Voice Assistant Devices are Wonderful for Seniors

A portion of the older generation may be slightly reluctant to embrace modern gadgets including smart phones and tablets, however, there are many ways that newer voice command technologies can improve and revitalize their lives with minimal involvement on their part. Devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home can be great additions to the homes of older adults for entertainment, communication, and for use as personal assistants.  

What is Needed? 

If the home is not currently equipped with Wi-Fi, a family member or caregiver may need to initiate the installation and configuration. A device will also need to be selected from the array of models available. The main systems to choose from are Amazon Echo and Google Home. You may need to work with your loved one to research which option is best for their needs. Another consideration is to determine the number of units that will be needed around the home to provide optimal accessibility.  

Once an apparatus is chosen, download the associated mobile application on either an iOS or Android device for setup (smartphones or tablets are not required for daily use).  When the initial set-up is complete, there will be settings and options to walk through to ensure ideal performance. One such item of major importance is to configure what will indicate that the assistant has been activated, like a light or tone. Should the user have any visual or audio limitations, it would be prudent to select which cue would make the most sense for them. Next, they will need to determine a phrase that initiates the system, since this is the catalyst for usage of the devices.  

You will also need to establish who will be responsible for controlling the features on the back end. An email address is required, so it may be necessary to create an email address for your loved one, home companion, or other family members in order to receive any alerts or messages.  

The user’s location should be programmed to enable immediate access to weather forecasts and directory information such as local store locations and phone numbers. This will assist the user with search and retrieval using limited verbiage and phrases.  

What the Systems Can Help With 

For those who lack readily available access to a standard calendar, the time and date can be retrieved using a simple voice command. One of the greatest features related to the date and time is the ability to set reminders for medications and doctors’ appointments. It allows for peace of mind that pertinent responsibilities are being remembered when home care companions or family members are not with the individual. Birthdays and other sentimental dates can be recorded as well. The assistants can even do everything from suggesting presents and adding them to virtual shopping carts.  

To-do lists and shopping lists can be created for either the senior themselves, family, or caregivers, if the application is installed on the recipient’s phones. This can certainly be wonderful for those running errands such as dry cleaning drop off/pick up, prescription retrieval and grocery shopping.  

Direct verbal contact can also be made easier.  Since the systems can be connected to a phone line, a senior living at home with arthritis or limited mobility, can simply request their device to call one of their contacts without ever having to use their phone. Besides mobile phones or land lines, the assistants are now also linked to dozens of other technologies.  An elder would only rely on their voice to do things such as turning on the television or turning off the lights. These features are perfect for those with arthritis, limited mobility or other physical limitations.  

In the event of emergency, the units will be instrumental, however, they will need to be accessible in whatever location within the home the user is in. It would be best to place devices in different rooms throughout the house. Calling someone during an emergency is possible, but the proper interfaces with phone lines need to be in place.  

Entertainment Value 

The interactive nature of the voice assistants can improve the elder’s quality of life.  Surely, artificial intelligence is not a substitution for human interaction, but at times when home health aides, spouses, or relatives are not present, the devices can provide some sense of companionship. They also offer unlimited sources of entertainment.  

Listening to music can liven up your loved one’s mood and bring back happy memories associated with certain songs or singers. Depending on accessibility to specific stations, the individual can simply request what they prefer to listen to without having to turn on a radio or other music source.  Avid readers can retain ability to engage with books, even if struggling with declining eyesight since audiobooks are read aloud. Games, including trivia, are available for brain stimulation and eliminating boredom.    

Everyday essentials like the news and weather can be accessed without reliance on television or newspapers, using a simple voice command. A bonus is that at any time the individual is lonely or in need of some humor, the voice assistant can also tell jokes.  

Moving Forward 

There may be some initial reluctance to adopt this technology, but a family member or caregiver can work with your loved one to get accustomed to the commands and preferences. Once familiar with the bevy of options available, you can be confident that your elder relative will enjoy the smart speakers. 

For more detailed information pertaining to these devices and their functions, we suggest that you visit the manufacturer websites prior to making decisions on which to move forward with. If you need to learn more about how an in-home caregiver can provide live assistance for your loved ones, please reach out to us. 

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