Seniors and Voice Interface
As we age our mobility and dexterity becomes an issue, hence devices such as smart phones and tablets which are simple to use at younger ages become difficult for us to manage and to use. This is the time when a voice based smart speaker assistant would become a handy companion. This article outlines how smart speaker till date (early 2024) has been adapted by the senior population, what are the smart speaker killer apps and what are senior’s longer-term expectations from such solutions.
Smart Speaker’s Uptake with Seniors
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. Today about 70% of these seniors use Amazon Alexa, about 17% Google Home and rest use other devices.
|20% of Seniors use Smart Speaker
|50% seniors use these devices daily.
|53% of seniors have more than 1 device
Killer Smart Speaker Apps
Although there are many smart speaker apps which make the lives of seniors easier, consumers have reaffirmed their actual use of smart speakers with three killer apps – Ask a question, listen to music and checking the weather . There are many other Apps seniors use today, some are:
- Set an Alarm
- Set a Timer
- Listen to the Radio
The above graph shows that a high percent of senior users, use these apps on a regular basis.
Seniors Wish List
As we know voice and smart speakers are only in it’s infancy, many new killer apps will emerge with time. Tech Enhanced Life working with their community of older adults explores the future of aging, and the intersection of aging and technology. Follow is a summary of the “wish-list” of what their seniors are looking for from their Voice Assistant/Smart Speaker devices :
- Is an appealing and charming “companion”
- Engages me in scintillating conversation; expands my mind and keeps me company
- Be someone I can talk to
- Plays movies for me on demand
- Reads books to me
- Provides a daily health checkup
- Be my friend
- Keeps me engaged
- Lets me remotely visit (video chat) my aunt
- Provides an abstract of the day’s news
- Talks to me in the language of my choice
- Reminds me
- Reminds me of Medication and dispenses pills in the correct amounts
- Reminds me to take a drink so I stay hydrated
- Reminds me of my appointments
- Is my “virtual assistant”
- Answers my phone, emails and texts
- Sends texts I tell it to send
- Makes phone calls for me
- Controls my lights, locks, thermostat, smoke and burglar alarms
- Monitors my safety and wellness
- Monitors my safety
- Calls 911 if it notices problems or when asked.
- Enables family and friends to monitor
Smart Speakers and Daily Routines
So, what does a Smart speaker like Amazon Echo, Google Home device or Sirona.TV offer the elderly? Researchers from University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania as part of a Internet of Things (IOT) feasibility study, the had senior participants install smart speakers in their homes for about two months. Most responded positively to the devices, often utilizing them for asking a question, check the weather, play music or set medication reminders.
But Alexa, Google Assistant or Sirona.TV can help seniors with much more. When connected to other smart home devices, like smart bulbs and thermostats, these devices can help seniors or others suffering from mobility problems become independent in their homes. Being able to turn off the lights or turn up the temperature with just voice command helps making them more independent. The same goes for ordering rideshare like Uber or Lyft, play music, check weather, order groceries and other services available online.
Using a smart speaker, a senior can manage appointments, set reminders, helping seniors with their daily schedule. Reminders such as medication reminders can especially benefit older adults who live by themselves.
Third party voice apps such as Marvee is designed specifically for older adults who can use these apps to send and receive text messages with its ability to transcribe voice into text and send them to family or friends. This is a great way for seniors to stay connected to their family without the hassle of using a smartphone or trying to reach relatives on a landline.
Smart Speakers as Companions?
Social isolation and the depression in seniors that often results from isolation can’t really be waved away with smart speakers. Seniors need actual human interaction and support. Family, relatives and loved ones can’t always provide company, smart speakers cannot replace human interaction. That doesn’t mean smart speakers can’t help alleviating some social isolation issues, but for now the devices will remain what they should be – useful tools, not a replacement for companionship.
This is especially important considering multiple studies have found that older adults often feel lonely and socially isolated.
Of course, providing entertainment and keeping older adults engaged with interesting activities unquestionably has a positive impact on senior’s wellbeing. Smart speakers cannot replace a connection with a real human being as they don’t really understand or have emotions. So, can seniors really bond with today’s smart speaker device?
AI based smart phones are step in the right direction with much progress required to even slightly narrow the gap with the human touch.
For examples with today’s smart speaker devices seniors can play games, ask them questions, request for them to play your favorite song, check weather and more. This had led to suggestions that interactions with these smart assistants can alleviate loneliness, especially among senior citizens.
Sirona.TV is a device similar Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant but created specially to reduce isolation of seniors helping them live healthy and independently in their own homes.
At the time of writing of this article, we believe that smart speakers with the help of some killer apps have crossed from being a fad.
We believe that new killer apps will be invented, and uptake of smart speakers and voice applications will continue to increase. We also believe that these apps will increasingly help seniors improve quality of life and their ability to live healthily and independently.
Sirona.TV’s built in voice companion Sirona like Alexa for Seniors is created for seniors to answers their questions, provide them with weather information, play music for them and much more. Check out sirona.tv at how sirona.tv works.