Updated: Jul 8, 2021
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Alexa is a voice assistant that has changed the way seniors are able to do things at home. Because of software like Alexa, daily activities like making calls, doing banking, turning on the lights, can be completed with just your voice.
But the possibilities go way beyond that. It can help you in emergencies to contact someone just by using voice commands — like if you've fallen down and can't reach a phone. It can even help you maintain a healthy lifestyle by reminding you to keep moving regularly or take your medication.
After using our smart algorithm to scan over 1000 devices, Alexa has come up as one of the top products all seniors should have in the home. However, we've met several people who are skeptical of Alexa's abilities. Or think it's too much trouble to learn.
In this guide, we want to share how simple it actually is to use Alexa so that you can really benefit from all it has to offer. And we even conducted our own extensive testing with older adults in mind so that you can have the most relevant Alexa skills for seniors.
You'll learn the top 15 voice commands for seniors, best Alexa products, complementary devices to pair Alexa, and much more. Keep reading to discover a whole new world with Alexa.
What is Alexa Voice Assistant Technology?
Alexa is a voice assistant technology that was developed by Amazon. It's a software that allows you to talk to devices so that they can perform your requests or commands without you having to even touch them. So in that sense, Alexa doesn't really work on its own. You need to have a speaker or device with the Alexa technology for it to work.
While there are many voice assistant technologies in the market, Alexa is one of the most popular and will be the main focus of this review.
8 Ways That Older Adults Can Benefit From Using Alexa
Make daily tasks easier by using your voice to complete them. You can ask Alexa to read a book or the newspaper to you, find a recipe, book an Uber ride, and more!
Help those with memory problems by creating lists and reminders like appointments and when medicine needs to be taken. Alexa never gets frustrated with you no matter how many times you ask it about the date, time, or appointments. It will always be there to remind you of your important tasks.
Assist those with vision problems by allowing them to find out things like the date and time without having to look at a watch. And making other visual tasks become vocal and audio.
Provide you with help in an emergency situation by allowing you to voice-activate a call to emergency services if you can't reach a phone.
Keep the house safe by asking Alexa to notify you of strange sounds in the house — like breaking glass or smoke alarms.
Prevents trips and falls by turning on the lights through voice command instead of having you fumble in the dark for the switch.
Support a healthier lifestyle by reminding you to get up and walk if you've been sedentary for too long or provide you with exercise guidance like a personal trainer.
Have fun and keep your mind active by playing voice-activated games with Alexa or asking it about new information you'd like to learn about!
15 Top Things Seniors Can Do With Alexa
The possibilities are limitless with Alexa. You can use it to make your life easier and safer, while also adding a bit of fun. Here are our most useful things seniors can do with Alexa and we give you some of the exact voice commands to use.
Bonus Tip: Alexa can be customized by adding different "Alexa Skills". These are like apps you would download on a phone and they allow Alexa to have more specific functions. You can set them up through voice command and even ask Alexa to recommend some skills!
Check the date and time by asking "Alexa, what's the time?" or "Alexa, what's the date?" This is useful for those with visual problems and may have trouble reading a clock. It's also helpful for those with dementia and experiencing time-disorientation. They can check the date and time as many times as they need to with Alexa.
Set alarms by saying "Alexa, set an alarm for 7 a.m."
Ask about the weather by saying, "Alexa, what's the weather like today?" or even "Alexa, will it rain?" By installing the Big Sky Alexa Skill, you can even ask more specific questions about humidity or UV levels.
Set reminders about appointments or medication by saying, "Alexa, remind me to take my pills at 7 a.m. every day."
Create a to-do list by saying, "Alexa, add bread to my shopping list." And then you can ask Alexa to tell you what's on the list by asking, "Alexa, what's on my shopping list?"
Make phone calls hands-free by saying, "Alexa, call (name)." The other person will need the Alexa app on their phone or device (compatible with Android and iOS). And in an emergency, you can say "Alexa, call the police."
Send messages hands-free by saying "Alexa, send a message." Alexa will ask who you want to send a message to. And as long as the contact is on your Alexa app list, you can start telling Alexa what message you'd like to send.
