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Amazon Gadget Alexa To Improve Quality Of Life For Older People

Technology is often thought to be the preserve of the young, but increasingly, people are seeing the improvements that new digital products could make on the lives of older people. Now, Norfolk Council is looking at ways in which the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Dot – both wireless speakers – could improve the quality of life of elderly residents. The hope is that this new technological breakthrough could have a favourable impact upon care homes, offering a viable alternative to residential care.

Alexa helps to foster later life independence

The Amazon Echo and Dot are wireless speakers that are voice activated. Simply say the word ‘Alexa’ within earshot of the speaker, and it will respond instantly, offering a huge range of services. Alexa can look up facts on the internet, organise shopping lists, play your favourite music and, if your home network is set up appropriately, Alexa can even turn off your lights and set your heating thermostat on demand.

Now, social care workers are starting to understand the many benefits that Alexa can provide, to improve the quality of life for older people, and even to potentially delay the necessity of moving into care homes. The fact that it is voice activated, rather than depending on the push of a button, for example, means that it is always accessible, even in the event that an elderly loved one has a fall. Unlike a pendant or other body-worn alarm system, you don’t have to wear anything, or press anything, to activate the software. Help and assistance can be summoned at any time, with Alexa capable of notifying one or more family members, and even the emergency services, in the event of an accident or illness.

The friend that never sleeps

Loneliness is one of the plagues of the elderly, but with Alexa in the home, there is always a friendly voice on hand. Staff in nursing homes worry that Alexa can never replace the hands-on work that nursing staff and caregivers can provide, but simply having a reassuring voice on hand to answer questions can be life-changing for elderly people living alone.

Day or night, Alexa can be awoken by the spoken word alone, but there is much more to this technology than simply switching lights on and off and answering general knowledge questions. Norfolk Council is exploring ways in which Alexa can improve the person’s quality of life, by giving voice reminders when medication needs to be taken, for example.

Industry experts are keen to exploit this aspect of the technology, and are creating programs designed specifically to help elderly users, including dementia sufferers, who could reap major benefits from this interactive speaker. Norfolk Council is hopeful that its experiments into the use of Alexa will lead to increased quality of life for elderly residents, along with a reduction in applications for places in local care homes.

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