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How Smart Speakers Can Help the Elderly
If you are or know an older adult who lives alone, consider getting a smart speaker like Google Nest Mini. Sure, the tech can be confusing if you aren’t used to it, but once it’s set up, the convenience is *chef’s kiss*.
There are so many ways that you can benefit from a smart speaker. Smart assistants like Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa can address potential challenges like loss of mobility, dexterity, or memory.
Even if you aren’t experiencing those issues, it can be nice to have the help and the company if you're on your own.
Most smart speakers make hands-free communication super easy. You don’t have to find your phone or look up someone’s number. It’s as simple as asking the voice assistant to place a call.
Some smart speakers require third-party apps to place phone calls or send text messages.
Smart speakers won’t outright call 911 (as a failsafe). You can still find ways to contact emergency personnel, though. For instance, with Google Home, you can call 911 using a service called Ooma Telo. You’d say something like, “Okay Google, have Ooma Telo call 911.” It’s not difficult, but you do have to pay monthly for the Ooma Telo service.
A smart speaker can also act as a smart hub. You can use it to control multiple smart products with just your voice.
Just by speaking, you can turn the lights off when you’re in bed, turn on the TV, make coffee, unlock the door for a visitor, and start the shower. All you need is the right smart technology.
You can also set your entire system on a specific schedule using a Google Home routine or a service like IFTTT.
If you’re forgetful or lose track of time easily, reminders are the perfect way to keep yourself on task. Just tell your virtual assistant to remind you when your favorite show is on or that it’s time to take that casserole out of the oven.
If you’re tired of switching between multiple remotes, you can get a smart TV and control it through your speaker. It’s an easy way to change channels, switch between inputs, and turn the television on and off.
You can also play music through your smart speaker. Tune in to a radio station or, if you don’t like what’s playing, use a service like Spotify or YouTube Music to listen to precisely what you want.
Last but not least, many smart speakers will play games with you, tell you riddles or jokes, or even sing.
If you need to go somewhere but can’t or don’t want to drive, use your smart speaker to order an Uber or a Lyft. Or, if you don’t want to spend the money, ask your voice assistant to call a friend or family member who might give you a ride.
Depending on which smart speaker you choose, you can order groceries and even takeout just by using your voice. It’s a convenient alternative to leaving the house to get food.
If you have an Echo, you can even order from Amazon. (Alexa will send you a notification when the packages arrive.)
If you haven’t used a smart speaker or a smart home before, setup can be confusing. You may want help setting up your smart speaker and learning how to use it. Same goes for any other smart devices you put in your home to complement the speaker.
Some speakers also require specific wording. You need to learn and practice specific phrases to get the results you want—the AI isn’t that smart.
If you don’t have the patience to learn exact commands, we’d recommend the Google Nest Mini or a Google Nest speaker over an Echo. Alexa needs more exact wording than Google Assistant does.
Smart speaker FAQ
Do I need a smartphone to use a smart speaker?
You’ll most likely need a smartphone to get your smart speaker set up.
Whether you must continually access the app (and thus the phone) depends on your speaker type and how you choose to use it.
If you don’t have a smartphone and aren’t interested in using one, there are a couple of options available. You can get a lower-end phone that you’ll use only for installation and anything else smart speaker-related. Or you can ask a friend, family member, or caregiver if they’ll set up the speaker using their own phone.
Just remember that if you want your smartphone to be more than a glorified iPod, you need to set up a plan with a carrier.
Can Google Home help in an emergency?
Yes, but we wouldn’t rely on it.
Don’t get us wrong. Google Home or other smart speakers can help in an emergency. If set up properly, a person in danger can use a third-party app or skill to call a loved one, medical personnel, or law enforcement.
But those functions need to be set up beforehand. And if the user fell or blacked out, they may not be in range of the speaker or conscious enough to talk.
Overall, we’d recommend a medical alert device over a smart speaker for emergencies. Some home security companies (like Bay Alarm) and phone providers (like Lively, formerly GreatCall) also offer medical alert services.
What are my options for a smart assistant?
The three most popular assistants are as follows:
- Google Assistant (Google Nest Mini and Nest Hub)
- Amazon’s Alexa (Amazon Echo)
- Apple’s Siri (HomeKit)
Those aren’t your only options, though. You can use Microsoft’s Cortana (we suggest integrating her with SmartThings) or simply go with a more generic speaker.
If you don’t want to break the bank, both the Google Nest Mini and Echo Dot are affordable options for most income ranges. You just won’t have a smart display on the device.