How Smart Speaking Technology can Fight Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors

Pandemic times have completely changed the way we live, especially when it comes to socializing. Throughout the entire world, social distancing guidelines have been put into place, with experts recommending that older adults be especially careful. To help protect them from being exposed to the virus, many seniors are currently isolated from friends and family. 

Social distancing can be especially difficult for seniors who have chosen to age in place, as family members and friends have likely been advised to not visit in-person, leaving seniors without access to the support systems that they’re used to.

Moreover, social isolation in seniors is a significant threat to health and longevity, and can contribute to cognitive decline and the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, in 2018 there were 5.6 million Americans over the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s dementia.

Caregivers, family members, and friends of seniors can help their loved ones to obtain the things that they need to stay healthy and happy while isolating.

Smart speaking technology can help alleviate social isolation for seniors who are aging in place and their caregivers, while also serving to establish a relationship with the technology that can be cultivated for more sophisticated uses.

Smart Speaker technology Era for Seniors Too

According to the Statista website, sales of smart speakers and smart home devices, such as the Amazon Alexa or Google Home, have increased dramatically since 2014, with projections showing further increases in the future.

And what is best, is that apparently many seniors already got the idea and understood the importance of using this new technology. Because unlike other technologies, Boomers and seniors account for a substantial portion of smart speaker users, as mentioned on Forbes website.

According to the K2Forma website, nearly 43 million Americans own a smart speaker, and 46% are over the age of 45 and 20% of them are 60+ population.

Moreover, according to the Norsecorpe website, although  the figure for uptake of smart speaker devices for 60+ population is low just at about  20%, 53% of these smart speaker owners have more than one smart speaker in their homes and 50% of these seniors use their smart speakers daily!

This shows that seniors who have gotten used to the idea of voice assistant find it useful enough to use it daily and to own multiple devices.

The devices provide some unique advantages for older adults, especially those who live independently. Smart speakers and smart home systems can be used not only for home security, entertainment, communication, but also to fight loneliness and isolation.

How Smart Speaking Technology can Fight Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors?

According to AARP (United States-based interest group focusing on issues affecting those over the age of fifty), studies have shown that smart speaking technology can help older adults fight isolation and loneliness. Both are serious risk factors for a range of health problems, including dementia. Besides, according to one study, loneliness can shave several years off a person’s life expectancy.

The banter between human and machine seems to help people who use smart speaking technology feel more connected. Just talking to it, it’s actually producing that positive emotional response that can help combat loneliness.

Smart speaking technology also allows users to access their community’s activities calendar, hear the news, listen to their favorite music and audiobooks, and set reminders to take their medications. Maybe just as important, the device allows users to bond with each other over the cool new things they discover it can do.

There are really two separate thoughts here.

First, there is the idea, getting a fair bit of media attention, that interactions between an older adult and an AI (Alexa) might help reduce isolation. And then there is the idea that Alexa (an AI) can facilitate deeper human to human interactions, tighting old bonds with friends and family who you don’t see too often, finding acquaintances with the right interests or personalities.and as well.

Based on recent studies involving seniors using Alexa and the Amazon Echo Show, we tend to think that smart speaking technology has real potential.

How easy is the Smart Speaker Technology for a Senior to learn?

Because the Smart Speaker is so user-friendly, data also shows that users tend to move through the adoption curve from ‘early adopters’ to more sophisticated use within one year.

A key factor in building trust in a skill is the error-free ease of use. As the skill is repeatedly used without issue, the user progresses through the trust curve and begins to ask the technology to perform more sophisticated tasks. At the outset, most users request simple tasks such as ‘play music’ or ‘get the weather’.

As trust builds, users begin to ask the smart speaker to create shopping lists, schedule calendar reminders, and perform routine functions such as turning on lights.

This eventually leads to more sophisticated interactions such as making purchases with the device and more complex functions that incorporate multiple tasks.

What Smart Speaker Works Best for Seniors?

As we’ve been mentioning, smart speaker technology offers a tremendous opportunity to improve the lives of seniors. And having one should be in any senior to-do list. But what smart speaker works best for you?

Today, according to the Norsecorpe website, about 70% of these seniors use Amazon Alexa, about 17% Google Home and the rest use other devices. It’s clear that Alexa, following by Google Assistant, has emerged as the leading voice-control platform, so you should stick to this one.

Amazon Alexa for Beginners

Before going on, for those readers who are not sure what we are talking about, here is a brief description of what Amazon Alexa is.

What is Amazon Echo?

Amazon Echo is a series of devices which works with Alexa. A device from the Amazon Echo series is a voice-activated and controlled smart speaker that uses speech recognition with a virtual assistant, “Alexa”, to perform an ever-growing range of tasks on command. Amazon calls the built-in brains of this device “Alexa,” and she* is the thing that makes it work.

These tasks can be simple, such as playing music or making lists, or more advanced, such as controlling your smart home’s thermostat or turning off your lights.

But what is Alexa?

So basically, Alexa is an artifical intelligence (AI) developed by Amazon, and made available in a family of hardware products with names like the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Show, the Amazon Echo Dot and the Amazon Echo Studio.

A quick note to mention that all the Amazon Echo products have basically the same essential features. What changes is that each one is specifically designed to make your life simpler in different aspects (smart displays and smart speakers). So each of them has special features that differentiate themselves.

But they can all be set up to your smart home to make it simple. And they all have Alexa and the skills that come with it which can be really helpful for seniors to fight isolation and loneliness.

Echo Show: The Most Popular Echo product (with Alexa) to Fight Isolation and Loneliness in Seniors

If selecting a smart home device for an older adult, especially one who’s aging in place, you should look for a model with a screen and video capabilities, such as the Echo Show. The addition of the screen enables easy video chatting with the device. Users can use voice commands to call anyone in their contact list, eliminating the need to sort through one’s contact list or remember friends’ phone numbers. While it doesn’t compare to being with your loved one in person, using a smart device may help a LOT!

The Echo Show 10 is the newest smart display with Alexa. features a 10.1″ HD screen that’s designed to move with you, video calls, recipes, and shows are always in view. You can actually ask Alexa anything, ask to play your favorite shows, music, and podcasts from Prime Video, Netflix (coming soon), Amazon Music, Spotify, and more. The speakers deliver premium, directional sound.

Besides, with this voice controlled device, you can also take a picture while the 13MP camera with auto-framing and motion keeps you front and center. And you can use the Echo Show as a digital picture frame as well.

The Amazon Echo products offer you the option of having your smart home made simple. You can also securely access the built-in camera to remotely monitor your home anytime with the Alexa app or other Echo Show devices. Set up compatible devices or smart products without a separate hub. Ask Alexa to show you security cameras, control lights, and adjust thermostats.

The Amazon Echo products are designed to protect your privacy. Electronically disconnect the microphones and camera with one press of a button. Slide the built-in shutter to cover the camera. Disable motion at any time.

Click here for more details here (coming soon!). And click here to check the latest version of this device on Amazon.

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