Page Reviewed / Updated – April 29, 2023
Page Reviewed by Dr. Brindusa Vanta, MD
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As your loved ones age, they may not be able to safely live alone. Seniors often face increased risks of injury and feelings of isolation. Your older loved ones may worry about living alone but feel like they don’t have options. Older adults can develop mobility challenges that limit their ability to wear certain clothing or clean up around the house. Aging can make it more difficult to perform activities of daily living, such as preparing meals or getting ready for a doctor’s appointment. Three out of four Americans struggle to take their medication as directed, and one of the major factors in missed or late dosages is a complex schedule that’s hard for individuals to manage.

Smart devices have a variety of helpful features that can help bridge the gap between living alone and living with in-home support. Amazon’s Alexa is one option that comes with comprehensive tools to help seniors live safely and comfortably in their own homes. 

This guide takes a look at how Alexa can help seniors take medications on time, avoid missing appointments, run errands and make other daily tasks easier.

What Is Amazon Alexa?

Alexa is Amazon’s digital voice assistant. It’s an AI program that uses natural language communications to accomplish tasks. It’s cloud-based, which means you don’t need heavy-duty hardware to have access. Think Siri for Amazon. 

When your elderly family members uses it, they simply talk to Alexa the same way they would an in-person assistant, and it can accomplish many of the same tasks. Want to look at your calendar? Ask Alexa to display it on the connected device of your choice. Alexa can also control any compatible voice-enabled devices, making it easier for your aging loved one to handle tasks around the house. Alexa is always learning how to do new things, and you can learn how to make the most of the service and teach seniors how to put that knowledge to use.

And if you or an aging parent or grandparent don’t like the name Alexa or it’s too close to someone who’s regularly in their home, you can always rename the digital assistant to whatever they’d like. After all, Alexa is simply the trigger word that lets your voice-enabled devices know to start listening to requests.

Amazon Alexa Benefits for Seniors 

What exactly can Alexa do to help? Here are a few of the ways seniors can use Alexa to reduce their risks and make aging at home safe and comfortable. 

  • Set Alarms and Reminders: Using daily reminders and alarms, Alexa can give seniors a vocal reminder about which pills to take when and if a particular medication should be taken with food or without. Plus, you can use Alexa to send reminders about doctor appointments and social gatherings to help your senior family members arrive on time. 
  • Save Money on Utility Bills: You’ll never need to worry about your parent heading back downstairs to check the lights or to see if the alarm is set before bed. With Alexa, they can use a single voice command to handle a series of tasks, including adjusting light settings, turning on the alarm and changing thermostat settings, as long as all of the control devices are Alexa-enabled.
  • Streamline Breakfast Prep: If seniors have a smart coffee pot and other smart cooking appliances, they can grab a morning cup of java that makes itself when Alexa notices them waking up or on a set schedule. Alexa can then help with food prep by reading off a selected recipe so that they don’t have to worry about touching anything with their hands until after they’re done handling raw food. 
  • Protect Your Belongings: Alexa Guard is a feature that can work in tandem with a home security system to catch an intrusion into their home. When enabled, this feature listens for unusual sounds around the perimeter of the home, such as breaking glass or other noises that could indicate forced entry. It then alerts the homeowner to the problem so they can notify the police or take appropriate next steps. 
  • Entertainment and Relaxation Hub: Alexa takes the place of a radio, a library and a comedian, giving seniors access to thousands of songs that they can play with a simple, spoken request. Seniors can also have Alexa play audiobooks or tell jokes. 
  • Run Your Errands From Home: Put together a shopping list and have Alexa do the shopping. With Whole Foods and Amazon directly connected to Alexa, seniors can have their groceries and sundries delivered right to the door. 

The Alexa Together Service Plan

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Amazon Alexa also has programs tailored specifically for seniors, such as the Together plan. Alexa Together offers an alternative to medical alert devices by offering many of the same services but through an existing Amazon Echo device. Seniors will need an Echo to sign up for the service, but once they have it, they gain access to several features that help them feel safe and secure at home while also reassuring you that your loved ones are okay.

A single Alexa Together subscription costs $19.99 (plus tax) per month in 2023, but the first month is free to try out the service. If it doesn’t work for your or your family, simply cancel anytime during the first 30 days to avoid paying any fees. 

Alexa Together Features and Services 

During the trial, you and your family can test out all of the main features of the Together plan to see if it’s right for you. 

Customized Alerts

Activity-based alerts allow you to check in without interrupting their day. You can see when they first access Alexa in the morning and notice if they don’t, which gives you an added layer of safety. 

24/7 Urgent Response

When you sign up for Alexa Together, it includes access to a professionally staffed Urgent Response team that can connect seniors to emergency services, even when they aren’t within reach of a phone. Lively also offers voice-activated help calls with Alexa-enabled devices through its monitoring service. Plus, the team can loop you in any time the service notices an emergency or responds to a call for help. 

