Move aside Siri, Alexa is here! Alexa or the Amazon Echo is a hands-free speaker that looks like a vertical tube or a canister and works on voice-activated technology. Like Siri, you can ask Alexa to play music, the news, sports-scores or weather reports. But that’s not it. Incredibly, you can instruct Alexa to turn up and down the volume to your TV, connect to your Bluetooth speakers, read a book out loud, request for recipes and even call an Uber! All you have to do is ask. So, if Grandma is baking a pumpkin pie for Halloween and her hands are full (not to mention dirty), she can simple instruct, “Alexa, set a timer for 45 minutes?” and it will let her know when the pie is ready! It’s remarkably easy.
Naturally, one can wonder if (and how) this new tech toy could be helpful to seniors. So, I bought one for myself and I’m convinced that Alexa has great potential in the senior care space.
Benefits to Seniors
Here are a few reasons why Grandma will love Alexa:
- Smart home integration. Alexa can integrate with smart home technology, including smart light-bulbs and thermostats. Wheelchair-bound relatives and family members with mobility challenges can now easily control their environment with simple voice commands. If Grandma feels cold, she can summon Alexa to turn up the heat. If Grandma wants to use the bathroom at night, she needn’t struggle to find the switch to the light-bulb (risking injury). She can instruct “Alexa, turn on the bathroom lights” and her lights come on.
- Medication Alert Capability. Alexa’s timer capability can be used to set an alert for taking medication. This way Grandma will never miss her medication.
- Ease of Shopping. Alexa can create a shopping list. All you have to do is say “Alexa, add _______ to my shopping list.” Before going to the grocery store, Grandma can ask Alexa to read out everything she has on the list.
- Online Shopping. Alexa can order products for Grandma from the Amazon store for home delivery. Grandma can make a voice purchase request and if the item is available, Alexa will announce the item name, price and estimated delivery information. Then, Alexa will ask to confirm or cancel the order. Once confirmed, the order is placed and Grandma can use Alexa to track the shipped order. If necessary, Grandma could also ask Alexa to cancel the order.
- Companionship. Alexa could be an excellent companion. Alexa can play music when Grandma’s feeling low. Alexa can narrate jokes, including knock-knock jokes! A sense of companionship can often ameliorate sickness. For those with dementia, Alexa can tell the date and time, as well as respond to everyday questions whose answers might have slipped from memory, such as “Alexa, when was JFK assassinated?”
- New Gen Design. Products designed for older adults generally look and feel unaesthetic. Alexa, however, has a modern and sleek design. So, Grandma can feel cool and hip without the headaches of technical setup or maintenance!
- Excellent Hearing Capability. The device can hear Grandma from across the room, even while music is playing.
- Easy Set up. Alexa is extremely easy to set up. All you need is an electrical outlet, a WiFi connection and smart phone or tablet. Plus, Alexa is portable! Grandma can take Alexa with her everywhere she goes.
- Reliability. The device is quite reliable. For those of you who are concerned about privacy, Alexa has a mute button on the top. Pressing the mute button shuts off even the trigger word system and, in theory, stops Alexa from listening. You may also use a spoken command to mute Alexa. Amazon has not had a major data leak or privacy goof since Alexa’s inception.
- Good Price Point. Alexa is available in three models: (1) Amazon Echo (approx. $180), (2) Amazon Echo Dot (approx. $50), and (3) Amazon Tap (approx. $130). At $180 a piece, the device is certainly not inexpensive. Specially, because as of January 2017, the Amazon Echo does not have an emergency 911 calling capability. That said, for all the foregoing reasons, I strongly believe the Echo device can significantly improve the quality of life for family members with special needs.
Alexa is a gift for older adults. Without Alexa, they’d have to ask someone else to help them with these everyday tasks. It gives them more control over their independence. So, if Grandma has hand tremors and would like a way to turn on the television without fumbling with the remote, get her the Amazon Echo! She’d love to control the TV with Alexa.