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Learn What Older Adults Think About Voice Assistants

Everyday use of smart speakers leads to fun and easy ways for older adults to get information.

While voice-activated technology can’t make a cup of hot tea materialize out of thin air — at least not yet — it does come with many benefits for older adults, especially those who live alone.

Smart speakers have a shorter learning curve than other kinds of technology — and being able to find information or set reminders for yourself using only your voice is incredibly convenient.

What’s more, using digital voice assistants like Alexa and Google every day can help you feel more connected to the world around you. Once set up, the technology is easy to use, no matter your tech comfort level. After just a few days, you may wonder how you ever lived without one.

Still not convinced a smart speaker is right for you? Would it make a difference if you knew that the technology is gaining traction with older adults in the U.S.?

A group of residents in a retirement community near San Diego were given Amazon Echo smart speakers as part of a 2018 pilot program. It introduced 50 residents to Alexa and quickly saw 75% of them using the Amazon smart speakers daily. Nearly as many said Alexa helped them “feel more connected to family, friends and the rest of the community.”

That’s not surprising when you consider that Alexa and Google Assistant are driven by artificial intelligence that makes talking with the device feel almost like having a conversation with a friend.

  • You always have someone to chat with

    A former head teacher was one of a group of residents at an elderly care home in Bournemouth, England, who recently took part in a half-year academic experiment designed to test whether artificial intelligence voice technologies could help tackle loneliness.

    “I was so surprised … it was such fun!” he told the BBC, explaining that several months later he remains an active user of his Google Home device. He asks the speaker for news and weather updates, music and audiobook tips, and crossword puzzle clues. He sometimes asks it to tell him a joke. “I really love it. I couldn’t do without it now. It is certainly my friend in the corner.”

  • You remain independent
    as you age

    A 95-year-old Brooklyn resident, who can’t see or hear very well anymore, agrees that she isn’t sure what she would do without her Amazon Echo smart speaker.

    “Alexa has been a miracle,” she told USA Today. “I ask ‘what is the weather’ and get an answer. Alexa turns on my lights, tells me what time it is, and when to take my pills.”

  • You stay sharp
    and in touch

    Corinne Sawyer, another resident from the San Diego retirement community, loves the unique Alexa-to-Alexa calling service.

    “Alexa’s usual bright blue signal ring … shows bright greenish-yellow, and a bell rings … and one of my friends has left me a message,” Corinne explained on the Carlsbad by the Sea retirement community blog. “Yes, we could wait ’til we saw each other in the lobby. Yes, we could use the telephone. But there’s something so personal and private AND FUN about using Alexa. I haven’t had this much fun since we were kids and strung a wire between two tin cans and played ‘Telephone.’”

How Connected Are You?

It has never been more important to know the signs of social isolation. All it takes to get started is your voice. Just say “Alexa, launch Social Check-In” or “Hey Google, talk to Social Check-In” to find out your risk level find support for building connections.


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