Alexa for Seniors: Here are 19 ways that Amazon’s smart speaker devices can help older members of our community.
Both the United States and the World Have an Aging Population
In 2019, the Census Bureau estimated that there were 54.1 million residents 65 years and older living in the United States. Globally, there are over 700 million senior citizens according to the UN. This number is expected to double to 1.5 billion by 2050 as medicine improves and people continue to live longer lives.
As technology advances and the older population grows, voice assistants and smart home gadgets are primed to play a big role in helping senior citizens. The Amazon Echo devices, such as Echo Dot or Echo Show, along with Google Nest smart speakers and displays can help older members of our community and caregivers with both simple and complex tasks. This includes everything from checking the weather to setting medication reminders all completely hands-free.
Another interesting dynamic to consider is that as these virtual assistants get “smarter” they will be evolving side-by-side with a generation that is more comfortable using them. Simply put, the Baby Boomer generation did not grow up with cellphones, laptops, and voice assistants. Millennials, on the other hand, did grow up with cellphones and as a result, are more comfortable using things like smart speakers.
As tech-savvy millennials age and smart devices get “smarter,” we see these fundamentals dovetailing into more usage and, by extension, more functionality. This will only increase the benefits of Alexa-enabled devices.
Alexa for Seniors: 19 Ways Voice Assistants Can Help Seniors
While there is much in store for the future, smart home devices like Amazon’s Alexa-enabled products can already drastically improve the life of a senior citizen by assisting with daily tasks and chores. In fact, Amazon’s Alexa Together program is an incredible initiative designed to help take care of the ones you love. Before we dive into that specific initiative, however, here’s an overview of 19 ways that voice assistants can already help the elderly.
What is the best Alexa device for an elderly person?
Let’s start by selecting the right hardware. Whether you’re a senior citizen shopping for yourself, or a family member buying a voice assistant for grandma and grandpa, the Echo Show 2nd Generation is a great place to start.
This wifi-enabled device, in particular, is accessible and engaging with a large screen, camera, and easy-to-identify volume buttons. The touchscreen is colorful, the speakers offer clear sound, and you can make video calls with a new camera that frames and centers automatically. The Alexa voice will be easy to discern for those who are hard of hearing.
For grandma and grandpa, all they have to do when they want to check in with a loved one is simply ask Alexa to call their contacts. Now, here are 19 ways that Alexa can help senior citizens.
1) How to Set Up a Contact List on Alexa
Setting up contacts with Alexa is simple. All you have to do is open the Alexa app on your Amazon Echo Show and click communicate. Then, tap the contacts icon and three dots in a straight line. Next, select “Add Contact.” After you add a name and phone number, this person will be set up as a contact and you can use voice commands to call or message them whenever you want. For seniors, add in close family members or next-door neighbors. This way the contacts are always just one call away.
2. How to Call Someone on Alexa
Alexa makes it easy to contact family members and loved ones without having to remember phone numbers or stare at a small screen to type in individual contacts. Making phone calls on Alexa is just as easy as any other action. By using a simple phrase such as, “Alexa, call John Doe,” Alexa will dial the number of any contact you ask for.
3. How to Make Video Calls on Alexa
Video calls are also fairly simple. You can always say the phrase, “Alexa, video call Jane Doe,” or you can manually do it on the device by swiping the right side of the display towards the left to open the Echo Show feature menu.
On the menu that appears, click “communicate” and then “show contacts” to see your existing list. Then, select the name of the person you want to video call and click the call icon under the “Alexa devices” menu on the contact’s information page. This is a perfect way for grandma and grandpa to say hello to their grandchildren or vice versa. As we mentioned earlier, the larger screen on the Echo Show is sometimes easier on the eyes, especially for older generations.
4. How to Find Your Cell Phone With Alexa
Everyone misplaces their cell phone sometimes. With the Alexa “find my phone” feature, you don’t have to spend hours searching every corner of your house or tracking each move you made that day. All you have to do is set this feature up in advance the way you would do with any of your other devices.
You can start with a simple search for “find my phone” and tap “enable.” Then you can link your Amazon account and tap “allow” to give the skill access. To finish setting it up, you’ll have to do a trial run by saying the phrase, “Alexa, find my phone” and then putting in your phone number when it prompts you.
