Could voice technology help seniors stay independent at home and improve mental health? We take a look at how voice-activated devices can be used to increase autonomy and improve quality of life for the elderly.
While ageing at home is what most older Australians aspire to, for some seniors – particularly those with visual and mobility impairments – social isolation and a lack of independence can lead to loneliness.
The uptake of voice-activated technology assistants such as Google Home and Amazon Echo has increased in the past 12-months. And while much of the focus has been on the ‘home entertainment’ functions that these devices provide, they also offer a range of assistive technology applications that are particularly helpful for seniors.
As we get older simple tasks that we take for granted can become more challenging leading to a loss of autonomy and independence. However, voice-activated technology is showing promise as a method of restoring personal dignity and boosting the quality of life for seniors living at home.
Voice assistants can have a wide range of uses that can allow seniors to take control of their own environment and communicate with the outside world, even if their eye-sight and mobility are failing them. Voice technology can even provide social companionship that can help improve mental health.
Some potential uses of voice technology for seniors include:
- Medication and appointment reminders
- Weather and news updates
- Reading out the time
- Hands-free phone calls
- Compose and send text messages
- Answer questions
- Entertainment – playing music and radio
- Creating shopping lists
- Digital companion: ask Google to tell a story, read a poem or sing a song
- Play an audiobook
The future of home modification
This list of potential uses expands when you install compatible devices such as televisions, air conditioners, household appliances and lighting.
By linking these devices to your chosen voice-activated device, the user can then turn lights on or off, adjust the temperature of the room, turn the television on or boil the kettle – all from the comfort of your favourite chair. These functions can take home modifications to the next level for those seniors with mobility issues.
Setting up automation and daily routines
For those seniors whose memory may be starting to fail them, there is the ability to set up a custom schedule that groups together a range of tasks at a certain time.
For instance, you can set the device up with a morning routine at a chosen time (for instance 6 am). This routine is completely customisable, so you can set the device to do a range of tasks such as sharing your schedule for the day, providing a weather update, turning the radio to your chosen station and reminding you to take your morning medication and what to have for breakfast.
The advantage of voice-activated technology is that it is very easy to operate once it’s set up and the user is familiar with the commands. An older person who is isn’t as familiar with technology may need some help with the initial set up and getting used to how to use the device, but then it can be another home modification that can help make living at home easier.