Is Alexa finally making the internet accessible for older people?
Technology has moved on in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades, and the advent of high speed internet has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for learning, playing and staying in touch. However, new technology has always been thought of as something for younger people, and older people, who were not brought up with computers around them, have traditionally been stumped by many of these modern facilities.
But could recent advances in tech be about to change all that? We look at the impact voice activated technology could have on the older generation, and how things are looking for the future.
Voice technology: The internet, without a PC
The Amazon Echo and Dot are wireless speakers which are connected to the internet, allowing users to search the web and much more by communicating with its in built artificial intelligence, Alexa. These gadgets were two of the most popular Christmas presents in 2016, and are set to be equally popular during this festive season.
Of course, Alexa is not the only voice assistant out there. Cortana from Microsoft and Siri from Apple have been around much longer, but it is Alexa who has harnessed the convenience of being always on, sitting in the lounge or kitchen, ready to answer all your questions. And, when it comes to integrating this technology with the ‘smart’ home, the possibilities are endless.
Ageing in place
For older people who are still living independently, tech like Alexa can be hooked up to various items around the home, to make day to day living safer and more convenient. For example:
• Alexa can connect to heating systems, to control the thermostat and switch heating on and off when people leave the house or arrive home.
· It can be hooked up to lights too, to avoid lights being left on when rooms are not in use, or to give the impression someone is home when they are actually away visiting.
· Alexa will organise shopping lists through voice activation, and can even order products from Amazon directly.
· You can ask about the weather, hear the news headlines or can even play your favourite music.
· As Alexa is voice activated, it could be used to summon help, for instance in the event of a fall.
The possibilities for Alexa to help people who are ageing in place are phenomenal. From tackling loneliness to making life safer, it’s truly an exciting time for voice activated technology. Of course, these things need to be set up, and also require a permanent Wi-Fi connection, something that not all older people will be keen to become involved with, but in a willing household with tech savvy friends or relatives to help, elderly people could be more able to enjoy the benefits of the internet than ever before.
The internet in the care environment
At Blenheim House, the potential for Alexa and other voice operated technology is very exciting. Although we don’t yet have such facilities in place, we do have Wi-Fi throughout and plenty of willing care workers ready to help at any time. Many of our residents enjoy Skyping with their families, as well as using the internet, with our support, to find information and connect with other people.
We also use technology such as Acoustic Monitoring to benefit the well-being of our residents. Acoustic Monitoring listens, non-intrusively, to residents while they’re sleeping and triggers an alert when the sound in a room exceeds set levels. This enables our care team to respond to residents in need of care. And because residents are not disturbed by in-room monitoring visits, they benefit from a better night’s sleep while enjoying greater privacy.
We are excited to see how technology develops, and how it can be applied in our care setting to improve the lives of our residents.