Alexa has become a popular service for around 50 million people across the U.S. After all, who doesn’t love the idea of a voice-activated assistant doing whatever you ask?
However, Alexa isn’t just a cool idea. For seniors living alone, Alexa can serve as a practical digital aide who takes care of their needs in a hands-free way. Let’s go over how Alexa can be used to assist seniors with daily tasks and enhance their quality of life.
What is Alexa?
Alexa is a digital assistant available on Amazon devices, primarily on Amazon Echo. Amazon Echo is a speaker-like device that’s useful for playing music and using certain apps. It also runs Alexa for voice-assisted tasks.
Overall, you can think of Alexa as a digital assistant, who can utilize the internet and apps to provide a range of voice-activated services.
What can Alexa do for seniors?
The idea of Alexa for seniors is endless. In fact, Alexa is perfectly suited to meet senior needs. Let’s go into some of the specific tasks that Alexa can perform for seniors.
1. Reduce sense of solitude
Alexa is a great companion for seniors. Because Alexa is voice-activated, seniors can talk to Alexa like a regular person. According to an article published by MIT recently, “Alexa will be your best friend when you’re older.” This is especially true because Alexa has a sense of humor and often tells jokes and riddles. Seniors can talk to Alexa in conversation, reducing their solitude.
2. Provide entertainment
One of the key pillars of Alexa is the entertainment aspect. Seniors can ask for any entertainment that they enjoy, without needing to check with caregivers. For example, they can simply ask Alexa for their favorite music, radio programs, audio books and sports matches. It’s an easy way for them to stay entertained during the day and create a daily routine that involves their favorite things.
3. Give weather, traffic and news updates
Seniors also enjoy their daily updates, such as weather, traffic and news. Alexa can share these updates easily upon command or at a certain time of day. In particular, checking the weather via voice can be useful for seniors as they’re preparing for an outing.
4. Read aloud daily inspiration or bible passages
In addition, seniors have certain daily routines involving inspiration quotes or bible passages. For those who enjoy listening to these passages out loud, Alexa is an excellent tool to hear daily inspiration without needing to look anything up online. They can simply ask Alexa to read out their bookmarked websites, books or podcasts.
5. Schedule medication reminders
Another excellent task that Alexa can perform is medication reminders. These can be set as daily reminders at a set time, so that seniors make sure to take their medications correctly. This can give peace of mind to seniors. As Alexa gives this instruction out loud, it’s also a personal way to enhance medication adherence.
6. Provide senior safety
While Alexa can’t dial 911 directly, there are services that are linked to emergency calls. The Ask My Buddy skill lets Alexa notify your set contacts that you’re ok. It can also alert your contacts if you need help. This shouldn’t be a 911 alternative, but it’s a nice feature for families who want daily updates on their loved one.
7. Update calendar and lists
Seniors can also keep their calendars and lists updated via Alexa. They can simply ask Alexa to add something to their calendar. In addition, they can keep shopping lists, errands lists or other personal lists in order to keep their lives organized.
8. Answer general questions
Alexa is also an internet guru. It can answer any senior questions. Instead of having to open an internet browser, type in their question and comb through results, seniors can simply ask Alexa their questions and get simple answers. This is a perfect feature for seniors with dementia too, since Alexa can easily respond to the same question over and over again.
9. Connect with smart house functions
Alexa can connect to smart house functions, too. This can make daily living even easier for seniors. For example, Alexa can control and turn on/off certain tools if they’re internet-connected. Lights, the thermostat, TV, security cameras and house locks can all be controlled via voice (as long as they’re smart-connected).
10. Make phone calls
In addition, phone calls can be made with Alexa. Seniors simply can ask Alexa to call one of their set contacts and put the call through. For seniors who struggle to correctly dial, this is a great feature.
11. Provide exercise programs
Alexa can even provide audio exercise programs to do at home. For seniors who want to do yoga or tai chi, Alexa can easily bring up the program and play it. This is a great option for seniors who enjoy doing gentle exercise.
12. Shop online
It’s also possible to shop online via Alexa. This is especially useful when the senior knows what he/she wants to buy. Since Alexa is connected to Amazon, they can easily make purchases without needing to enter a webpage.
13. Order rides or give driving instructions
Seniors who want to order an Uber or get driving instructions to a location can also ask Alexa. Instead of dialing a taxi service, Alexa can save the senior’s key addresses and easily request a ride.
14. Find my… service
Finally, Alexa can find internet-connected items, such as a phone. For seniors who easily misplace their phone or other items, they can ask Alexa and get a response for where in the house it is. This is also true for any internet-connected items, such as car keys.
Alexa for seniors with dementia
Moreover, Alexa is an excellent idea for seniors with dementia. Not only can Alexa answer questions on a regular basis, but some of the key skills are ideal for dementia patients, including:
- Medication reminders
- Ask My Buddy service
- Find my… service
These Alexa skills are great for helping dementia navigate their daily routine without hiccups.
Recently, Amazon has also added the My Life Story feature. Caregivers or family members can set up “memories” for the senior that can be read aloud. This is an amazing way to handle senior anxiety and relieve caregivers who may be distressed about constantly filling in memory gaps.
Alexa for immobile seniors
In addition, Alexa is ideal for immobile seniors who aren’t able to use handheld devices. In particular, it’s great for seniors who”
- Suffer arthritis and can’t easily use handheld devices.
- Seniors who aren’t mobile and would like to take care of tasks via voice.
- Seniors who are bedridden and want to select their own entertainment at any time of day/night.
Specifically, the voice recognition aspect of Alexa is great to give some independence to immobile seniors who can use Alexa to take care of certain needs on their own.
Alexa for vision-impaired seniors
Alexa is also ideal for vision-impaired seniors. For those who are blind or have trouble seeing or reading, Alexa can handle key tasks for them. In addition, they can enjoy certain entertainment that they wouldn’t otherwise, such as audio books. It’s a great idea for vision-impaired seniors who can use voice commands to continue with their daily routine.
Tips for setting up Alexa and training seniors on it
Of course, Alexa requires some initial set-up. It’s important for you to help your senior get Alexa ready to use with their Amazon account, phone contacts, smart home device, etc.
At first, you might also want to print off a list of Alexa commands for your loved one to get the hang of asking Alexa. This “cheat sheet” can help them understand how to use it, without getting frustrated. Later on, they’ll become pros and likely not need this sheet.
Finally, make sure you guide seniors through the learning process. Make yourself available if they have a question or need help with an Alexa skill. It may take some time for them to understand how to use it.
Potential challenges with Alexa for seniors
While Alexa is set to help seniors and improve their quality of life, there are some challenges for seniors. These may include:
- Remembering how to use the voice commands.
- Making sure Alexa understands the senior’s accent.
- Getting the volume control at the right level.
- Knowing how to troubleshoot when something goes wrong.
Luckily, none of these challenges are make-or-break. You can work with your loved one so that they learn how to use Alexa and feel empowered to use it in their daily routine.
Alexa is the #1 tool to improve the little day-to-day things in a senior’s life. With it, they can get the entertainment they like, the security they need and answers to the questions they’re sure to have. Overall, Alexa’s an excellent digital companion to accompany seniors through their golden years.