How Smart Speakers Can Help Vulnerable Adults
According to prominent healthcare think tank The King's Fund, the UK's social care system is hurtling at speed towards a significant crisis. In fact, the group's figures estimate that, without a significant increase in government expenditure, a £2.5 billion funding gap could well exist by the year 2020.
While the total amount invested into social care and the NHS remains a key bone of contention, however, local authorities are at least taking innovative and actionable steps to help improve the quality of life for the elderly.
One of the most interesting initiatives revolves around the utilisation of smart speaker technology in the care sector, with customised versions of Amazon's Echo being developed and trailed in Hampshire. In fact, 50 vulnerable adults in the region received such a unit at the end of 2017, while more are expected to be rolled out this year if the trial proves successful.
How Can Smart Speaker Improve Quality of Life for the Elderly?
The popularity of smart speaker technology cannot be denied, with Amazon having sold an estimated 20 million Alexa devices worldwide as of October 2017. The question that remains is how can this device and others such as the Google Dot help to improve the quality of life for the elderly? Let's take a look:
Smart Speakers are Easy to Use and Accessible at all Times
On a fundamental level, the voice-activated nature of smart speakers means that they're constantly accessible and easy to use. Simply saying “Alexa” when within earshot of the device will initiate an immediate response, at which point you can ask questions, call for assistance or contact a loved one.
So, if an elderly user experiences a fall, they'll still be able to activate their smart speaker and alert the necessary authorities. This creates a significantly safer living environment for your loved ones, while also delaying the need for some to move into an assisted living facility.
Smart Speakers Can Provide Comfort and Companionship
Smart speakers also offer considerable value from a social perspective, with their distinctly human and interactive elements capable of providing companionship to users.
This is particularly important in the current social climate, with a recent poll from Gransnet suggesting that nearly three-quarters of older citizens in the UK feel lonely. Incredibly, more than half of these individuals suffer in silence, having never spoken to anyone about how they truly feel.
With their unique communicative style and a huge range of pre-loaded games, jokes and trivia, smart speakers can add tangible value to the everyday lives of users while providing genuine comfort over time.
Remember, it's also possible to add fun and functional skills to your Alexa device and similar smart speakers, helping users to tailor their experience according to their precise needs,
Smart Speakers Can Introduce Order and Independence into the Lives of the Elderly
A lack of purpose can also undermine people as they grow older and retire from the world of work, particularly in instances where their health, mobility and independence are compromised.
Smart speakers can help to alleviate these issues, however, by introducing order into the lives of the elderly and enabling users to complete a wider range of tasks independently. From organising shopping lists and controlling your home's heating system to providing accurate and real-time public transport information, devices such as Alexa provide an on-demand service that enhances the quality and the depth of your everyday life.
Incredibly, smart speakers can also be used to turn the lights off in your home, making it easier for elderly users to remain independent when managing their finances and energy consumption.