Alexa: The Window to Independence

Alexa: The Window to Independence

New innovations in technology are making seniors more independent every day.  Alexa is one that is at the forefront.  It has helped countless seniors to regain some autonomy in their lives.  Alexa is an artificially intelligent (AI) personal assistant that is the voice recognition program of  Amazon’s Echo.  Commands are voice controlled.  Some of the most common uses are:

 

  • Listen to music and audio books
  • Hear day/date/time
  • Get news, weather, sports updates
  • Control lights, thermostats, televisions
  • Schedule reminders for appointments
  • Set timers and alarms
  • Hear jokes
  • Answer questions

 

Tasks involving lights, televisions, thermostats, etc. require connectivity through Wi-Fi (smart home devices).  However, items like lights can be converted through an attachment to the outlet and plug.  Additional items can be connected in other ways.  Installing the connectors is often simple enough for a family member, neighbor or friend to do.

 

Seniors with early stage Dementia are helped by having a friendly voice respond to questions asked repeatedly such as what day/time is it?  This reduces the frustration of loved ones when visiting.

 

One of the interesting aspects of Alexa for seniors is its ability to clarify speech on calls.  A son who wrote a review of this feature said his mother, with hearing aids, struggled for 20 years to have phone conversations.  He sent his mother an Amazon Echo and, after the Alexa setup, she was able to hear everything he said.  The family who lives far away can now have conversations as often as they want.

 

A particularly useful function for seniors is “Ask My Buddy” which helps them in an emergency.  “Ask My Buddy” is one of the “Skill Finder” sections of Alexa.  It enables one or more people to be alerted that their loved one needs to be contacted.  The command is, “Alexa, Ask My Buddy to alert ‘Susan’, or ‘everyone” which will notify them to contact the senior as soon as possible.  Alerts are sent via text, email or voice.  Unfortunately, at the moment, Ask My Buddy is not able to connect to 911.  Setting up this application is somewhat complex and the senior will need help with that.

 

Technology is advancing every day.  Seniors will benefit greatly by these advances but will need help in identifying the ones they need and getting those options installed and working smoothly.