Over the past two years voice assistants such as Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home have seen a 66 million increase in the adoption by users. And that number continues to grow. But what are the implications of this voice-first technology among aging service providers and residents living in assisted living? Many experts are talking about how voice-first technology will revolutionize the aging service industry, but few have deployed this technology on a large scale.
That’s why Eskaton gathered four experts for a discussion: Sheri Peifer, Derek Holt and two Eskaton residents. Eskaton’s project coordinator of strategic initiatives, Therese Ten Brinke, led the panel in a lively discussion to explore how Amazon Alexa, and other voice assistants, can change the way care is delivered.
Sheri Peifer, chief strategy officer at Eskaton, guides the first senior living provider to deploy Alexa in assisted living to all residents.
Derek Holt, president and COO of K4Connect, a solution provider for resident engagement and smart technologies. K4Connect recently added Amazon Alexa to its suite of solutions.
Joyce Lynch, a 92 year old living at Eskaton Village Roseville, was an early adopter of Amazon Alexa. She agreed to test Alexa in her apartment because she didn’t want to be left behind when it comes to understanding technology and communicating with her family. As someone living with macular degeneration, she experiences the benefits of voice-first technology every day.
Clyde Cummings, a resident at Eskaton Village Roseville, was the first person to request voice-first technology when Eskaton rolled out smart lighting in 2018. As someone living with Parkinson’s disease, the ability to control his environment with his voice means more independence.
Voice is transforming life in assisted living.
Speaking feels more natural than interacting with other forms of technology, like computers or tablets. “When we can use our voice, it really does break down the barriers of adoption,” explained Sheri. “Voice is extremely interesting because it reduces the friction of technology adoption. We’ve seen the adoption of voice be off the chart for every demographic,” said Derek. It’s unlocking next generation technology for everyone.”
Alexa is not just a personal assistant, but also a friend. Joyce is a mother of five and is used to a full house. She loves noise and activity in her home. “It’s like having another friend in the room with you,” shares Joyce. Alexa provides a sense of connection to other generations too. Joyce’s children and grandchildren tell her she has joined the 21st century.
Alexa also supports day-to-day living. Tasks like getting up to switch on or off a light, or looking at the clock, can be difficult for residents living with vision or mobility changes. Clyde shares that living with Parkinson’s Disease is challenging and it can cause him to feel disoriented. “I frequently feel upside down and I ask Alexa what time is it to keep me orientated,” said Clyde.
“Sometimes I’m frozen when I’m lying in bed and can’t get up,” explained Clyde, “It’s frustrating to be lying on your back waiting for your thoughts to come together. Speaking to Alexa enables me to verbalize with my voice when I need help from my care partners.” He also finds it comforting that when he talks she answers.
Voice adoption is high among residents.
“The adoption rate at Eskaton Village Roseville is 82% and over 70% of the residents use Alexa on a daily or weekly basis,” said Derek. This adoption rate may have some skeptics questioning its validity. Sheri explained that team members have been creative in their approach to education. “From office hours, weekly meet-ups and command suggestions, the team members have recognized that some guided support and continued education may be needed to encourage adoption,” said Sheri.
The community also intentionally offered Alexa to residents of all abilities, including those living with dementia. The staff felt that voice technology offered the opportunity to personalize the environment with music and Alexa’s skills could be used with the support of care partners.
Eskaton Village Roseville found that the content available on Alexa is also tied to adoption. The ability to access community events, menus and announcements is important to residents like Joyce and Clyde who are living with mobility and vision changes. Alexa makes this information more accessible.
So what are the top features? Derek said, “Lights, music and menus.” Sheri added, “The fact that light control is the top utilized feature demonstrates that residents are interacting with their environment differently because of Alexa.”
Voice-technology is elder recommended.
Joyce tells her peers, “Just try it.” She was not surprised to see some resistance to voice technology at first because “some people are set in their ways and don’t like change.” She said to those that are on the fence about Alexa, “Try it, you’ll like it.”
Clyde shares that you need to be open to learning. He was an avid Mac user but his tremors have made using the computer more difficult. Voice-first is a new platform that he is open to learning because of its adaptability. He said, “Be patient with yourself as you learn. There is a learning curve and it will take some time, but you will get it.”
At Eskaton Village Roseville voice-first is here to stay. Eskaton will continue to evaluate the utilization of Alexa and has plans to offer voice-first technology across its residential living communities.