What Senior Living Can Learn from Amazon's Hot Holiday Gift

Technology providers need to focus less on the hardware and more on building software into the latest cutting edge technology already out there.

Instead of talking to an avatar dog, seniors can now use cutting edge tools like Amazon’s Alexa—the tech behind some of the biggest sellers this holiday season. That’s according to Laurie Orlov, the founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, a market research that provides thought leadership and analysis on senior care technology.

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Amazon Echo Dot

Talking to Orlov, she is excited about the potential for products like LifePod, a piece of software that is built on top of Alexa that automatically generates reminders for daily routines. Here is an example of how it can work from her website:

It allows her to start a conversation without wake words: Good morning John, it is time to take your pills. Did you take them?

It automates routines with a sequence of commands either automatically at a pre-programmed time or from a single voice command: Turn on the lights, open the blinds, say the time of day, date, weather, start playing music.

“I believe the future of senior related technology is customizing existing products through software,” she says. “We aren’t going to see senior living products that have their own hardware succeed [because] they can’t scale. Without the product being able to scale, you can’t make it work.”

Building hardware is expensive these days, which is why she thinks companies in senior living should be focusing on the software instead and leaning on the massive production of devices from companies like Apple, Google, and Intel.

“[Software] can change the user experience for seniors,” she adds.

Things that might seem easy to everyday consumers such as turning on an iPad or remembering your password can be a real detriment to seniors adopting technology when they have a cognitive disability.

One of the amazing things about the consumer devices out there today is they allow seniors to interact by voice.

“You can have an engaging experience and you don’t even have to touch [the device]” says Ginna Baik of CDW Healthcare. “Technology care really take some of the disabilities of seniors out of the game. [Senior care providers] have an enormous opportunity to skip the legacy [technology] and go into a smart environment.”

But providers need to be careful not to throw a bunch of consumer facing devices into senior living communities without planning ahead and thinking about how it will be managed.

“[Providers] need to create an enterprise dashboard to manage it all, the dashboard to control it will be critical.”

Written by John Yedinak

Photo Credit: Amazon Echo Dot, by Guillermo Fernandes, public domain