If we haven’t actually verbalized this feeling at least once in our lives, we likely have felt it. When someone tells us something and then repeats it word-for-word the same way or adds emphasis to it to make sure we got the message, we want to say that we heard them the first time they said it. This is an example of redundant messaging where the same thing is repeated to make sure the message was delivered and received.
For aging in place applications, we want redundant or duplicative messaging. Fortunately, many appliance and systems are offering this feature. Take a washing machine that reaches the end of its cycle and flashes that the time is complete. Alternately, it plays a little tune. Therefore, if we aren’t watching the machine or if we have limited vision, the audio reminder signals us that the cycle is complete. If it was purely an audio reminder, and we had auditory limitations, we might miss the completion of the cycle until we discovered it later. The visual indicator, in this case, would alert us to the time being completed. This is what we mean by creating redundant messaging or alerting systems.
There are other home appliances that offer this dual type of alert – ovens do this when they reach the preset temperature, when the cooking time has been achieved, or when the timer is activated. Microwaves, showers, and dishwashers have visual and audio signals to indicate functions.
The electronic video doorbell such as Ring, Nest, Vivint, and others allow people to see when someone is at the door or on the porch if they are looking at the display or to hear that someone is present if they aren’t in visual contact with the display.
Likely, the types and number of dual warning or alerting devices in the home are going to increase for a couple of reasons – first, technology is rapidly advancing and devices can now or soon will be able to offer such features, and second, with an aging population that is encountering sensory deterioration to various degrees, it is going to be an increasing requested feature. In both cases, the market is there to introduce more such visual and audio alerting systems and have them gain consumer acceptance.
Housing can take a cue from the automotive market. Just think of all of the recent advances in cars with dual – and sometimes more – warning, alerting, notification, or safety features. Try starting the car when it was left in gear (automatic transmission) or some of the necessary steps aren’t followed. The starter button or the dash might flash a warning reminder and sound a tone. Forget to fasten the seatbelt? There’s a flashing indicator light – and a repetitive tone. Go to change lanes or back up out of a parking place or driveway, and the car is looking out for us. It sees more than we do and will flash a warning light and sound a tone when a vehicle is beside us or behind us so that we will stay in our lane or now proceed in their direction. When we activate our turn signal, we get a visual indication on the dash, the outside mirrors, the turn signal lights, and occasionally our exterior indicators will flash to alert oncoming traffic and pedestrians about our intentions.
There are other examples of consumer items where visual indicators tell us that the item is turned on or operating properly and at the same time give us an audio tone that it has been turned on. When there is danger from using the appliance, tool, or device – for whatever reason – the item may flash a warning, sound a tone, or just shut off and stop working.
Having appliances, vehicles, doorbells, timers, and other items we use in the home give us multiple indications that they are working properly, that they have completed a preset cycle, that they have reached the operating temperature, that they have shut themselves off, or that we are about to perform an unsafe or unwise function or activity, is good – especially for aging in place applications where we know that visual or sensory abilities are subject to decline. They also provide a convenience factor where we don’t have to maintain a constant watch to see if the device has reached the stage we are waiting for it to do (temperature or cycle completion, for instance). For minor cognitive changes where focus, forgetfulness, or carelessness could be an issue, they can help prevent accidents or injuries. Home safety – including preventing burns, cuts, and fall – is promoted through such technology.