Activity Feed

Alexa creates an activity feed that details how you interact with it every day. It’s very similar to how Facebook posts your activities and places you visit, depending on your security settings. The customized alerts notify you when specific actions take place, but the activity feed is a place where they can see how and what they’re doing at a glance.

Circle of Support

With the Alexa Together Circle of Support, you don’t have to depend on one person to be the primary contact for communication. Instead, the circle allows you to add other friends and family members to the alert list so that if something goes wrong, whoever is available can be there. 

Remote Assist

Not everyone loves using new technology, even one as intuitive as Alexa. If seniors need help getting things set up or putting in calendar items, you and the circle of support can access settings remotely to help. 

Fall-Detection Response

If any connected Alexa device notices that a senior has fallen, it will immediately link in the 24/7 Urgent Response team. Seniors can talk with someone right away to see if they need additional help or if there is an emergency. This is often a critical safety feature for seniors because 1 out of 3 fall at least once a year.

The Best Amazon Alexa Devices for Seniors

While the Amazon Echo paired with the Together plan is the most obvious device that can help seniors, there are many other devices that can work with Alexa to provide added services. 

Amazon Echo

The Amazon Echo is the flagship product for connecting with Alexa and all of the features available through cloud-based access and control of your Amazon content. The Echo comes in three basic models.

  • Echo: A moderately sized speaker, the Echo is the mid-range option for those who don’t need a visual display. 
  • Echo Dot: Compact and with a limited range, the Echo Dot is affordable and easy to set up. 
  • Echo Show: For seniors, the Echo Show might be the best option, but it is the most expensive of the Echo products. It includes a screen that allows for video calling, which can be helpful in an emergency. 

Ring Doorbell

A Ring doorbell replaces a traditional doorbell with a smart, video-enabled version. With a Ring, you can talk to whoever is at the door from anywhere in your home and take a look at the camera footage to see if you want to answer or offer instructions. If it’s a package and you aren’t home, you can tell the delivery driver where to leave it or use the Ring as an added security camera. There are three models of Ring video doorbells:

  • Video Doorbell 2: Great for at-home use, this doorbell is motion-activated and offers good enough picture quality to capture most details. 
  • Video Doorbell Pro: For high-quality images and full color, opt for the pro version of the Ring. 
  • Peephole Cam: The Peephole Cam is specially designed to install directly into your peephole for concealed installation.

Alexa Smart Home

Building an Alexa Smart Home means using a variety of smart devices through Alexa services. While Alexa smart homes don’t need a hub, such as the Nest, there are several Amazon-specific devices that can help you get started. The Echo is the primary control device for many smart home features, but you can also use the app on your phone for some of them. In general, Alexa provides the freedom and flexibility to select any device as long as it’s compatible.

Alexa-Compatible Medical Alert Systems 

Amazon Together handles many of the functions that would otherwise be offered by a third-party medical alert system. However, there are a few add-on devices that can help turn Together into a fully functioning system while at home. 

  • SkyAngelCare: This fall detection pendant automatically notifies the Alexa response team if it detects a fall. 
  • Vayyar Care Touchless Fall Detection: The trouble with emergency pendants is that if seniors aren’t wearing them, they don’t work. The Touchless Fall Detection sensors offered by Vayyar care address this issue by monitoring individual rooms for falls. After its 7-day training period, it notices when something happens in the room in which it’s installed and makes an automatic report.
  • AltumView Fall Detection: Using innovative stick-figure viewing to preserve privacy, this device sees body position within a room and notifies the Urgent Response center if someone falls. It can also perform a risk assessment, giving you suggestions on ways to reduce the risk of a fall in a specific room.

How to Set Up an Amazon Alexa

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Making Alexa a great option for seniors often starts with selecting the right device. Once you have the device they’ll be using, you can help a senior set it up remotely or give them a link to Amazon’s setup guide if they’re tech-savvy. 

Here are eight easy steps to getting your Amazon Echo Show up and running.

  1. Get an Echo Show: While a little bit more pricey than the screen-less alternatives, having a display screen is a great way to let seniors see what’s going on behind the scenes as Alexa completes tasks. 
  2. Make Sure You Have an Amazon Account: If they don’t already have an account, sign them up for one before you install the device and download the Alexa app onto their phone. 
  3. Plug It In: The Echo Show is fairly plug-and-play. Plug it in and watch the screen light up. 
  4. Select Your Language: You can have Alexa use whatever language is most comfortable for your family. 
  5. Connect It to WiFi: To connect, you simply input the name of the home network and the password it’s going to connect to. 
  6. Input Address and Time Zone: Let Alexa know where the device is located and the appropriate time zone to avoid miss-timed notifications. 
  7. Add the Name of the Person Using the Device: Input the name of whoever might be using the system.
  8. Connect the Device to Your App: Load the Alexa app on their phone and go to the “More Options” button. Select “Add a Device” and follow the directions. You may have to enable Bluetooth settings. Once the device shows as connected, they’re all set.

Amazon provides a support page that you can use in the event that you experience any difficulties and require assistance in solving a problem in order to get your device up and running.