes livable aren't terribly expensive yet they can keep seniors in their homes where they want to be."
A Wii game is set up on the master suite television. Seniors can play a game of tennis or go bowling right in their bedroom to keep physically fit. Keeping the mind sharp was not overlooked in the model home. The Dakim [m] Power cognitive fitness system is set up in the guest bedroom. Games and activities are updated daily to give senior brains a workout on a computer styled system.
The demonstration home is located in the Eskaton Village Roseville Community off of Blue Oaks Boulevard. Peifer encourages individuals and companies to call for a private tour at 888-9-DEMOHOME, or email email@example.com to set an appointment. For more information visit www.eskaton.org. You may contact Lakemont Homes at (916) 771-5151.
Submitted by: Karen Everett Watson