Alexa Together - Urgent Care and Personal Assistant for Seniors
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Our featured cybersecurity tip deals with digital assistants for seniors - their benefits, risks and overall usefulness. We explore in particular a virtual model of emergency response and personal assistance offered through the Amazon digital assistant, Alexa.
Aging loved ones may face several challenges with daily tasks like remembering their schedule, taking notes, creating lists or even using their cell phones to make calls. A convenient solution may be found in the Amazon Alexa, a hands-free voice-activated assistant that can accomplish a number of basic tasks.
Amazon offer families with elderly members an option to sign up for Alexa Together, a subscription service centered on senior needs with a "Circle of Support" feature that allows family and friends to keep better contact. The Alexa Together program helps seniors to be more independent in their home while ensuring emergency services and loved ones can be contacted in case of unexpected accidents. However, users have raised privacy concerns and should consider a relatively expensive subscription fee.
In this article, we break down the positive features, discuss the concerns and offer our opinion on whether Alexa Together can help you and your loved ones.
What does Alexa Together offer seniors?
Tailored for older adults, Alexa Together offers a few distinct features that are separate from the basic Alexa tasks and routines. It puts emergency medical response and peace of mind services first, through actions like:
Urgent Response - say "Alexa, call for help" for 24/7 access to the Alexa Emergency Helpline
Circle of Support - add up to 10 family and friends to contact or notify in case of emergencies
Fall Detection - using compatible fall detection devices from companies like ATS, AltumView and Vayyar
Remote Assist - an opt-in service that allows specific family members to help manage schedules, set reminders or even complete shopping tasks
Of course, users will be able to order Alexa to complete regular tasks even without the Alexa Together subscription. The basic tasks include:
Setting reminders - say "Alexa, remind me to _______ "
Creating lists - say "Alexa, add _____ to my shopping list"
Calling family - say "Alexa, call _____" (both parties will need an Alexa enabled device, which could be your mobile phone itself)
Playing music - say "Alexa, play some tunes"
Controlling other smart devices - say "Alexa, turn on/off lights" (if you have Alexa-enabled smart bulbs)
Order food or groceries - say "Alexa, buy _____ from my groceries" (with a My Groceries account)
Are there concerns with Alexa Together?
There can be difficulties with any digital product, but the most common ones include privacy concerns, information or credit card fraud, usability and speech recognition. The control and authority always remains with the senior who needs support but certain abilities can be delegated to authorized users.
Privacy is a complicated topic as a certain amount of information is required to perform services, such as user information, demographic data and credit card information for shopping. For seniors, this might include medical and health data that they would prefer to keep private. Amazon, like other technology companies is regulated by federal and international privacy protection regulations so if they sell, share or misuse your private data, they can be held liable in court. They are also required to encrypt and anonymize user data when performing transactional services, which further protects your data from being misused. As a user, you can also take steps to protect your data by turning on your privacy settings in the Alexa app, which significantly reduces what data is shared. You also have the option to mute Alexa devices by pushing the mute button to ensure none of your data is being captured by Alexa.
One solution to avoid information or credit card fraud is to use a different credit card with Alexa than your usual daily purchases and put a specific spending limit on that card. This reduces a worst case scenario by limiting the amount of money you could lose through credit card fraud and isolates the compromised credit card.
Usability and speech recognition challenges are common for those with accessibility issues, speech impediments or different accents. There are a few solutions to help with this. First, as you speak more with Alexa, it learns to recognize your speech patterns and accent so it learns when you are speaking versus another person. This is a useful feature as it also prevents other speakers from issuing commands by authorizing your specific voice profile only. For those with speech problems, the Alexa app on your mobile device has tap buttons that you can set up under Routines to command Alexa to complete specific tasks like turning off lights.
So is it worth getting Alexa Together?
After weighing the benefits and costs of Alexa and the Alexa Together subscription, it's important to consider the price tag of $19.99 per month or $199 per year.
Around the elderly community, independence is an important need and many seniors would enjoy getting help with simple tasks like shopping lists and reminder notifications. So a basic Amazon Echo device or even the Alexa app on a mobile device will help accomplish a lot of common tasks. For a price tag of $49 for an echo device, this is a great investment for independence. You can read above for some of the basic tasks that can be completed with just the device.
Comparing the options, Alexa Together does not seem to have many significant benefits over an Alexa device, which can generally complete the same tasks. Most elderly care patients will already have prescribed fall detection or other monitoring devices that can alert primary care or family members in case of emergency. So Alexa Together just seems to add another layer of inefficiency.
However, you may consider Alexa Together for seniors who have reduced motor function or more complex sensors due to pre-existing conditions. It will allow for better remote tracking of vital and mobility functions and can provide user-defined alerts. For example, acknowledging medical dosage or tracking movement around the house or even tracking wandering seniors who may be lost.
In short, an Alexa device can help with giving seniors the freedom to complete many of their daily tasks, set reminders and notifications for medication or appointments, and contact their family regularly or in emergency situations. The Alexa Together program is more beneficial for those with more complex medical conditions that prevent them from being fully independent and allows loved ones to keep track of them.
As a senior care manager, I have seen the usefulness of a digital assistant like Alexa really increase the independence of high-functioning elderly clients. Schedule a free initial consultation with me, or call (424)333-0081 to learn more about making senior living easier.
Please note this article is for informational purposes and based on personal opinion. Age Well South Bay LLC does not endorse or promote any product or service discussed on this page unless expressly stated. For any questions, please contact email@example.com