Easily look up a handyman and other local services by downloading the Service Local skill. After that, you can say, "Alexa, ask Service Local for a (electrician/plumber, etc.)"
Keep the home safe with the in-built Alexa Guard feature that can help to detect sounds of breaking glass and breaking glass while you're out. It can send you a notification or turn on the alarm on your Amazon device. You can even set it to turn on the lights automatically to seem like you're home.
Voice-activate other home appliances and devices by linking up your Alexa with other compatible devices in the home. Imagine turning off the lights by saying, "Alexa, turn off the bedroom lights." from the comfort of your bed! You can even control the thermostat, door locks, and more.
Drop-in on loved ones and allow others to drop-in on you too! This allows people to connect with your device without you picking up the call. You can pre-select which people you'd like to allow to drop-in so it's only the people who are closest to you that have this privilege. This is useful if you frequently forget to pick up calls and would like to allow others to easily check-in with you for their own peace of mind.
Get a ride from Uber by adding the Uber skill. After that, just say, "Alexa, request Uber for a ride."
Ask Alexa to display your most loved photos to relive treasured memories by saying, "Alexa, show me my photos."
Stay up-to-date with the latest news by saying, "Alexa, what's the news?" This will give you all the latest headlines. And if you want more in-depth information, you can ask Alexa to give you the news from your favorite provider by downloading the relevant Alexa skill. After that, all you have to say is, "Alexa, ask CNN for the latest news."
So something fun and entertaining! Simply say, "Alexa, play (name of song) by (name of artist." to hear your favorite tunes. Or say, "Alexa, play the book (title)." Or discover new information by asking Alexa anything! For example, you can say, "Alexa, what's the speed of light?"
Alexa continues to release new features that aid senior and independent living, such as the newly announced Alexa Care Hub, that helps your loved ones know if you are moving around, changing behaviours, with calling and dropping in, and for others to help manage your account remotely.
4 Best Alexa Products to Make Senior Living Easier, Fun, and Safe
As we mentioned, Alexa is best when used WITH a smart home product — and there are many within the Amazon range. To help you narrow down the best ones for your needs, here are our 3 best picks for older adults:
1. Amazon Echo Show: Voice Assistance With a Visual Experience
Link to product page.
Pros: ● It has all of Alexa's voice-assistance capabilities ● Added touch screen and camera to engage your sense of sight and touch ● Great for video calls, watching videos, looking at photographs, and more! Cons: ● Looks bulkier than speaker-only devices in the Echo range Best for: ● Seniors who like to have both audio and visual help with a voice assistant. The Echo Show is the top product on the list because it provides all the Alexa functions of speaker-only devices with the added benefit of the touch screen and camera. There are a multitude of features that will only be compatible with the Echo Show because of this.
For example, you can do video calls with your loved ones on the Echo Show — there's nothing like actually seeing the face of those close to your heart. With the drop-in feature on the Echo Show, your loved one can drop-in and appear on the screen rather than just as a voice. You can even see what's going on outside your home if you have a paired video camera doorbell. In terms of more fun functionality, you can watch your favorite Amazon Prime shows, or play visual games.
Another Alexa Skill that you won't be able to use with speaker-only devices is Show and Tell. It helps to identify things around the house, which can be useful for people with memory or visual impairments. You can even use it to identify branded items like cereal boxes or canned food when you place it in front of the Echo Show's camera. Having the screen also makes other functions a lot easier because the touch screen allows you to make changes to the system directly on the device. This means you don't have to reach for your phone to access the Alexa app or use voice-activation if your phone isn't near you.
2. Amazon Echo Speaker Range : Voice Assistance With Sleek Speaker Designs
There are multiple models within the Echo speaker-only range, and there are 2 main benefits of these speaker-only devices. Firstly, they're less obvious and blend in very well in the home environment. Secondly, they're smaller which makes it suitable for people in apartments or those that don't want a bigger device taking up space.
All these speakers can perform the same Alexa functions mentioned in this list here and more! Their main difference is in the look, sound quality, size, and price.
