“Alexa, what time is Bingo today?”
It may seem far-fetched for this to come out of your elderly loved one’s mouth, but it won’t be long until residents at many senior living facilities will be receiving daily schedules this way.
Amazon just announced it’s rolling out new voice solutions to senior living communities and health care facilities as part of Alexa Smart Properties, which will allow older residents and patients to use voice commands for daily updates and stay connected to friends and family. The technology has already been integrated into leading senior living communities such as Atria and Eskaton, and is expected to be adopted by many other facilities next month.
In a press release, Lion Torres, head of Alexa Smart Properties, said Amazon is looking forward to helping seniors enjoy the convenience of its services.
“We’re excited to extend the experiences (our) customers already love to senior living communities and health care systems, and give providers new ways to save time and personalize care for their patients and residents.”
How will senior living facilities use Amazon Alexa?
Using the Amazon Echo device in their rooms, residents can ask Alexa to do a variety of tasks, such as accessing community news and activity schedules, making calls to family and friends, changing TV channels, and requesting health care needs—all without pushing a button. Because the Smart Properties system has two-way communication, seniors can take comfort in knowing they’ve been heard when staff members respond to their request.
Not only will Alexa help residents access information more quickly it could also help facilities operate more efficiently. For instance, when residents push traditional call buttons, staff members can’t tell if they have a broken faucet, need help with reading the lunch menu, or are confused about their medications. With Alexa, residents’ requests will go straight to the appropriate staff member, eliminating the need for multiple people to stop by the apartment (or calls to track down the right person).
Will my loved one’s privacy be protected when using Alexa?
Amazon has dealt with a number of issues regarding privacy vulnerabilities, and that can make seniors skeptical about using their devices. However, the company said Alexa Smart Properties senior living and health care solutions were designed with privacy in mind and has set several privacy standards to protect customers. By pushing the Echo’s mute button, seniors can disable Alexa’s ability to respond to the “wake” request, and even when Alexa is “listening,” Amazon claims it does not record information. The company also said it has safeguards to protect health information through HIPAA-eligible skills.
How family members can benefit from Alexa
Senior living communities have been hit hard by the COVID pandemic, resulting in isolation and heartbreak from lots of families. Even if you’re finally allowed to visit your elderly loved one, it may not be as often as you’d like. Amazon Alexa’s two-way audio and video calling will let seniors and family members check in with each other often, whether to discuss something important or just for a virtual hug—allowing the whole family to truly stay connected.