We all know how discerning, doubtful, and lovingly thick-headed our parents can be, especially when it comes time to adapting new technologies. I’m sure many of us can still hear the arguments about switching to a flatscreen TV buzzing around in our brains (“but the Trinitron still works great!”), which can make the idea of trying to convince mom or dad to start using Alexa a bit of a daunting task.
But the fact is that a digital smart assistant, whether it be Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, can do a number of things, but chief amongst the myriad of capabilities, these digital companions are designed to add convenience, organization, and a number of peace-of-mind automations to the lives of all who use them.
If you’ve been fighting the Alexa fight with your matriarch or patriarch, or are considering doing so, here are several key points you can use in your politely well-worded back-and-forth with your elders.
Not every household has the funds to lock down professional home monitoring from the likes of ADT or competitive security companies. That being said, a smart assistant can go a long way toward adding peace-of-mind security to any domicile — thanks to services like Alexa Guard and Nest Aware — which are either free and/or much cheaper than the average monthly security cost.
In terms of Alexa Guard, Amazon’s DIY security platform offers two different tiers of services: regular Alexa Guard (free) and Alexa Guard Plus ($5 per month). Once activated, the far-field mics on Amazon Echo devices will monitor your home for the sounds of glass breaking, alarms, and other intrusive sounds, which will automatically ping you with a mobile alert in the event of an emergency. And with Alexa Guard Plus, you’ll even get access to Amazon’s 24/7 emergency services, as well as deterrent sounds (such as a dog barking or a siren) if Alexa picks up on any intruders.
On the Google side of the coin, Nest Aware offers two service options, although both are locked behind paywalls. The basic Nest Aware plan is $6 per month and gives you the ability to store Nest camera and doorbell video clips in a Nest cloud for up to 30 days, and will use Nest devices (like the Nest Mini and Nest Hub displays) to monitor for intrusion sounds and alarm chimes.
For $12 per month, Nest Aware Plus increases your cloud storage period to 60 days, and adds the ability to store up to 10 days of 24/7 recording.
Check out our roundup of the best home security systems.
If your father is always complaining about the temperature of the thermostat, or how often lights are left on in the house, then it sounds like you may be able to sell the cost-conscious patriarch on the energy monitoring features of assistants like Alexa and Google Assistant.
With Alexa, there’s actually an Energy Dashboard built directly into the Alexa app. Once you’re in this menu, you’ll be able to track the energy usage of compatible smart lights, plugs, thermostats, water heaters, and other smart peripherals. From the dashboard, you’ll be able to tell what devices are drawing the most power from your home’s electrical, which will then allow you to create customizable Alexa Routines to combat the items that pull the most juice.
For instance, let’s say your dad is always going on about how the downstairs lights are left on when everyone goes to bed. Well, with an Alexa Routine set up, all you and your parents will have to do is say “Alexa, goodnight,” and the assistant will automatically shut off all the downstairs lights, ensure the front door is locked, and even adjust the thermostat to a certain temperature.
Keeping up with the many appointments, soccer games, and significant family occasions of one household can be quite the chore, especially when all these events are spread across multiple print calendars, sticky notes, and Rolodexes. For complete organization under one roof, a smart assistant is a great way for your parents to keep tabs on all the comings and goings of the entire family.
For starters, Alexa and Google Assistant will allow you to sync your go-to digital calendars to each of the respective platforms. You’ll be able to add, delete, and alter upcoming events with simple commands like “Alexa or Google, add/delete/or change the date of this event,” and if you’re using a smart display like the Echo Show 15, you’ll be able to see the entire family’s schedules, reminders, and calendar events at a glance.
And who doesn’t like a quickly accessible alarm or stopwatch? Instead of having to rely on the microwave for a programmed countdown, it’s so much easier to tell your Echo or Nest speaker to set a timer for 10 minutes or to set an alarm for a certain time. You can even customize alarms to repeat every day, and can add personalized messages to follow the chime (something like “Start getting ready for bed”).
How many pints are in a gallon? What’s that oh-so-official ingredient for jambalaya? Is there an alternative way to cook a kitchen? Whatever your kitchen questions may be, there’s a good chance that a web-connected smart assistant will have an answer, or better yet, a downloadable skill or two that can assist whoever the go-to chef in your home may be.
On the skills end, there’s the handy Allrecipes skill for Alexa. Once added to the smart assistant, your parents will be able to search for delicious recipes by simply telling Alexa the name of a dish, or by mentioning a specific entree item (chicken, turkey, etc.). The skill is also linked up with your zip code, which will allow you to hunt down local deals and discounts at nearby restaurants and grocery stores.
And if you’re using something like an Echo Show or Nest Hub, you’ll even be able to get step-by-step recipe directions on the smart display.
Here’s our roundup of the best smart kitchen devices.
Let’s face it: There’s nothing worse than coming home with an armful of groceries, only to have to dip into a pocketbook of this and that to grab your keys. Guess what? If this sounds like your ever-frustrated mother or father, you can tell them that voice assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit can be programmed to carry out some handy automations the moment they detect someone is arriving home.
It’s through a platform function called geofencing that is incredibly easy to set up and manage. In fact, Alexa has the capability built right into the Routines dashboard. Working in an if-this-then-that fashion, you can program Alexa to do things like automatically lock or unlock a compatible smart lock when your mother’s phone leaves or enters the household.
These same automation principles can even be applied to things like smart lighting and window blinds. Let’s say that your parents are always complaining about never having enough time to catch the news headlines in the morning. Well, with a Google Home Routine, one simple voice command (such as “Hey Google, good morning”) can trigger your parents’ bedroom smart blinds to open, the smart lights downstairs to turn on, and their bedside Nest Mini speaker to start reading the top news bulletins from NPR.
For our older parents, leading a life of dignity is of the most utmost importance. But for living situations where mobility or certain cognitive functions may be hindered, a smart assistant can go a long way towards adding peace of mind both for your parents, and you as their caregivers.
Alexa and Google Assistant have a number of capabilities (that we’ve covered) that can assist your elders, from Routines to daily reminders and synced calendars. But these assistants can also be linked up to smart hardware like motion sensors, which can send you an alert in the event that mom or dad is out of bed when they should be fast asleep.
Or let’s say you want to instantly check in on your parents with a quick video call. Alexa’s Drop In capability will allow you to do so instantly, just as long as both you and your parents own a compatible smart display and Drop In permissions are enabled on both ends.
And here’s the best part: Alexa has an entire paid platform called Alexa Together ($20 per month) for keeping our loved ones safe, with features including 24/7 emergency services, an activity feed, fall detection responses, and much more.
These are the best Alexa skills for older people.
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