Alexa for people living alone
My name is Bill McCarthy and I am a retired teacher. I’m 74 years old and I have been a partial quadriplegic for the last 12 years. I live in London, Ontario. My wife died recently, so I am now living at home alone, but with the wonderful assistance of LHIN and Cheshire.
In an effort to PAY IT FORWARD, my goal for 2020 is to start a pilot project in London, this year, to provide Amazon Alexas for older people, that are living alone and/or people with special needs.
I have been actively programming skills for Amazon’s Alexa for the last thee years. I will provide all necessary information and training to anyone who gets involved in this project. I will also make sure that each client taking part in the pilot project has their Alexa set up with skills that are perfectly suited to them. I will assist in setting up each Alexa, taking into account each client’s needs, and create new personalized skills, where needed.
This is a synopsis of how Alexa could be beneficial to people living on their own, especially seniors and/or people with special needs. It will explain how Alexa could enhance the life of said person. So here is an example of a user’s typical day, written from the point of view of the Alexa user, or the client. For the purpose of this exercise, since I am a 74 year old male, who is a partial quadriplegic, I’ll assume the client is similar in age and condition to me.
A bell rings softly, increasing in volume slightly with each ring. You wake up slowly until you are awake enough to TELL it to stop. At that time, your Alexa says: It’s time to wake up! Your V.O.N. nurse today is Michael, and he will be here to change your catheter in 15 minutes.
You then say Alexa, play music by Air Supply, and you relax and listen to a random selection of their songs.
You really enjoy the third song that was played, so you say: Alexa, volume 7. Then you say: Alexa, repeat. The volume of the music is increased, and when the song ends, then it plays again.
Alexa says: Your Cheshire PSW this morning is Samantha and she will be here at 9:15.
Michael finishes up and leaves. So you ask: Alexa, what’s the weather like today?
She answers by saying: Currently in London it’s 32 degrees Fahrenheit with mostly cloudy skies. You can expect more of the same today with a high of 32 degrees and a low of 26 degrees.
You then decide that you want to hear the latest news, so you say: Alexa, play CBC News.
When the new ends, you still have a few minutes until Samantha arrives, so you say: Alexa, open On This Date.
Alexa then says: On February eighteenth, 1968, the tenth Winter Olympic games closed at Grenoble, France. Canada’s Nancy Greene was a double medal winner, taking home the gold medal in Giant Slalom and the silver in Slalom. In Hockey, the Canadian National Team took home the bronze. And in 1972, a Record 44.2 inches of snow fell on Kitimat, B.C. Also on the same date in 1916, Jean Drapeau, who was the mayor of Montréal from 1954 to 1973, was born in Montréal, Québec.
Right on time, your PSW arrives to get you out of bed. You know who her favourite singer is, so you say: Alexa, play songs by Barry Manilow. Then you say: Alexa, volume 4, so the music she likes will play softly while she gets you out of bed, into your chair, and gets your breakfast for you.
After she leaves, you want to play a game for awhile, so you say: Alexa, open What Happened First. You choose the easy mode, and Canada, as the country. Then it will give you three important Canadian events and ask you which happened first. You guess wrong, so Alexa skill recites the correct order. You enjoy this game, so you play it several more times.
You look at, and answer your email, using your phone. While answering one message, you want to use the word quadriplegic, but you forgot how to spell it so you ask her: Alexa, how do you spell quadriplegic?
Her answer is: quadriplegic is spelled, q u a d r i p l e g i c.
Later, while checking your banking information online, you want to figure out how much something will cost, including tax, so you ask: Alexa, how much is 113% of 45?
She answers with: 113% of 45 is 50.85.
Now it’s time to give your fingers a rest, and just relax, so you say: Alexa, read my Audible book. She picks up right where she left off yesterday, and reads your latest audio book. She keeps reading until you say, Alexa, stop!
Your PSW arrives to get you your lunch. Before she leaves, you decide to show her the latest thing you found out that your Alexa will do. Your Alexa is a 2nd generation Show, with a 10 inch screen. You ask her to bring you a can from the cupboard. Then you tell her to hold it up in front of Alexa. You ask Alexa, what am I holding in my hand?
After a short time, she beeps and says: It’s a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. Not a useful skill for me because I still see fairly well, but I’m sure it could come in handy for a lot of people.
