© Smart Living Center

Smart Living Center: ‘Liberating‘ aging citizens

Increasingly more citizens in Berlin are anxiously thinking about having a dignified life when they are old, with all the problems that come up more and more in an aging society. As from spring 2020, the Smart Living Center will introduce technological solutions so that aging people can remain independent as best as possible despite mental and physical restrictions.  

The Center was set up by a partnership between the BG Klinikum Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin gGmbH, the Verein deutscher Grundstücksnutzer and Smart Living am UKB Campus Berlin e.V.  It is located on the Gesundheitscampus of the KB in the Berlin-Marzahn district, one of the districts with the highest percentage of aging citizens in the capital. The better part of these people wants to remain in their own homes as long as possible. This circumstance has led to the idea to create a place where age-appropriate living can be demonstrated. 

‘Autonomous Flats‘ provide the older citizens with independence and dignity

A show flat in Marzahn that was set up in 2014 is the smart predecessor of the Center, operated by the OTB GmbH and called an ‘Autonomous Flat’ by the project leader Tiago da Silva . Visitors are encouraged to try out the various smart components to find out which of these may be best suited for their individual living situation. The technical auxiliary devices are used in living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms, hallways and kitchens.  

Part of the devices is, for example, a clothes lift that stows away clothes high up in wardrobes, or a curtain lift that moves curtains up and down again for cleaning. Illuminated skirting boards react to movements and facilitate orientation during the night. Lowerable hanging cupboards and a hob that switches itself off automatically do away with hurdles and risks in everyday life in the kitchen. A learning heating adapts to the inhabitants’ habits and thus saves electricity. Smart window grips in the bathroom send off a signal to an emergency service, once the bathroom has not been used for a longer period of time.

First steps into an age-appropriate future 

These smart solutions and many more can be tested and purchased individually from the relevant manufacturers. Former project leader of the Smart Living Centers, Nadja Zivkovic, confirms the success of the project: “We regard the ‘Autonomous Flat’ as a pioneer of the overall Smart Living Center. About 50 visitors come to us per week. There is a lively interest and those looking around come from completely different target groups. On the one hand end users, that is older people in their late sixities who know that they are still really quite healthy but who ask themselves at the same time what to do in future to remain in their own home or flat as long as possible. On the other hand there is the group of daughters and sons who have noticed that their mother or father do not feel quite well anymore and who are looking for help; they mostly come together with their parents. Furthermore there are craftsmen that would be responsible for building in such devices later on and who want the products explained to them. But also planners, architects and nursing schools are amongst our visitors.“    

At the same time the ‘Autonomous Flat‘ also offers a forum to remove older people’s anxiety when confronted with technology, as Nadja Zivkovic underlines: “Unkown things always create a certain amount of scepticism. But once you have held something like that in your hand or tried a lever seat, it becomes much more uncomplicated.“  The ‘Autonomous Flat’, however, is only the beginning of a much more extensive project. A point of contact will be established with informed and qualified employees to which people of the district can turn to, discuss all those important questions around the subjects of health and care, and where they can ask for support and do not have to feel unworthy.