Home security systems can provide added peace of mind and security for older adults who wish to live in their homes for as long as possible. They can monitor for break-ins, threats and summon help quickly. Home security systems may be do-it-yourself set ups or professionally installed.
- Written by Terry Turner
Senior Financial Writer and Financial Wellness Facilitator
Terry Turner has more than 35 years of journalism experience, including covering benefits, spending and congressional action on federal programs such as Social Security and Medicare. He is a Certified Financial Wellness Facilitator through the National Wellness Institute and the Foundation for Financial Wellness and a member of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE®).Read More
- Edited ByLamia Chowdhury
Lamia Chowdhury is a financial content editor for RetireGuide and has over three years of marketing experience in the finance industry. She has written copy for both digital and print pieces ranging from blogs, radio scripts and search ads to billboards, brochures, mailers and more.Read More
- Reviewed By Bart Astor
- Published: July 5, 2022
- Updated: May 23, 2023
- 8 min read time
- This page features 7 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
What Are Home Security Systems?
Home security systems can offer seniors safety through an added layer of protection. These integrated systems combine several electronic components to monitor and alert residents about break-ins, home invasions, burglaries, fires or other threats.
- Keypad that allows you to arm and disarm the system
- Entry sensors that detect when a door, window or other entry point is used
- Flood lights — coupled with motion sensors — to illuminate exterior areas
- Glass-break sensors that can detect when a window or glass door is broken
- Motion sensors to detect movement inside your home and alert you or a monitoring company
- Panic button that allows you to press a single button to alert the monitoring company of a threat
- Security cameras providing real-time and recorded video and still images
- Siren to alert you and neighbors of a threat and to scare off intruders
- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to alert you and the monitoring company of a fire or toxic gas leaks
- Video doorbells that allow you to see and talk to people at your door
- Base station to sync the various components
- Window stickers and yard signs to warn potential intruders that a security system is monitoring your home
You can tailor the list of components to meet your particular needs. Modern home security systems no longer require a trained technician to install a system. With Wi-Fi-based systems now available, you can reduce the need to wire your home by choosing a do-it-yourself (DIY) option, which can be more practical and affordable.
You typically pay for the equipment and any professional installation required, then pay a monthly subscription for 24/7 monitoring.
Types of Home Security Systems
There are several different types of home security systems to choose from. Understanding each option can help you choose the best home security system for your needs and budget.
- Professional systems
- Professional home security systems include systems that are installed professionally and those that are monitored by a response team at a company call center. The team is professionally trained to respond and notify the proper local authorities, as well as others — such as neighbors or family members — in the event of an alert. ADT, Vivint and Brinks are examples of professional home security systems.
- DIY (Do-It-Yourself) systems
- Do-it-yourself — or DIY — home security systems allow you to put the system together and monitor it yourself, typically through a mobile app. DIY systems may also offer professional monitoring for an extra fee. Ring, SimpliSafe and Wyze are examples of DIY home security systems.
- Local-only security system
- Local-only systems are not connected to the Internet. They also don’t provide monitoring and notifications. The only way to know there is a threat is if you are near the alarm system when it goes off. There is also no remote, so you have to reset the alarm manually, typically from a wall keypad or base station.
- Smart security system
- Smart home security systems are connected to the Internet, allowing you to monitor your home live from a mobile app or other Internet-connected device. The system alerts you when it is triggered, and you can control the system remotely from the app.
- Hard-wired systems
- Wired home security systems are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system. This option may include both professional and DIY home security systems. They can use either landlines or cellular systems to alert you or monitoring services. These systems cannot be jammed and continue working even if your Internet connection goes down.
- Wireless systems
- Wireless home security systems are not connected to your home’s electrical systems and require batteries, WiFi or cellular connections to power and connect the various components. These systems tend to be much easier to install if you are considering a DIY home security system, but you’ll need to monitor and replace batteries as needed.
How Home Security Systems Work
Professional home security systems — and many DIY systems — come with 24/7 professional monitoring.
These systems typically do not connect directly to your local fire, police and emergency services. Instead, they connect to professionally trained professionals at company call centers. The system notifies the call center in the event of a break-in or other threat, and the team can contact your local first responders in an emergency.
Usually, if your security system alerts the call center about a threat, team members will call you first and ask for a “safe word” — a code word to make sure you are not under an outside threat, such as a home invader.
If you give a different word, the team will contact local authorities who will respond to your house.
Why Do Seniors Need Home Security Systems?
As you age, criminals may see you as more vulnerable.
