While voice-activated smart speakers (Amazon’s Alexa-enabled Echo and Google Home) were not created specifically with senior citizens in mind, these fairly inexpensive gizmos are a futuristic dream come true for any member of the sandwich generation who is caring for an aging parent (either onsite or from afar).
These speakers are small in size (the same size as most portable speakers) and sit unobtrusively on a table or desk in the room, where they are listening, at-the-ready, for the appropriate wakeup word or phrase. Over time, they get even “smarter” after better adjusting to a person’s voice. Fun, yes? While I would never suggest a plastic speaker take the place of a caregiver, I can say that a smart speaker can ease the load on a caregiver’s shoulders, and I highly recommend that everyone make sure their aging parent has one in their own home.
Here are but a few examples of what these devices can do (with additional improvements being made all the time)
- Depending on the system you choose, a smart speaker can greet your parent every morning and tell him or her the local weather forecast, traffic, day and date, scheduled appointments, and news updates.
- A smart speaker can play music, direct-dial other users, play podcasts, movies and audiobooks, and even link to certain television systems. Mom or Dad can even ask the speaker to call for an Uber or deliver food.
- Depending on the system, the speaker can become the hub of your parents’ smart home, connecting to the digital thermostat, doorbell alert, even making sure the deadbolts are locked, all adjusted or activated by voice command.
- For safety’s sake, several medical alert companies offer monitoring through the speaker hub, as do major home security systems. Pill reminders can also be connected to the hub, alerting Mom or Dad when it’s time to take their medicine.
If your parent has memory issues, well-placed signage could be of assistance here, as only the right word or phrase will awaken the speaker and put it to use.
Of course, certain services may need to be turned off through the online settings; say, if Mom or Dad has a heavy-duty shopping habit….
Overall, however, this could be the perfect device for the elderly person who is suffering from some degree of dementia and who asks the same question over and over again.
If you’ve put one of these speakers to use in your own family, I’d love to hear about your results. Please reach out to me.
As always, if I may help you and your loved ones in seeking relief from the stresses brought on by caring for your aging parents, I am here for you.
All the best,
Rabbi Scott Saulson, Ph.D.