As voice recognition technologies such as Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple Homepod become more inexpensive and accessible, the long-term care profession has begun taking notice of the promises such devices may hold for offering older adults greater independence and social connection. 

Last year, the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing launched a six-month Amazon Alexa Pilot Study at Carlsbad By The Sea, a continuing care retirement community in San Diego. The project began with 15 households and was expanded to 90 units, with the majority of participants in their 80s. Residents attended twice-monthly “Alexa 101” workshops, and technicians helped users customize their devices based on individual interests.

Overall, older adults in the pilot study felt that Alexa made their lives easier, and about 75% used it at least once a day, mostly to check the weather, hear the latest news, listen to music, search for information or set a timer.

More than 70% of participants also reported feeling more connected to family, friends and the community, with some choosing to use Alexa to call loved ones.

“This promising finding suggests that voice-first solutions offer us a powerful tool to help older adults live well in any setting,” said Kari Olson, president of the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing. “We must pay attention to the energy and enthusiasm older adults have for these technologies.”

Other long-term care communities are also evaluating voice technology. In May, Civitas Senior Living said it was piloting Alexa in each of its independent living apartments in suburban Houston.