Smart Speakers are a Smart Choice For Seniors

Senior Care, Senior Living Leave a comment , ,

Have you been wondering if the time is right to get an Amazon Echo, Google Home or other similar product for yourself or loved ones? The answer is a resounding “Yes!”

These handy devices can do everything from telling you the time to answering how much an elephant weighs. For anyone with mobility issues, it’s the personal help they need … to add an event to the calendar, be reminded who has a birthday coming up, or listen to music, audiobooks or the news, all just by asking.

Older adults with health issues like Parkinson’s can have more independence by using a smart speaker. Alexa can add toilet paper to the shopping list or play a favorite Frank Sinatra song. While using a touchscreen may be impossible or too complicated for someone with reduced cognition to learn, voice control is relatively easy.

Digital Assistants for Dementia Patients

People with dementia often repeat questions endlessly, get anxious when someone leaves their side or need to be constantly entertained. But ask Amazon’s Alexa what day it is, and she’ll respond over and over and over, each time as patiently as the last. She can also check what’s on TV, give updated traffic and weather reports, or amuse someone with endless jokes and riddles.

Early Onset Alzheimer’s struck Rick Phelps in November 2010. He subsequently founded a private Facebook community, Memory People, to promote dementia awareness. In early 2016, Phelps bought an Amazon Echo. A week later, he was so enthusiastic about the experience that he wrote a blog post urging others in the dementia community to buy one.

“It has afforded me something that I had lost. Memory,” says Phelps. “I can ask Alexa anything and I get the answer instantly. And I can ask what day it is twenty times a day and I will still get the same correct answer.”

Phelps goes on to marvel that after telling Alexa once to remind him to take medicine at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., she reminds him without fail at those times every day.

All of us can benefit from telling the speaker where we are stashing our passport or an important document! Forget where you put it later on, and instead of searching frantically all you have to do is ask Alexa to remind you where it is.

Which One Should I Buy?

There are a variety of speakers (which also contain a sensitive microphone) at different price points. Here are some of the most common, with pros and cons:

  • Amazon Echo ($99) was awarded “best voice assistant” on comfor its proficient artificial intelligence on a wide array of questions and task performance. In follow-up mode, Alexa can take multiple commands without being reactivated or woken up. Alexa lets you stream music, reserve an Uber or move through a guided yoga session. Amazon allows developers to create additional services (much like new apps for your phone), and Alexa has more than 30,000 “skills” to suit your needs.
  • Google Home Max ($129) earned runner-up status for superior ability to answer questions, performing best on a test of 4,000 questions. Google Assistant can also follow two commands at the same time. Google bows to Alexa on voice apps and smart-device capability, but it’s catching up.
  • Apple HomePod ($349.99) will please the many dedicated Apple fans who love Siri, which works seamlessly with HomeKit, Apple’s home automation service. Activating an automation feature is as simple as giving a normal command, and the feature joins the HomePod automatically during setup. The speakers on HomePod are the best in the bunch. The HomePod currently only supports English, but Siri’s capabilities on the iPhone may convince buyers to opt for the Apple experience.

Source:  CSA Blog, Aug4, 2018

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