How can older adults accept and adopt voice technologies in their daily lives? The Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing conducted a pilot project last year, which observed how this group of people used the voice assistant Alexa.
The project, according to Forbes, was conducted with 50 residents, mostly older than 80 years old. The final result showed that 75% of the elderly participants used smart devices daily. And they felt more connected to family, friends and the rest of the community with the help of Alexa.
How to connect the elderly with smart devices in the first place is the key. Some older adults resist to adopt new technologies, and want to keep their original or traditional daily life.
According to the project’s leader Davis Park, his team tried to find meaningful connection for the participants with the technology as the first step, with questions like “what kind of music do you like?” or “who’s your favorite sports team?”
Then the elderly were trained to ask Alexa on the latest information about the sport team, or to ask the assistant to play certain types of music. The team found later on that the elderly would begin to explore other ways to interact with the assistant, such as to listen to audiobooks and get reminders.
In the second phase of the project, the team introduced to the elderly residents how Alexa works with smart home technologies. For instance, to control lights and smart TVs with voice commands.
“That capability gave people, particularly those with mobility issues, a greater sense of control and independence,” Park said. They are able to turn on lights or adjust the temperature at home without asking other relatives or caregivers to help.
The story also listed some voice-first technology aiming to help older adults. Ask Marvee, a smartphone app and now an Alexa skill, allows people to use their voice to send messages to family members and friends.
Ask My Buddy, a voice application on Amazon Echo, Google Home and Microsoft Cortana, enables users to send an alert to everyone on the contact list and ask who can help.
LifePod, an Alexa voice skill, can initiate conversations to check on older adults based on preprogrammed schedules. For example, the skill can remind users to take the medication in the morning and to do some exercises in the afternoon.
ElliQ, a smart speaker and robot device, enables older adults to send and receive messages from family members, suggests activities like taking a walk, displays family pictures and plays music.