Given that 118,000,000 people in the US have a “smart speaker” the next part of this paragraph is probably be rendered unnecessary, but it is important to set up the conversation.  Amazon Echo is a voice-activated and controlled smart speaker that uses a virtual assistant called Alexa, to perform a variety of tasks. These tasks can be simple, such as playing music or making lists, or more advanced, such as controlling your smart home’s thermostat or turning off your lights.

The point of this article, however, is specifically about how the Alexa technology can be helpful to assisting Seniors in their daily lives.  We will get into specifics about how in a minute, but to start, lets talk about the “why”.  Certainly, people of any age can and do use Alexa, but older adults will find voice-activated management particularly useful.  Here are a few examples:

Hands-free Tasks.  Easily the best benefits of Amazon Echo for seniors is that it allows many actions to be initiated hands-free.  With over 50 million adults suffering from arthritis, making tasks from writing to dialing less painful.  A couple of examples include:

  • Playing music. A simple voice command can ask Alexa to play a type of music or a specific title or a specific artist.
  • Make phone calls. No need to even know where the cell phone is.  Alexa will dial by a simple voice command, “Alexa…Call Jane”, for example.  Or “Alexa…Call 888-123-4567.”

Tasks Requiring Vision.  Alexa can be a significant help with seniors with vision problems.  With Alexa they can listen to the news, hear weather forecasts – even hear their glucose readings without using a meter (with a CGM unit).

  • Read the news. Let Alexa pick your news source or designate it specifically yourself.
  • Hear the weather. From simple questions like the temperature to a seven-day forecast – locally or for any city in the world.
  • Tell the time. “Alexa, what time is it.”
  • Make lists. As things occur to you (grocery items, things to talk to the doctor about, to do list) Alexa will add them to lists that can be read from a cell phone at a later time and checked off as they are accomplished.

Basic Tasks.  Alexa can greatly assist seniors with mobility issues.  With Alexa they can run all sorts of systems with only their voice.

  • Adjust the thermostat.
  • Turn lights on or off, or to dim. Newer Alexa devices (Echo Flex) will turn on lights based on motion detection.  All Alexa devices can be set to turn lights on or off at specific times.
  • Lock doors. With “smart locks” all it takes is a voice command.
  • Medication reminders. Tell Alexa to remind you to take medicine at a specific time every day.  One instruction will repeat the reminder every day.
  • Tell Alexa when to take the bread out of the oven.  The instruction can be by time of day or number of minutes ahead.

Emergency Tasks.  An older person’s home is dramatically safer when they can summon help from anywhere in their home by simply using a voice command.  They can call 911 or pre-programmed family phone numbers.  And, because Alexa uses common language, the senior does not need to remember any difficult protocols to use the system.