Interview with Yüksel Sirmasac: Digital services can be a support for older people

Yüksel Sirmasac, CEO and founder of ROCKETHOME, is part of the panel "Living in old age - rethinking care and living concepts" at the virtual Heuer Dialog annual congress on the topic of "Living and care in old age". We have already interviewed him in advance on the topic.

ROCKETHOME is a pioneer in the digitization of real estate and districts. How do you assess the potential of smart living concepts in old age?

The current pandemic clearly shows us that we are dependent on the digitalization of the economy. It helps us solve problems. What would happen if we didn't have a digital infrastructure that enabled home offices and home schooling?

The corona crisis demands new approaches and solutions from us in all situations. People aged 60-plus are suddenly considered a threatened risk group and are in need of support. Seniors in nursing homes are becoming lonely due to contact restrictions. The current situation poses a challenge to many public institutions, including retirement and nursing homes. We notice that we are still encountering problematic gaps, especially in general digital administration in the public sector.

Innovative ways of working and organizing are gaining in importance, as a result of which digital acceptance has also increasingly found its way into the private living environment. Once the home office is set up, smart devices often follow for convenience. What began as an investment in the "digital world of work" is becoming a normal part of our everyday lives. After all, we are spending much more time at home. Whether lockdown or home office: feeling comfortable is more important than ever.

Digital services can also be a help for older people who are significantly impaired. Unfortunately, the rate of digitization in housing concepts for older people is still low. It is important to see not only the downsides but also the great benefits of digitization. I am pleased to see that there is now a general willingness for such digital living concepts.

Can trends in digital living for the elderly already be recognized?

Overall, the market for micro- and co-living spaces is growing, where the equipment is designed to be highly efficient and smart due to the small footprint. These living concepts are also popular as so-called serviced apartments. What is interesting about this is that the clientele is moving from the younger target groups, consisting of students or young professionals, to the older target groups. While singles of advanced age and professional groups with second homes followed, the trend has now reached seniors. Older people today are more open to digital offerings than they were a few years ago.

Another trend is evident in new construction: expectations of real estate are changing. Modern builders and renovators attach importance to the classic smart topics, such as security, comfort and energy efficiency. They want to make their homes future-proof and sustainable. They are already thinking about living in old age and see smart applications as an option for maintaining independence in their own homes for as long as possible.

How can a digital property be age-appropriate?

Impaired people, such as seniors and people with disabilities, can be supported in their everyday lives by a smart home and the provision of digital services. The fields of application and characteristics of these digital services can be individually adapted to the respective person and their needs and living environment. The goal is always a self-determined everyday life for the user and an increase in their quality of life.

Networked products and household appliances with IoT services can contribute to everyday life, comfort, entertainment and health by evaluating real-time data. Through assistance measures, such as integrated emergency systems or direct interactions with service providers, a smart home not only supports the people concerned, but also their living environment.

What digital products and services are there that can support a self-determined life for the elderly?

At their core, digital services for relatives are designed to bring people closer together. The relatives can equip the home with the help of smart technology and build a community around the resident. This makes the elderly feel safer, connected to their family, and makes it easier for them to access services specific to their target group.

Digital services are mostly used in long-term care and consist of the monitoring of inactivity and of health factors such as indoor climate, as well as access control for simplified daily routines and backup for seniors in case of emergency. A smart door lock can be used to automate access for caregivers and other targeted services, such as cleaning and delivery services. If the emergency assistant raises the alarm at the family caregiver's home, he or she can provide remote access to the emergency services.
In addition, smart devices can be used to simplify the operation of household and multimedia devices for impaired people. Many shy away from using them because of the technology involved. Good solutions are therefore those that are easy to integrate and also understandable for the person to be supported.

Doesn't this make the elderly feel restricted in their privacy?

Our goal is not to monitor seniors completely, but to offer support. That's why our Care & Security solution is based on just a few sensors and intelligent software - without a camera. The sensors can record information about movements, room climate and brightness and therefore provide information about the current situation of the relative. If there has been no registered movement for a long time, an injury may have occurred due to a fall. In this case, an alarm is sent to the relative. In addition, heating and other networked devices can be monitored and controlled remotely.

Furthermore, seniors are much more tech-savvy these days and bring a different set of expectations to real estate. Smart living concepts can be deployed and adapted throughout the entire lifecycle. Minimally invasive sensor technology in the building can be used in a sustainable way: From the classic smart living application areas for best agers to assisted living in advanced age. This enables people to remain in their familiar surroundings for a long time.

So Care & Security is not only used for high-risk groups?

Digital services can be used in all phases of life and can also be individually tailored to the respective application. The need for care is often rather low until old age. It is not until people reach the age of 80plus that it rises sharply. In practice, digital care and security solutions are only an extension of a smart home, the orientation of which shifts toward age-appropriate support in accordance with the phase of life. Investing in a smart home early on can be the foundation for an age-friendly home.

Furthermore, seniors are no longer a homogeneous marketing target group. The classic senior image is disappearing. Today's generations are healthier, more active, more self-confident and have a greater affinity for technology. It is therefore essential to design the digital service offering for different sub-target groups and their needs. Essentially, we are concerned with four classifications:

  1. The age group of the "young old" - generation 65plus - particularly active and engaged.

  2. The "actually old", who would like to continue living as self-determined as possible in their familiar surroundings.

  3. The "impaired", who are dependent on care services but would like to remain in their homes.

  4. And the residents of care facilities or residential models, such as assisted living and service apartments, with professional care and support around the clock.

Do you also see advantages for the housing industry?

Care & Security can be scaled efficiently. That's why the concept is suitable for single-family and multi-family homes in the private sector, as well as for innovative forms of housing, such as multigenerational homes and elderly-friendly neighborhoods.

We offer an IoT platform with multiple interfaces to partner systems and application fields. Real estate companies and care facilities benefit from digital management tools for rental units, access management for common areas and simplified tenant communication. Service providers get an effective stage for their service world.

Your conclusion?

The influence of older people in society is increasing, which brings with it pressure to change the way we deal with older generations. Digital services can help bring people closer together. Of course, they are not a universal remedy, but housing concepts such as serviced apartment models, can be used in a meaningful way for impaired people.

Although rapid progress is currently being made, digitalization still requires time and understanding. With ROCKETHOME Care & Security, we would like to show a supporting solution for different participants that can be implemented easily.
Implementing a smart home is less complex than some people think. When implementing it, one can rely on minimally invasive sensor technology in the building. Just a few sensors and devices allow for a variety of efficient measures and individual processes.

Thank you!

If you would like to learn more about Care & Security by ROCKETHOME and innovative living concepts in old age, arrange a non-binding consultation: Select appointment now

The panel "Living in old age - rethinking care and living concepts" will take place on April 15, at 2:55 p.m. as part of Heuer Dialog's virtual "Annual Congress on Living and Care in Old Age". For more information on the event, visit the Heuer Dialog event page.