Almost 83% of convicted burglars said they would try to determine if a target had an alarm system before a burglary — with 60% backing out of the burglary if there was a security system, according to a study at the University of North Carolina funded by trade groups of the electronic alarm industry.
While data show that seniors are less likely to be the victims of crime overall, they are generally more vulnerable and many feel safer having a home security system.
Deaths from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide in the home are two other threats home security systems can protect against by incorporating smoke and carbon monoxide monitors into the system.
Between 1990 and 2017, the proportion of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning globally increased among people 50 and older, according to a study in the British Journal of Medicine.
Home fire deaths in the United States also spike between the ages of 55 and 74 and remain disproportionately higher than other age groups, according to a report from the National Fire Protection Association.
Popular Brands of Home Security Systems
There is a wide range of home security system brands to choose from — more than 170, according to Consumer Reports.
You should shop around between different options to find the best combination of features and price that work for you.
- Probably the most recognized name in home security systems, ADT has been around since 1874 — when it invented a telegraph-based call box system connecting 50 homes to a central office. Today, it is the largest professional home security system company with six million residential customers in the United States. ADT requires an initial set up cost of around $600 and a 36-month contract with subscription plans starting at around $46 a month. It does not offer DIY options.
- Brinks has a long history in commercial and financial security services. The brand dates to armored transportation services back in 1859. It expanded into home security systems in 1983 and now protects 900,000 homes in the United States. Brinks offers both professionally installed and DIY home security options. Basic set up starts at about $200 and subscription fees cost you another $40 a month. You must agree to a 36-month contract.
- SimpliSafe offers wide ranging options to create a DIY system. A basic set of components start at around $250, with more advanced packages up to just over $500. The company reduces the equipment cost if you sign up for 24/7 interactive monitoring, which starts at just under one dollar a day. There is no contract, and you can cancel at any time.
- Vivint offers three basic professional packages — and the option to design your own custom package using its components. But it does not offer a DIY option — you must use the company’s professional installers to set up the home security system. Prices start at $600 for the least expensive package set up. Monthly subscription costs start at around $20. There is no long-term contract.
Are Home Security Systems Worth It?
Deciding if a home security system is worth it depends on your individual needs.
You’ll need to weigh the cost of a system against your desire to protect your belongings and your own sense of security and safety.
If you keep valuables in your home, live in a high-crime neighborhood or face other risks a home security system could reduce — a system may be worth it.
You should also consider the peace of mind a system might provide and your concerns over your level of vulnerability as you age.
Home Security vs. Medical Alert Systems
Home security and medical alert systems serve different purposes. A home security system protects your property against intruders or other threats. A medical alert system protects you specifically in the event of medical emergencies, accidents and injuries.
Some systems may include both home security and medical alert functions. This can create an all-in-one system to provide protection against multiple risks you face as you age in place.
Otherwise, you may want to consider both a home security system and a medical alert system.
When shopping for either type of system, ask if it can be incorporated into an all-in-one medical alert and home security system. That way, even if you don’t want both right now, you can have the option of upgrading in the future if you change your mind.
7 Cited Research Articles
- Consumer Reports. (2022, April 29). Home Security System Buying Guide. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-security-systems/buying-guide/index.htm
- Wroclawski, D. (2022, February 15). Ring, SimpliSafe and Three Other DIY Home Security Systems Vulnerable to Hacking. Retrieved from https://www.consumerreports.org/diy-home-security-systems/diy-home-security-systems-vulnerable-to-hacking-a7530099647/
- Ahrens, M. (2021, December). Characteristics of Home Fire Victims. Retrieved from https://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Data-research-and-tools/US-Fire-Problem/Home-fire-victims-by-age-and-gender
- Long, J., et al. (2021, November 12). Temporal Trends of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Mortality at the Global, Regional and National Levels: A Cross-Sectional Study From the Global Burden of Disease Study, 1990 and 2017. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8601087/
- Kennedy, B. and Ibrahim, J. (2021, July 14). Safe at Home? We Need a New Strategy to Protect Older Adults from Violent Crime. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/safe-at-home-we-need-a-new-strategy-to-protect-older-adults-from-violent-crime-163260
- U.S. Federal Trade Commission. (2021, May). How to Shop for a Home Security System and Avoid Scams. Retrieved from https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-shop-home-security-system-avoid-scams
- Kuhns, J.B. (2012, December). Understanding Decisions to Burglarize from the Offender's Perspective. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/268444817_Understanding_Decisions_to_Burglarize_from_the_Offender%27s_Perspective