Elderly Alexa: The Innovative Voice Assistant For Caregivers

Alexa may be bringing the retirement home to you


The Saturday Night Live episode that aired on May 13, 2017, featured a parody advertisement for "Alexa Silver," which showed how the Alexa speaker could be used to interact with the senior citizens. In the advertisement, the Alexa speaker could listen to seniors lengthy, digressive stories of the past and respond with "uh-huh." Alexa Silver could even respond to names such as 'Alaina,' 'Aretha,' and more. Although this parody was meant to be comical, the Alexa speaker device could actually benefit senior citizens, which was explained by a hack at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2017 hackathon. 

Elderly Alexa Can Help Seniors Needing Assistance

Brett Krutiansky, a computer science student and hack designer, feels his idea is beneficial for seniors. He thought of the idea for 'Elderly Alexa' because his grandparents have health issues, which include dementia and vertigo, and they both require additional care to complete daily tasks.

Krutiansky also explained that his mother constantly worries about her parents, and there have been many instances where she called her parents neighbors because she was unable to reach her mother and father. To alleviate some of his mother's tension and stress, Krutiansky is giving his hack to her as a Mother's Day present.

What is Alexa Skill?

Alexa Skill is the voice app he designed that is set up on an Echo speaker, which provides an interface between those who need additional care and their loved ones. With "Elderly Alexa," seniors are provided assistance taking medication simply by saying 'Alexa, medicine.' Alexa will also provide users the name of the medication, the dosage, and the time it needs to be taken. There is also a feature included with the app that prompts an AWS Lambda event, which emails loved ones keeping track of their care. Alexa will also ask the user if he or she has taken the medication. Based on the user's answer, an email is sent to the user's family members charged with his or her care.

Furthermore, the family member can use an iOS app to send the next task on a to-do-list or call and remind them to take their medication. This system is designed with the idea that if an email doesn't arrive daily, the family members will be aware something could be wrong. This is also a great way for family members to communicate with each other about the loved one needing the additional care. For example, this feature will allow family members to communicate and decide who will check on mom or dad the next day. Although the hack is designed to assist the elderly, Krutiansky emphasized the Alexa Skill could be beneficial for anyone needing additional care.

Assistive Technologies for the Elderly and Others

The Center for Technology and Aging reported that there are a variety of devices and equipment to help individuals perform a task and prevent injury. Those going through physical therapy, such as spinal decompression therapy, can also benefit from assistive technologies. The Center for Technology and Aging also reported that assistive technologies are beneficial and help the elderly maintain independence because these technologies compensate for physical, sensory, and cognitive impairments.

There were many technologies used to develop the project, which include AWS (DynamoDB, Lambda, and SES), Node JavaScript, Swift, and PubNub APIs. Krutiansky stated he will focus on modifying the chat room to be more user-friendly, implement improvements to the push notification system, and issue reminders for the list in the iOS app, which will help care providers remember what tasks need to be completed. Furthermore, he also hopes to add functionality to remind those needing additional assistance, such as his grandparents, what daily tasks they need to do.

According to Krutiansky, 'Sometimes, my grandfather, who has dementia, forgets to shower.' He explained that Alexa would be able to remind him to take a shower as well as when to take his medication.

There have been other gadgets made for elderly care, but Krutiansky feels the simplicity and cost of the Echo speakers give it an edge above other elderly care devices. Krutiansky explained the Intuition Robotics speaker, which is a similar device, is a few hundred dollars versus the Echo Dot that is priced at $50.00. He plans to publish it to the Alexa Skill Store for his mother and others to use in the near future. According to the Institute of Aging, there were an estimated 43.5 million adult family caregivers who were taking care of an individual over the age of 50. Furthermore, 14.9 million of these caregivers were taking care of a family member with dementia. With this new technology, those needing additional care and caregivers are provided assistance at a convenient and affordable cost. 

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