Throughout the last decade, advances in technology have made life easier for people of all ages. From helping adults and seniors manage medications to ordering groceries and tracking fitness and health goals, technology simplifies everyday tasks. But for older adults, technology can be intimidating, making them reluctant to integrate technology into their lifestyles. Reasons for this may include physical difficulties, skepticism or even a lack of support. However, the benefits of seniors using technology have become more evident, and integrating it into your life has become easier.
That is because innovations specifically designed for older adults have significantly improved over the last decade. User-friendly devices such as lifeline alarms, pendants and GPS trackers have been introduced into the senior living industry, providing seniors, caregivers and loved ones peace of mind. As technology becomes more accessible to seniors, more older adults are interested in learning how to use it in their everyday lives.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, seniors were forced to rely on technology to connect with their friends, family and loved ones. According to a recent survey, the use of technology among older adults is growing with no signs of slowing down. Older adults are adopting smartphones, home assistants, smart speakers and smart-home technology at the same rate as adults ages 18 to 49. Not only are older adults beginning to engage with technology more often, but many are also experiencing its variety of mental, social and physical benefits.
One recent advance in technology that has caught on especially well is the use of voice-controlled assistants for seniors, also known as voice-controlled and voice-activated devices. Senior living communities that have integrated voice-controlled assistants using a smart device offer a bold new way to make residents’ lives easier and promote independence.
What Are Voice-Control Devices and Their Common Uses?
Voice control is a touchless technology solution. Everyday uses of voice-control technology include Siri on your iPhone or Amazon Alexa in your home. How it works is simple: You speak a voice command into a phone or speaker, and the artificial intelligence (AI) device performs the desired action. Or ask the smart device a question, and it will respond with an answer.
For example, if you wanted to know the weather for the day, you’d simply say, “Alexa [or Siri], what is the weather like?” The voice-controlled AI would hear its name called, then process and answer the question.
The Growing Use and Need for Smart Technology Devices for Seniors
Voice-controlled technology offers a wide range of applications for seniors who have mobility issues or who simply want an easier way to accomplish daily tasks. A simple voice command can significantly improve health and well-being for seniors.
Vocal communication is our easiest and most natural way of interacting with others. Most people would prefer to talk rather than text, write or click. For seniors, this makes the technology seem familiar and intuitive from the beginning. It’s a simpler way to get things done, especially for seniors with visual or physical impairments.
Voice-controlled technology can act as an organization tool, a calendar system, a hands-free communication device and more. Below are some examples of how voice-controlled assistants can help older adults stay safe, productive and independent.
What Can Voice-Controlled Assistants Do?
Information and updates. Voice-controlled assistants are connected to the Internet, meaning there is a wealth of information available to you with the sound of your voice. Want to know the global population, or what the weather will be like today? Perhaps you are interested in local breaking news or global news headlines? Just ask!
Timers, alarms and reminders. Voice-controlled assistants keep track of time perfectly, meaning that not only will you always know what time it is, but you can also set alarms and timers – a great feature for knowing when food is finished cooking, even if you’re not in the kitchen. Setting reminders can be helpful if you have daily medications to take or want to stick to a exercise routine.
Entertainment. These devices are speakers, meaning that if you have existing music or podcast accounts, you can connect them to the voice-controlled device and get access to your music library or the latest episodes. It also connects to audiobook accounts like Audible, so you can listen to just one more chapter of your favorite book. This feature is great for older adults who have difficulty reading traditional printed materials.
Shopping. Voice-controlled assistants can connect to shopping applications like Wal-Mart, Amazon and Instacart. This makes it easy to purchase necessities and even set up automated delivery of those items.
Communication. Users who have fallen and don’t have access to a phone can makeemergency calls for help. They can also call family members, caregivers and delivery services. If you have multiple voice-controlled assistants in your home, you can use them like an intercom, which can be useful if you live with family.
Smart gadgets. Voice-controlled assistants are also useful for getting things done around the house. You can integrate your assistant with smart lightbulbs and plugs, meaning that you can turn the lights or the kettle on with your voice, or change your heating settings with a smart thermostat.
What are the best voice-activated devices for seniors? Let’s investigate the most popular voice activated devices and the benefits they provide.
When choosing the device that will best support you, consider the devices you already own and use. Currently, the most common voice-controlled assistant technologies are Alexa (via Amazon Echo), Siri (via Apple HomePod) and Google Assistant (via Google Home). They’re all great tools. However, if you are already familiar with and use Apple devices, the Apple HomePod would be the most compatible. If you are new to technology or haven’t used a smart device prior to a voice-controlled assistant, the best devices for beginners are either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.
These technologies range from $40 to $250, depending on if the user wants just a speaker or the addition of a screen or other extras. All voice-controlled assistants can be paired with caregiver devices and with home-control devices such as smart outlets, Nest thermostats, SimpliSafe Home Security and many other smart tools.
Although voice-controlled assistants cannot complete tasks for us, they provide a great extra layer of protection for safety and a great aid in accomplishing goals more independently. They are often cheap, easy to install and can pair with existing technology in the home. Most important, the only thing we need to operate this machine is our voice.
Things To Consider Before Buying a Voice-Controlled Assistant Device
Accounts and Internet. For most devices, you will need a user account and a secure Internet connection. For example, for the Amazon Echo, you will need an Amazon account to connect to as well as a smartphone. For a Google Home, you will need a Google account and a smartphone.
Difficult Functionality. Getting the most out of your voice-controlled assistant and setting up the extra functionality after the initial setup can be challenging. For example, several of the “skills” you can enable may require their own dedicated accounts. If you already have Spotify, Audible and others, then this is fine, but otherwise it can feel like an extra hurdle.
Phrasing. Voice-controlled assistants can be finicky when it comes to the voice commands if you’re trying to do something specific, such as trying to find a particular song, or ordering a certain item. A good idea is to print a list of common or useful phrases that can be referred to should you need it.
The next time you hesitate about learning a new technology, think about the variety of health benefits and how it can positively impact your life. Whether it provides you with endless videos to enjoy and laugh about or an easier way to order food and groceries, technology is an essential aspect of modern living. As technology changes with the times, it is important to keep yourself updated as well!
Embrace Senior Living Technology at Hawthorn Senior Living
Hawthorn Senior Living believes in empowering residents to live exactly how they want, whether totally unplugged or using technology to the fullest. Our team members are happy to assist residents in setting up voice-controlled assistants, computers, smartphones and more. Find a community near you and give us a call today to learn more about our services and lifestyle.