Smart tech a boon for all ages

Malcolm Scott, the KBSA corporate chair, suggests that smart and connected kitchen appliances will not only appeal to techies but make older users’ lives easier and get app- savvy teens in on the act too


As housing gets ever more expensive in the UK, there are more and more family homes that have several generations living under the same roof.

Design briefs are gradually changing to reflect the needs of parents who find they have married children living at home and, as time passes, end up with grandchildren also sharing the home.

The rich ethnic split of the modern British family has brought with it a degree of cultural diversity that has added to the number of multigenerational homes. Kitchen, bathroom and bedroom designers are finding new challenges and new design briefs.

As with all projects, the earlier in the process that you start to consider specific family-living needs, the more likely it is the final design will meet them. Often the desire is for products that look as modern, sleek and normal as possible, yet offer considerably enhanced features and benefits.

Here are some products I would single out with functions that are more inclusive and might assist in the design of a multigenerational home.

The Stoves induction hob that communicates wirelessly to its matching chimney hood offers a very simple set of features that truly meet the needs of multigenerational, inclusive design.

Induction cooking involves much less residual heat and is therefore safer to use – plus, even if switched on accidently, an induction hob will not generate heat unless a metal pot touches the surface.

Stoves has added the auto chimney control to its induction hob, whereby the hood switches on and changes its settings automatically as the hob controls are adjusted. So, if you are a little forgetful, or simply cannot reach overhead any more, the extractor still works every time you cook. Oh, and it switches off automatically a set time after the hob. These products from Stoves look sleek and modern, but offer practical features that are good for kids, good for parents, and also good for grandparents.

In fact, remote-controlled and, specifically, wi-fi- connected products, which we might intuitively consider ‘too technical’ for elderly users, can be very practical for the multigenerational home.

The question of ‘what is the point of a dishwasher or a washing machine that you can switch on when you are not at home?’ has an answer. If an elderly relative, or teenager, is loading the appliances, you can prompt them by phone then check that the job is done remotely. If you are worried about an ‘infirm’ relative setting the oven, once they have put the dish in the cavity you can take control of the settings remotely. Or if, for example, you’re worried your teenagers could set the oven incorrectly, give them access to it via an app an, with their understanding of technology, it’s likely they will become instant experts.

So, as well as the simple benefits of remote diagnostics when things go wrong, there are real extra benefits from wi-fi-enabled products in a multigenerational home. Simple switching on of lights using a 4Lite wi-fi-enabled bulb in a normal ceiling fitting would allow a homeowner to ensure that an elderly relative is not left sitting in the dark – yet the bulb looks like any other.

Adding Hoover or Bosch wi-fi-enabled appliances and an Alexa wi-fi hub device to a design brief would delight the kids, who love everything technical and at the same time ‘spare the blushes’ of an elderly relative who struggles to read the controls on the oven.

New wi-fi-enabled appliances are not just toys for techies, they are practical products that, when included in a design and explained to the client, can greatly enhance a multigenerational home.

The hot water tap is another product that’s ideally suited to a multigenerational home, significantly reducing the need to leave hot water in traditional kettles that might be spilt by infirm users, yet not highlighting to a ‘sensitive relative’ that you have a concern about their frailty. Hot taps have built-in safety features that work well for children and elderly residents.

Incorporating simple products that are already becoming more popular can enhance inclusiveness and improve multigenerational designs.

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