Next, you’ll have to read out the four-digit code that it sends to your iPhone by SMS. Then, next time you lose your phone, you can use the phrase, “Alexa, find my phone,” and it will signal an alarm-like ringer from your phone that allows you to locate it quickly.
Again, we all lose our phones from time to time. But this could be crucial for older members of our society, especially if we need to get in touch with them during emergencies.
5. How to Call 911 With Alexa
Alexa Communication does not support 911 calls. However, if customers have linked their eligible AT&T or Verizon account to Alexa, they can make and receive calls from their compatible Alexa devices including calls to 911 using their underlying AT&T or Verizon plan, as long as the device is connected to the internet.
Now, with Alexa Together, the aging customer gets 24/7 hands-free access to an Urgent Response professional emergency helpline. During an emergency, they can say, “Alexa, call for help,” to connect with a trained agent who can request the dispatch of police, the fire department, or an ambulance. When Urgent Response is called, Alexa will proactively notify the designated caregiver so they’re kept in the loop.
U.S. customers can also designate one of their contacts as someone who Alexa will call and text when they say “Alexa, call for help”. Using the Alexa app, customers select one of their contacts as their household’s “emergency contact”. Once setup, customers can say “Alexa, call for help” and Alexa will call their designated emergency contact as well as send a text message alerting them that the customer is experiencing an emergency. The emergency contact needs to have a U.S. phone number. They can call your device back via the Alexa app or an Alexa device with Alexa Communications enabled.
6. How to Ask Alexa for the Date and Time
If you want Alexa to provide you with the correct date and time, all you have to do is swipe down from the top of your device, select the “settings” icon and scroll down and choose “device options.” Then tap “date & time” and select your time zone. Next time you ask Alexa to give you that information, it will be accurate.
7. How to Set Reminders to Take Medicine With Alexa
Taking pills is a simple task but for some reason, it can feel impossible to remember sometimes. Luckily, Alexa has a pill reminder feature that you can set up through a simple voice command by saying, “Alexa, remind me every morning at 8:00 a.m. to take my pill” or “Alexa remind me four times a day to take my pill.”
This will make it so you get a ringer notification every time you need to remember to take your pill. For younger members of the family who take daily vitamins, it’s not a big deal if you miss a day here or there. For seniors, however, these pills are essential, which is why these reminders are so important. This functionality may also be useful when setting reminders for doctor’s appointments.
8. How to Set Up Night Light With Alexa Skills
If you want to set up a night light skill with an Echo Show, all you have to do is turn off adaptive lighting and auto-dim and manually set the desired brightness. You can do the first two steps through voice command and then go on your device to the “settings” icon to play with the brightness.
9. How to Set a Timer With Alexa
You can always set a timer through voice command with Alexa. If you want to do so manually, you can open the app and tap the hamburger button in the top left corner and select “alerts & alarms.” Then, you would select the “timer” tab. If you want to change one, you can select an active one or you can tap pause or cancel. You can also simply use your voice by asking Alexa to set a timer.
10. How to Use the Buddy Skill on Alexa
The AskMyBuddy skill is a feature on Alexa that everyone should have, especially if you may be at a higher risk for falling or needing urgent medical attention. There are two parts to setting up this skill.
First, you have to set up an account on the AskMyBuddy.net website. After that, you can enable and link accounts in the application. You can do so by clicking on the “register menu” tab after downloading the app. Then, you can enter your information and press the “register” button.
Once you log in, you can tap on the “contacts” page to add your friends or family. Then you can enable the app by opening the Alexa application and finding AskMyBuddy. You can click on the “enable skill” button and then use your account password to log in.
Once this is complete, you can alert your contacts about an emergency situation by using phrases like “Alexa, ask my buddy to alert everyone” or “Alexa, ask my buddy to send me help.”
11. How to Check the Weather on Alexa
When it’s the middle of winter, and the thermostat drops, you may be reluctant to open the front door and allow a gust of wind to enter the house. With Alexa, you don’t even have to leave your bed to check the temperature again.
You can add your address in the Alexa app through voice command or by opening the Alexa app and selecting “device location.” Then, you can ask Alexa “what’s the weather?” You can also say, “Alexa, what’s the weather in [specific city, state, or country]?” to get an accurate response wherever you are.
Extreme heat or cold can be deadly for older people. Although this may sound like a simple skill, it can be life-saving when temperatures drop or get too hot.
12. How to Create an Intercom on Alexa
The Alexa intercom feature is called “drop in” and it allows you to easily communicate with other members of your household without having to walk across the house or up the stairs to their room.
You can enable it by opening the Alexa app, selecting “devices,” selecting the name of the device you want to use, and then going to “settings,” “communications,” and then “drop in.” Lastly, you can tap “on” or “my household.”
13. How to Use the Drop Skill on Alexa
You can use the drop skill by saying “Alexa, drop in on [contact name]” to open the intercom connection. When you’re done, tell Alexa to “end drop in.” You can also manually do so by opening the “conversation” tab in the Alexa app and selecting a specific contact. You can see if someone has allowed you to do so if you click on the “drop in” tab on the blue bar at the top.
14. How to Start Your Car With Alexa
Alexa makes your home life easier, but it also makes your transportation life simpler too. If you want to start your car with Alexa, you can turn it on and set the car display input to bluetooth. Then, you can turn on Bluetooth on your smartphone, open the Alexa app, and select “add a device.” You can then select “Amazon Echo” and then “Echo Autho.” The screen will then provide step-by-step instructions to set up your device. Again, if the weather is cold or hot, this could be a gamechanger for older members of the family.
15. How to Listen to Audiobooks on Alexa
If your vision is getting weaker or you simply don’t feel like staring at a book for hours, Alexa can help you get your daily reading in with less effort. If you open the Alexa app on a mobile device, you can tap the “play icon,” swipe down the entertainment screen and click on “see all” for the audible library section. You can then scan through all of the audio book options and tap the name of a book to start listening through your Echo device. You can also use voice commands to play a specific book you have in mind.
16. How to Order from a Restaurant on Alexa
Cooking can get tiring and so can waiting on the phone for ten minutes to speak to a restaurant manager. Alexa eliminates this step with the “easy order” feature which you can set up online.
With an Easy Order account you can order from Domino’s Pizza by simply saying “Alexa, tell Domino’s to place my easy order.” You can even ask Alexa to check on your order to receive an update and it will also notify you when it’s on the way.
17. How to Use Alexa to Stop Burglars
When it comes to fight or flight, many senior citizens can’t do either, which puts them at a higher risk for burglary.
If you struggle with your hearing or eyesight and feel concerned about your home security, Alexa has a feature called Alexa Guard that can act as a pair of eyes and ears for your home when you’re not there.
If it senses movement or hears a sound that might be out of the ordinary, it will send you a notification. Plus, for $5 a month, you can pay for Alexa Guard Plus, which is an added feature that automatically calls for help in these situations. Security systems can get expensive, but this is a cheap, easy, and reliable way to use this assistive technology.
18. How to Use Alexa as a Speaker to Play Music
One of Alexa’s best and simplest features is its ability to work as a speaker. If you want a background soundtrack to your evening cooking session or beach waves to play as you fall asleep, Alexa has you covered.
All you have to do is set up your phone or smart device to Bluetooth pairing mode. Then, use the voice command, “Alexa, pair” and she’ll start searching for a device to connect to. Then you can select your Echo speaker under Bluetooth settings on your other smart device and Alexa will announce once it’s a successful connection.
Then, you can play whatever you want on your phone through the Alexa speaker by manually selecting a song or asking Alexa to find one. This is a great way for older adults to listen to their favorite podcasts as well.
19. How to Use Alexa Hunches
Not only does Alexa safeguard your house, but it also uses “hunches” to alert you by voice or a mobile push notification when a connected smart device isn’t in its usual spot. If you open the Alexa app and tap “more” and then “settings,” you can select “hunches” and turn the mobile notification for this on or off.
While smart speakers may seem complex and confusing to older generations, they truly aren’t that bad in terms of the overall setup. The return on this investment offers the ultimate peace of mind not only for seniors who may be living alone but also for concerned family members.
Amazon and Google Smarts speakers offer amazing technology that can help seniors do everything from creating a shopping list to taking pills to check the weather. They can listen to their favorite music or books and connect with loved ones. They can also call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency or use Amazon Echo devices to help protect against break-ins.