2. Convenience and comfort
Once older adults settle into their favorite recliner, they usually like to stay put. (You would too if you had arthritis, a fused back, or a couple of metal knees.) And if they live alone, there’s no one to help out with minor tweaks—like adjusting the thermostat—once they’ve gotten comfy.
At least, that’s the way it used to be. Now, smart gadgets make it possible for your aging parent to do all kinds of tasks from anywhere in the home, allowing them to simplify their life without feeling helpless.
Here’s how it all works.
Voice control through a smart home hub
One approach is to teach your loved one how to give verbal commands to a smart home hub like an Amazon Echo or Google Nest Hub. As long as they say the right voice cues, they can control any number of connected smart devices throughout their home.
The tricky part is teaching them exactly what to say to get the smart hub to cooperate. (I’m a whippersnapper and sometimes struggle myself.) Here are a few examples:
- “Alexa, turn off the porch light.”
- “Hey Google, make it warmer.”
- “Alexa, turn on the Roku.”
- “Hey Google, close the blinds.”
- “Alexa, ask Smart Feed to feed the cat a snack.”
Of course, you’ll also need smart devices—like smart lightbulbs, a smart thermostat, a smart TV, smart blinds, and a smart pet feeder—for these commands to work.
Pros and cons of smart home voice commands for seniors
With voice control, there’s no need for your loved one to keep track of their phone to perform these commands. But it’s a good idea to place more than one smart speaker throughout their home so they can easily use it whenever the need arises.
Voice commands work best for people who have relatively loud voices and who can hear the hub’s feedback. For example, they’ll need to try again if Alexa says, “I’m sorry, I couldn’t do that.” App control may work better for people with hearing impairments.
Which smart hub is best for seniors?
Unless you’re a die-hard Google fan or already have some Google Nest products, we recommend choosing an Amazon Echo as your smart hub.
On the one hand, it’s a numbers game: more than 100,000 products are compatible with Amazon Echo or have the Alexa voice assistant built-in, whereas Google works with half as many products.1,2 So if you find a cool new smart gadget, chances are it’ll work with an Amazon Echo.
In particular, we recommend an Amazon Echo Show 10 for aging parents and caregivers. Jump down to find out why.
For more details, check out our head-to-head comparison of Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home.
Device control through smartphone apps
If your parent doesn’t warm up to the idea of bossing around a virtual assistant, they can control smart home devices through smartphone apps.
But there are some downsides to this method of smart home control:
- They’ll have to keep their smartphone handy at all times.
- They have to keep their phone charged and their reading glasses handy.
- The sheer number of apps that they might have to use can get confusing.
Fortunately, the app issue is easy to solve by connecting everything to a smart hub like Alexa. Instead of opening dozens of apps to try to find the one that’ll turn on the porch light, for example, they can find it in the Alexa app.
Everything else is a matter of preference. If possible, get a smart hub and teach your loved one how to use its app and its voice control features. The app can be used when silence is necessary (such as when the grandbaby finally fell asleep), whereas the voice options can be used when their hands are full.
Automatic smart home routines
You can also program smart devices to perform actions at a specific time of day or in response to a certain command.
For example, in the morning you might have the porch light turn off, the hallway and bathroom lights turn on, the TV or radio play a news station, the cat feeder serve breakfast, and the sprinkler system turn on. Your loved one won’t have to lift a finger.
At night, the lights could dim, soft music could play, and the doors could automatically lock. The possibilities are endless and completely customizable.
Routines may improve health
Smart home routines are more than just futuristic fun. Sticking to a schedule helps people of all ages lower their stress levels and get better sleep.3,4
Learn more in our buyers guides: