According to The King’s Fund, the UK’s social care system is hurling at speed towards a significant crisis. In fact, figures estimate that, without a significant increase in government expenditure, a 2.5 billion funding gap could exist by 2020. While the amount invested into social care and the NHS remains disputed, local authorities are at least taking initiative and carrying out innovative steps to help improve the quality of life for the elderly and vulnerable. In today’s post, we’ll be discussing how smart speakers improve quality of life for the vulnerable.
Quality of Life
The growing popularity of smart speakers cannot be denied, with Amazon having sold an estimated 20 million Alexa devices worldwide as of October 2017. You can now ask the Echo’s Alexa assistant to play your favourite music or check the weather. You can order pizza, track flights or play Jeopardy. Other than having all those cool features, we believe smart speakers have the ability to improve the quality of life for the elderly and vulnerable adults.
The devices can significantly improve quality of life for people with little or no mobility due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis or motor neurone disease. It is possible to link Alexa voice-controlled devices to other gadgets in the house, such as Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, so that users are able to operate the television without having to manipulate a physical device.
On a fundamental level, the voice-activated nature of smart speakers means that they’re constantly accessible and easy to use. Simply saying “Alexa” when within earshot of the device will initiate an immediate response, at which point you can ask questions, call for assistance or contact a loved one. So, if an elderly user experiences a fall, they’ll still be able to activate their smart speaker and alert the necessary authorities. This creates a significantly safer living environment for your loved ones, while also delaying the need for some to move into an assisted living facility.
Comfort and Companionship
Smart speakers also offer considerable value from a social perspective, with their distinctly human and interactive elements capable of providing companionship to users. This is particularly important in the current social climate, with a recent poll from Gransnet suggesting that nearly three-quarters of older citizens in the UK feel lonely. Incredibly, more than half of these individuals suffer in silence, having never spoken to anyone about how they truly feel. With their unique communicative style and a huge range of pre-loaded games, jokes and trivia, smart speakers can add tangible value to the everyday lives of users while providing genuine comfort over time.
Hampshire County Council trial Alexa in Healthcare
Hampshire County Council is piloting the use of Amazon’s Alexa digital assistant to help support people with severe disabilities. The council says smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo can improve clients’ quality of life and cut councils’ costs.
Graham Allen, the county’s director of adult social care, said at the Share Digital conference that the council is trialling Amazon Echo devices in the sector. The Department of Health last year funded the council to carry out a proof of concept for the project.
A lack of purpose can also undermine people as they grow older and retire from the world of work, particularly in instances where their health, mobility and independence are compromised.
Smart speakers can help to alleviate these issues, however, by introducing order into the lives of the elderly and enabling users to complete a wider range of tasks independently. From organising shopping lists and controlling your home’s heating system to providing accurate and real-time public transport information, devices such as Alexa provide an on-demand service that enhances the quality and the depth of your everyday life.