5 ways Alexa Together helps care for aging loved ones
Amazon's new service aims to help elders age in place independently
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From unlocking doors to setting medication alarms, it’s no surprise that assistive technology like voice-activated Alexa offers seniors convenience and peace of mind when it comes to aging in place. But checking in on loved ones just got even easier thanks to the new Alexa Together subscription service, launched last week.
The $19.99 a month service ($199 annually) has replaced Alexa’s popular Care Hub—which included features like activity alerts and easy ways to stay connected—and adds even more functions such as hands-free access to an urgent response emergency helpline and fall detection.
Here’s what Alexa Together offers Echo device users:
1. Urgent Response
Seniors have 24/7 hands-free access to a professionally staffed emergency helpline that they can reach by saying “Alexa, call for help.” Trained agents request that emergency services like police, ambulance, or the fire department be called, and Alexa proactively notifies designated caregivers of the dispatch.
This service is an enhancement from the Care Hub emergency contact function. Previously, when seniors called Alexa for help, push notifications, phone calls, and text messages would alert the family member whose account is linked to the senior requesting assistance.
2. Fall detection response
Falls are among the top safety risks for seniors aging in place, which makes Amazon’s partnership with Assistive Technology Service (ATS) and Vayyar to incorporate third-party devices for fall detection one of Together’s most noteworthy features.
Vayyar Care’s wall-mounted sensor can identify when a fall has occurred, and SkyAngelCare by ATS is a fall-detection pendant that seniors wear around their neck. When Together users press the pendant help button or Vayyar Care detects a fall, Alexa receives a signal asking the senior if they want to call Urgent Response.
3. Activity feed and alerts
Ever wonder whether Mom or Dad are up and moving as early as you are? Loved ones can breathe easier from afar with custom alerts that notify them when seniors have had their first morning interaction with Alexa or with a connected smart home device, or throughout certain intervals during the day. There are also notifications for when no activity is recorded by a set time, which serves as a reminder to stay in touch.
4. Privacy protection
As with Alexa and all Echo devices, Alexa Together is designed with multiple layers of privacy protection.
But those underpinnings sometimes aren’t enough to put seniors’ minds at ease, says Andre Bierzynski, a director with AARP Innovation Labs. “As we innovate, we have to be mindful as we talk to older populations about obtrusiveness and privacy and be mindful of their concerns. The important thing about voice technology is that medication reminders are one thing, but getting ads for milk because technology knows how much you have left in your refrigerator are another,” he said. “While you want to monitor, care for, and understand how your mom is doing at home, you don’t want to put cameras up in her space. Less obtrusive options go back to quality of life.”
Like Care Hub, Alexa Together includes privacy functions that limit what caregivers can access. They will be notified of interactions with Alexa, but without specifics about which TV shows, songs, podcasts or Audible books were consumed or accessed. Seniors need to grant access to caregivers to use features like Remote Assist.
5. Remote Assist
If Remote Assist is enabled by the person aging in place, their caregivers can remotely manage Alexa features and settings directly in that senior’s account. These include setting reminders such as for medications and doctor’s appointments; adding contacts for hands-free calls; or adding items to a grocery list. The functionality means that caregivers can essentially act as IT resources and remove any potential technology-related hiccups or learning curves on the senior’s part.
Alexa Together is available now. All Care Hub users will receive a free year of Alexa Together; others can sign up for a free limited-time, six-month trial.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.