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Voice‐Controlled Intelligent Personal Assistants to Support Aging in Place

BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Many older adults wish to age in place, and voice‐controlled intelligent personal assistants (VIPAs; eg, Amazon Echo and Google Home) potentially could support unmet home needs. No prior studies have researched the real‐world use of VIPAs among older adults. We sought to explore how older adults and caregivers utilize VIPAs. DESIGN/MEASUREMENT: Retrospective review of all verified purchase reviews of the Amazon Echo posted on between January 2015 and January 2018, with filtering for health‐related older adult key words. Open‐ended reviews were qualitatively analyzed to identify relevant themes. RESULTS: On retrieval, there were 73 549 reviews; and with subsequent key word filtering, 125 total reviews were subsequently analyzed. Five major themes were identified: (1) entertainment ("For two very senior citizens...we have really had fun with Echo. She tells us jokes, answers questions, plays music.); (2) companionship ("A senior living alone...I now have Alex to talk to."); (3) home control; (4) reminders ("I needed something that would provide me with information I couldn't remember well, such as the date, day, or my schedule...I highly recommend for anyone with memory challenges"); and (5) emergency communication. Several felt it reduced burdening caregivers. "...You also feel guilt from fear of overburdening your caregivers. Alexa has alleviated much of this." Specifically, caregivers found that: "By making playlists of songs from her youth whoever is providing care, family or professional caregiver, can simply request the right song for the moment in order to sooth, redirect, or distract Mom." Alternatively, negative reviewers felt the VIPA misunderstood them or could not adequately respond to specific health questions. CONCLUSION: VIPAs are a low‐cost artificial intelligence that can support older adults in the home and potentially reduce caregiver burden. This study is the first to explore VIPA use among older adults, and further studies are needed to examine the direct benefits of VIPAs in supporting aging in place.

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Journal article
John Wiley & Sons
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Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
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