After Samantha left, I decided to watch a movie. I chose Alexa as the place I wanted to view the movie, so I said: Alexa, play The Man in the High Castle. I enjoyed it so much that I watched two episodes of the series which is one of many things available on Amazon Prime Video.
Alexa alerted me with a reminder that I set yesterday when she said: This is a reminder, phone your brother Gord.
He told me last week that he was going to see his doctor this morning, so I set up a reminder at that time, to phone him this afternoon.
I have a cell phone with only a talk and text plan, and I have WiFi access to the Internet. That’s all I need to phone my brother in Elliot Lake. All I have to do is say: Alexa, phone Gordon. Alexa then uses the Internet to phone my brother. No minutes are used! If you have a plan with a limited number of minutes, you will love this.
But, I prefer seeing him when I talk to him, and since he has an Alexa Show 8, we are able to talk from one Alexa to another, including the video. I said: Alexa, drop in on Gord, and we then had a video call, similar to Skype, totally on our Alexas. If either, or both of us had an Alexa that doesn’t have a screen, we can still drop in on each other, but obviously there would be no video.
We talked for over an hour. Gord told me that his son Dave wanted to tell me something, so, when I finished talking to Gord, I said: Alexa, phone Dave. Dave doesn’t have an Echo (another name for Alexa) so it called his cell phone, but I still talked to him using my Alexa. I can also phone a phone number that isn’t in my cell phone’s contact list, using Alexa, simply by saying: Alexa, phone 519-555-1212.
When we finished our call, he asked me to call him back, after 4:00pm on Thursday. This is how my conversation with Alexa went. I said: Alexa, add phone David, to my calendar for Thursday next week at 5 p.m.
She said: I’ll schedule phone David on Thursday February 27th at 5 p.m. okay? I said: Yes, then she said Okay I’ve added that.
I noticed that it was getting dark outside, so I said: Alexa, turn on bedroom lights and both my bedroom light and the one in by my TV turned on. To do this you have to have smart bulbs, and a smart hub. A Zigbee hub is built into my Alexa Show 2nd generation.
My suppertime PSW arrived. I use little containers to remind me to take medications at a specific time. But, I could just say, Alexa, remind me to take my medicine at 8am every day. You can set as many reminders as necessary to cover multiple medications and/or different times of day. You could even tell her the name of the medication, or how it helps you. (e.g. Alexa, remind me to take my Metformin every day at 6:30pm)
My favourite team plays a game tomorrow night, so I said: Alexa, remind me at 7:45 tomorrow night. She said: Okay, what do you want me to remind you of? So I answered with: Hockey game.
I watched TV until bedtime.
A Few More Things To Know About Echo…
One of the things I like most about having Alexa around is that she never gets tired of answering my questions. Anyone who struggles with their memory can ask, Alexa, what day is it? Or Alexa, what time is it? She will always be happy to give the answers, no matter how many times she’s asked! 🙂
Another entertainment option that the Echo provides is jokes and riddles! Just say, Alexa, tell me a joke! You can use your echo to get information on just about anything. You can say, Alexa, what’s playing on TV tonight? or Alexa, who was the 7th Prime Minister of Canada?
You can even Use the Echo to make a shopping list or a daily to-do list. Just say: Alexa, put milk on my shopping list, or Alexa, put, do the dishes on my to-do list. Whenever you’re ready to hear the whole list, just ask Alexa to read it out for you.
You can use your Echo to easily send alerts to friends and family when you need help. There’s an Alexa Skill that allows you to designate contacts to alert if you find yourself in need of help. It can be used to alert someone via text or call when they need help. It’s not a substitute for calling 911, but it will definitely give you more peace of mind! And unlike Connect Care, it doesn’t need a land-line.
This just scratches the surface of what Alexa can do for elderly and/or special needs people. The Echo is constantly being updated with new features, and Alexa is always learning new skills.
To ask Alexa a question or to give a command, you need to start by saying Alexa… (or Amazon, Echo, and Computer will also work.) It can be tricky for some people to remember, so it’s really helpful to put a note on or near your Echo as a reminder. Even a note as simple as Say Alexa! can help avoid confusion and frustration!
In order to play music using your Echo, you’ll need to connect it to an Amazon account that has an Amazon Prime Music subscription (You can also connect Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM, or most other music/radio subscription services through the Amazon Alexa app).