3/26/2021 | By Annie Tobey

Amazon’s voice-controlled virtual assistant, Alexa, offers features for users of all ages. But Alexa for seniors takes the benefits to a higher level. We present 12 top features to enhance daily life and safety for older adults, including Amazon’s newest offering, Alexa Together.

I recall sitting in front of the family TV, taking in The Jetsons cartoon. It wasn’t merely the storylines that caught my attention, but also the futuristic lifestyle: the family zooming around their space neighborhood in personal aircraft, riding moving sidewalks, and being served by their trusty robot maid, Rosie. Today’s technology has brought us closer than ever to the Jetsons’ world. Although we still live on solid ground and lack full-service robot maids (oh, to have a maid that will dust my furniture!), technology has made life easier – and added some fun, too. One bit of technology, Amazon Alexa, makes our homes more Jetson-like and offers added benefits for older adults.

A Little Background

Amazon Alexa, the voice-controlled virtual assistant, works with a two-way communication system – you talk to Alexa and she responds. With the two-way microphone and speaker, Alexa allows for basic tasks like audio and video calls. However, her capabilities go far beyond, providing education, entertainment, and security.

Alexa device options range from small audio-only devices to larger audio-video devices.

Top 12 Benefits of Alexa for Seniors

I’ve been using an Alexa device for several years now, starting with a Dot and adding a Spot to a second room. Through my experience and in researching new capabilities, I’ve chosen 12 top features of Alexa for seniors, both for daily use and to have in the back pocket for security.

Alexa, what was the top movie in 1965?

Whatever question pops up, ask Alexa! In reading, you may come across an unknown word or literary allusion. Ask Alexa. Maybe you’re reminiscing about concerts and trying to recall who recorded “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Ask Alexa. Trying out a new recipe that measures in metric? Ask Alexa for conversions.

Alexa, what’s on my calendar?

If you’ve transitioned to keeping your calendar on a smartphone or computer, you can connect it to Alexa. Sure, you can pick up your calendar to check, but you can also ask Alexa. If your hands are immersed in dishwater, you’re rushing to get out the door, or you’re stretching your morning muscles in bed, just ask Alexa.

Alexa, set the timer for 10 minutes.

Timers have long been useful in kitchens, but once you have Alexa at hand to set a timer upon voice command, you’ll realize just how valuable they can be. Besides timing the roasting vegetables, Alexa can time you holding a stretch during physical therapy exercises or giving yourself 10 more minutes of reading before heading to bed. Similarly, Alexa can set an alarm, for a gentle morning wake-up or anytime during the day.

Alexa, set a reminder.

“What’s the reminder for?” Alexa will respond. “Take my vitamins.” “When should I remind you?” “At 9:00 AM.” You can set recurring reminders, like “Alexa, remind me to take my vitamins every day at 9 AM.” You can also snooze a reminder if you can’t respond promptly.

Alexa, order dental floss.

You can place Amazon orders with a simple command. This is especially useful for items that you’ve ordered previously from your Amazon account or that are currently in your Amazon cart.

Alexa, add tomatoes to my grocery list.

This is one of my most frequent Alexa requests. I use AnyList, a paid smartphone app that connects with Amazon Alexa. I usually realize I need an ingredient when I’m busy, say, in the kitchen. Rather than stopping what I’m doing to write it down, I have Alexa do the work. Then I use the AnyList grocery list when I shop – whether in the store or at my computer ordering curbside pickup.

Alexa, find my keys.

Another great benefit of Alexa for seniors is that it can help you find things you’ve misplaced, such as phone and keys. I’ve done this using two different methods. Since I’ve connected Alexa to my Tiles, I can ask her to locate (by location) or ring any of my Tiles, such as the one on my keys. She can also call your phone, for those times when you know “it’s here somewhere!”

Alexa, play NPR.

Entertainment, news, weather forecast, music – Alexa can hook you up! If you have accounts with providers like SiriusXM, Pandora, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Spotify, etc., she can also connect with them to provide even more options.

Alexa, who’s at my front door?

Coordinate Alexa with your smart home devices and appliances, for convenience and safety. Turn on your smart TV; turn lights on and off; lock your door; check security cameras; change thermostat settings; turn off the oven; start your robotic vacuum; and on and on. Talk about living like the Jetsons!

My most frequent Alexa smart-home request is to turn lights on and off. My father, who was a stickler for turning lights off when leaving a room, would be tickled with how easy Alexa makes it to be energy and budget conscious.

Alexa, good night.

Create custom routines for Alexa, such as “Good morning,” “Dinner time,” “Kick off my day,” or “I’m home.” When I tell Alexa “Good night,” she turns off all of my inside smart light bulbs while leaving on my front and back porch lights, and she responds with “Good night, sleep tight.” Other routine actions include changing a thermostat, playing white noise or music – either throughout the night or for a set amount of time – updating news and weather, and more.

Alexa, start my meditation.

A good night’s sleep is essential for physical and cognitive health. This is true for people of all ages, but the negative effects of poor night of sleep seem more apparent as we age. Alexa can help. The Amazon assistant can connect with several different meditation skills – like apps for smartphones, from free to fee. I’ve made the Breath Prana Breathing Exercises my last Alexa request of the evening, after lights out and alarms set. The habit has done wonders in easing me into a restful slumber.

Alexa offers other health-related skills, too, like 7-Minute Workout, Fitbit connections, Easy Yoga, My Boxing Coach, and Daily Stretch.

Alexa, drop in on Mom.

The best new feature of Alexa for seniors is Alexa Together. This feature enables one person, say, an adult son or daughter, to connect with an aging loved one’s Alexa devices. After both people approve setup, Alexa can notify the follower of the other person’s Alexa interactions and summarize activity with Alexa and other compatible smart home devices – including items like contact sensors on a medicine cabinet. In addition, users can enable alerts, such as first activity of the day, or voice-activated emergency calls. In general, the system simply gives the follower a sense of the person’s day and assures them that all is well.

A touching Amazon video shows a grown son and his mom who are connected through The Care Hub. Mom begins her morning routine saying, “Alexa, start my day,” and the son’s smartphone shows a screen notification: “First Alexa activity on Mom’s Kitchen Echo Show.” Later in the day, he checks on his smart phone to see her notifications. That evening, Alexa notifies him, “No Alexa activity in Mom’s home from 5-9:30pm.” Concerned, he calls Mom, who picks up her phone, so all’s well.

Today’s Amazon Alexa devices offer a multitude of benefits. Books are available to help users get the most out of their devices. The Alexa smartphone app also helps people find features that are useful or simply fun!

Watch out, Rosie! Alexa can’t fetch slippers yet, but she is close on your heels!

Check out this other cool technology for seniors!

Annie Tobey

Annie Tobey has been a professional writer and editor for more than 30 years. As editor of BOOMER magazine, she explored a diversity of topics of particular interest to adult children of seniors. When she’s not writing, she can be found running the trails or enjoying a beer with friends.

Annie Tobey