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Alexa Program at UK Care Home Shows the Power of Voice-First Devices for the Elderly

Hampton Care resident Ruth xxx, 89 with her Amazon Echo Show. Image courtesy of The Sun.

UK-based tech consultancy firm The Digital Line worked with Canford Care, Amazon and technology specialist WDSI to bring Alexa-enabled devices to the Hampton Care elderly home. The experiment began in March of last year and focused on bedridden residents and those in the dementia unit. “By starting slowly, we hope to integrate the devices seamlessly into the lives of the residents, being careful not to disrupt their environment. The best technology is often invisible and enables rather than intrudes,” says TDL Director, George R Vaughan. “As the study continues, we will look to introduce further, bespoke skills to empower the residents and perhaps also free up some time for the care workers.”

“I Love Her” – Strong Results After Experiment’s First Year

A recent story in The Sun followed up on the experiment with senior tech reporter Harry Pettit visiting the elderly care home to see the results for himself. What he found is that both the care givers and the residents have taken a shine to Alexa. It has even improved the lives of some residents and freed up time for the care workers who are constantly in demand. The residents use Alexa daily, asking her to play audio books, set reminders to take their medication and to control the lights in their room. Ruth Drahota, an 89-year old resident, received an Amazon Echo Show says “Alexa is an absolute lifeline. I’d be bored stiff without her.”

While there is no official research being conducted on Alexa’s impact, the caregivers say they’ve seen improvement in “articulating speech when asking for services,” said Vaughan. It has also improved the care givers daily lives as well. “It can get a bit hectic here with all the residents’ room buzzers going off, which they push when they need a hand with something. Adding an Alexa means they don’t need to call for assistance as much. More importantly, it’s a bit of company that stops people feeling isolated,” said Hampton worker Samantha Newman.

Voice-First Empowers the Elderly

Digital Line plans to expand the program to other elderly homes in the UK and also create new tech programs, like an audiobook club and an AR experience that transports residents to exotic places. Digital Line is not the first to notice the positive impact of voice-first experiences on the elderly. Companies like LifePod are expanding on the capabilities of voice assistants to create voice services tailored to the needs of the elderly and their caregivers. Others like Cuida Health’s LiSA, are creating voice social platforms to keep retired residents active and engaged. We talk a lot about the companies, products and startups that have impacted by the rise of voice technology but rarely about the people. Digital Line’s experiment at Hampton Care shows the positive impact voice technology can have on those that really need it in order to engage with the world around them.

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