Most seniors are clear about their preference for aging in place. There’s a comfort in the idea of staying in your own home that the image of an assisted living facility just can’t match. But assisted living facilities and nursing homes are still booming industries for a reason. Many aspects of living at home become much more difficult with age, and some become downright unsafe.
While that’s still largely true, technology is increasingly starting to fill the gaps in what seniors need to feel safe and comfortable living at home. One of the big categories of technology useful for seniors wanting to age in place is voice-activated tech.
What is Voice-Activated Tech?
Voice-activated tech is any technology that responds to spoken commands. For most people, the most familiar form that takes is the voice-activated technology now common in smartphones. When you use Siri to start your favorite song or call one of your contacts instead of messing with the buttons on your phone, you’re using voice-activated technology. But it’s becoming more common in different types of devices and for a wider array of uses as well.
Types of Voice-Activated Technology Products
Voice-activated technology is now a part of a number of different technology products:
- Smart lights – with the right additional technology, smart lights, like those made by Hue, can be turned on and off with voice commands.
- Smart thermostats – With smart thermostats like those from Honeywell and Nest, you often have the option to change the temperature settings with your voice.
- Smart locks – Some smart locks let you lock and unlock your front door with the use of voice commands.
- Smart security system – Products for home security or home alert systems that help monitor a senior’s safety can also be voice activated – if a senior needs help, simply saying so will often be easier than getting to a button or phone.
- Smart TV – While not as important to safety as some of these other items, smart TVs that can be controlled by voice are a convenient nice-to-have option.
- Voice activated medication reminder – Messing with buttons to try to figure out the settings for medication dispensers can be a challenge for some seniors, but options that allow for voice activation, like Rosie Reminder, make the products easier to use and keep up with.
- Smart home – The technology that brings it all together, smart home systems like Apple Homekit and Amazon Echo are often a necessary component to being able to use voice activation with some of these other technologies, and make it possible to control all your smart tech in one place.
Tasks Voice-Activated Tech Can Help With
As the list above makes clear, there are a number of different day-to-day tasks that voice-activated technology makes it easier to complete.
- Turning lights on and off – This is both extremely convenient and can be important for fall prevention. Having to walk across a dark room to find a light switch is risky, being able to turn the light on with a word instead is obviously safer.
- Keeping grocery and to do lists – As seniors get more forgetful, the ability to make lists that are automatically recorded can really come in handy.
- Remembering to take meds – One of the most important things seniors have to remember each day is also one of the most consistently hard things to stay on top of. Voice-activated medication reminders can be easier for seniors to set and use each day than pill dispensers that require messing with buttons.
- Changing the temperature in the house – When you wake up feeling hot in the middle of the night, you don’t have to stumble out of bed and make your way across the house to the thermostat anymore. You can make the desired changes from bed with the proper voice commands.
- Keeping the house locked – As your memory becomes less trustworthy, you’ll increasingly have moments where you’re not sure if you remembered to lock the door behind you, but getting up to walk back and forth and check every time you worry is trying. Voice activated technology lets you simply tell the door to lock whenever you want to be sure.
- Avoiding falls – Almost all of these technologies contribute to this main goal. When you don’t have to move through the house as much, you don’t risk tripping over things or falling down as often.
- Calling for help in an emergency – Possibly one of the most important functionalities voice-activated technology provides is making it easier for seniors to call for help in the case of emergency. If a home alert system requires them reaching a phone or a button, they may have a hard time accessing it at the moment they need it most, but a voice command can be issued without having to move.
Voice-activated Tech Can’t Help With Everything
These technologies can play a role in making it safer for seniors to live at home for longer, but unfortunately, they’re not a solution to all the problems that make aging in place challenging. Voice-activated technology won’t make getting in and out of the tub safer. It won’t help you get dressed in the morning. And while it can help you keep a grocery list and remind you when it’s time to eat, it doesn’t do the work of preparing those meals for you.
For many seniors, it can help put off the moment when the level of care available in assisted living becomes necessary, but that moment is still likely to come. When it does, it’s important not to feel like it means the end of your independence and happiness. Assisted living communities do provide a number of benefits to residents and, as long as you can find one that’s the right fit for you and your needs, they can improve your quality of life.
Use the resources you have to make aging in place work for as long as possible, but when you reach the point where it’s not working any more, start researching your local assisted living options. 24-hour care and buildings designed with seniors in mind will always go farther than voice-activated technology to keeping you comfortable and safe.