Amazon Echo Dot & Clock
5 Easy Steps to Set Up Your Alexa Device
Another great part of Alexa devices is that they're really easy to set up and use. Here's how you can do it in 5 easy steps:
1. Plug in your Alexa device into a wall socket.
2. Download the Alexa app on your smartphone.
3. Link the app to your device under "More" and "Add Device".
4. Follow the setup instructions and add Alexa skills to customize your device.
5. Start talking to Alexa!
3 Alexa-Compatible Devices to Aid Senior Living
1. Ring Video Doorbell: See Who's at the Door on Your Amazon Echo Show
Link to product page
What we loved about Ring Video Doorbell:
It has a camera on your doorbell that streams a video of what's happening outside to your smartphone or Amazon Echo Show.
Two-way talk lets you answer the person through your smartphone or Echo Show so you don't have to open the door for added security.
Motion detector on the Ring can send an alert to the Echo Show to inform you someone may be outside your home
Having suspicious strangers show up at your door is a common occurrence for many. The Ring Doorbell can help you feel a little more confident about these situations by allowing you to see who's there well away from your door.
It works with both your smartphone and Alexa. So if you won't have to worry if you can't find your phone at the moment. Just head over to your Alexa device and say, "Alexa, show (Ring device name)." You can see everything that's going on without the person knowing whether you're in or not.
If you choose to talk to the person, say, "Alexa, talk to front door." And you can speak to the person through your Alexa device. If you don't feel safe about the situation, you can always ask a loved one who's connected to the Ring Doorbell to speak to the person on your behalf. Safeguard yourself from intruders and scammers with the Alexa-compatible Ring Video doorbell today.
2. Philip Hue Smart Plug : Turn Any Light Into a Voice-Activated Smart Light
Link to product page
What we loved about Philip Hue Smart Plug:
With this simple plug, you can turn any light into a voice-activated light after connecting it to Alexa.
Prevent falls by turning on lights with your voice — instead of stumbling in the dark to find the switch.
Simple, discreet design that looks just like a normal plug.
With the Philip Hue Smart Plug, upgrades your favorite light into a voice-activated home device! Simply plug it in and then install the Hue Alexa Skill on your device. The Alexa app will discover your new plug. And then switching on the light can be done by simply saying, "Alexa, turn on (name of light)."
This is a simple upgrade that can greatly increase the safety of your home as you won't have to feel your way around in the dark for the light switch.
3. Sensibo Sky : Control the Room Temperature With Your Voice
Link to product page
What we loved about Sensibo Sky:
Control your A/C from your smartphone or through voice-activation with Alexa
Supports ductless mini-splits, window A/Cs, and any A/C with a remote control
The Sensibo Sky doesn't just allow you to turn the A/C on and off. After setting up the Sensibo Alexa Skill on your device, you can control minute details like the exact temperature. There are plenty of commands to use including, "Alexa, set temperature to 25 degrees." Or "Alexa, decrease temperature by 2 degrees." No more trying to look for the A/C remote that always goes missing!
Google Nest Hub Max : Best Alternative to Amazon Echo Show
Link to product page
If you’ve done some research into voice assistants, you would have definitely stumbled across the Google Nest Hub Max. We’ve included it here because it’s also one of our favorite products for supporting senior living.
So how does it compare to the Amazon Echo Show? They’re extremely close competitors because they can both virtually perform almost the same functions (create lists, voice-activate video calls, set reminders, and more).
However, we wanted to highlight 3 main differences that may affect your decision on which to pick.
First, we found that the Nest Hub Max has better responses to general questions because it relies on Google Search Engine technology (Amazon products use Bing). The Nest Hub Max seemed to get our questions 90% of the time, while the Echo Show had about an 80% hit rate.
Both the Echo Show and the Nest Hub Max have a lot in terms of third-party device compatibility (e.g. smart bulbs). Alexa works with 80,000+ other devices while the Nest works with 30,000+ devices. It's probably not such a big deal as you'll probably find whatever device you need with both brands. Get your personalized list of tech products to support you or your loved one's health and wellness.