Technology is rapidly enhancing the senior living experience. Innovative communities are increasingly investing in new solutions to foster a greater sense of connection and improve the quality of life for residents. Wearables, mobile applications, and voice assistants are now integral to the resident experience and overall ideology of the community.
Accelerating the demand for technology in senior housing is the inevitable incoming wave of baby boomers or “silver tsunami.” As senior housing prepares for future residents, numerous creative and inventive ideas to improve the quality of resident life arise.
Voice Assistant Technology and Senior Living
In the three years since it was widely released, Amazon Alexa has become the most popular voice assistant across the U.S.
NPR and Edison Research found that 39 million Americans now own a voice assistant enabled smart speaker. Furthermore, in just the last three years, voice assistant adoption outpaces smartphone and tablet adoption.
And it’s not only millennials who are activating their life through voice. Numerous senior living communities are introducing Amazon Alexa (and the accompanying Echo devices) to their residents, staff, families and future residents with the assistance of Touchtown.
In addition to integrating with Amazon Alexa, Touchtown offers a suite of services that enhance resident wellness and experience by providing a plethora of community information on their computers, tablets or smartphones. Residents access dining menus, daily activities, or community announcements all within an easy-to-use app. Now, Touchtown gives residents the ability to easily find the same information with the help of Alexa.the same information with the help of Alexa.
According to Touchtown Product Manager Lindsay Evans, adding voice assistant integration simply made sense because of the popularity and the opportunity to communicate with visually impaired residents. With Alexa’s help, every resident can find the information he or she wants. With Alexa’s help, every resident can find the information he or she wants.
“Alexa encourages engagement … no matter the resident acuity level,” Evans says.
A Community’s Successful Amazon Alexa Beta Test
North Florida Retirement Village in Gainesville, Florida recently started beta testing Amazon Alexa with a handful of residents, and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
According to Gina Abad, communications coordinator at the community, the nine beta testers were opinionated about Alexa at the onset of the pilot. But after using the voice assistant, Alexa has now become an integral part of their lives. They welcome the idea and enjoy being able to ask for information regarding dining and activities.
For one resident, Alexa has become the tool used to schedule medication reminders. Another tester, a University of Florida professor whom Abed described as lacking the motor skills he once had. Abad says the retired professor now says Alexa is ‘great.’
The Alexa beta test went beyond initial expectations, so much so that North Florida’s leadership team is now in the midst of constructing entire smart apartments for future residents. These Alexa-enabled apartments will not only let residents ask for information, but they’ll also be able to use Alexa to control the lights, fans and television, to name a few voice-enabled possibilities.
North Florida Retirement Village isn’t ready to roll out Alexa to its entire campus just yet, though the community has plans to offer Alexa to its independent living residents in the future. With more than 700 residents on a 104-acre campus with independent living, assisted living and memory care, North Florida Retirement Village wants to ensure Alexa is able to provide accurate information to everyone.
Senior Living and Voice Assistants: A Perfect Match
Some senior living providers have found residents are resistant to certain types of technology, yet they’re more receptive to voice assistants like Amazon Alexa. And as more baby boomers continue to move into communities, they’re going to demand more technology in general, Evans explains.
“Alexa and voice-enabled technologies are here to stay,” she says.
In addition to practical solutions such as retrieving information or dimming the lights, the technology can also recreate social experiences as a means to combat loneliness among senior living residents. The idea is that the device can provide a sense of company, even if a digital one.
“There are a lot of people who are alone. Alexa gives them a sense of companionship,” Abad says.
More so, voice assistants play a vital role in improving the resident experience, Evans explains. Currently, Touchtown is fully compatible with Alexa and the company has plans to introduce compatibility with Google Home in the near future. Evans states that voice assistants help make resident lives easier by getting information to them in a simple and concise manner. Aside from engagement and connectivity, by integrating Alexa into real-time community information, Touchtown is simply helping residents find joy in life.
“We’re just scratching the surface with voice enablement,” Lindsay says.