What I liked
**This review comes from a Community Occupational Therapist
I trialled this product with a lady I was working with in rural Aberdeenshire, who lived in sheltered housing. She was registered blind and all the traditional ways to support her to remember things around her home were not possible. She loved her talking books but was finding it difficult to use the CD player and her friend, who was elderly herself and didn't live close by, was becoming more like her PA which, was affecting their relationship. This lady had to call her friend several times a day to check what she had on that day and was still missing social groups and appointments which were important to her.
We discussed an Amazon Echo at one of my home visits and she was very interested - the sheltered housing manager though tried to talk her out of it saying that she wouldn't be able to learn to use it, it was too intrusive and complicated for an older person, it would always be listening to her and she had read it would laugh randomly, but the lady was fully aware of all these things and still thought it would really help take the pressure off her friend and give her back some control of her daily activities.
Over a couple of weeks, with support from her friend and myself, the lady learnt to use the word 'Alexa' to waken the device and grasped how to ask it for things quickly. Her friend found she called less and always wanted to show her the new things she had discovered it could do, whenever she visited which made for a laugh! The lady was speaking about this new device to other residents and they would pop in to learn how it worked and she would teach them how helpful it could be!
She loved how clear the voice was and that she could ask it questions 1000 times a day if she wanted to. She liked that she could make phone calls for free, play the radio, her talking books and have lots of reminders and timers for appointments and cooking.
What I disliked
You need someone to help you set it up through the Alexa app, if you do not have a smart phone but once it is ready you do not need to use anything other than your voice to work it.
It also needs WiFi internet to connect to and has to be plugged in all the time, but this was far easier than other things she had had to do over the years when dealing with specialised equipment for her sight loss, which she had had since a teenager.
What is interesting
Please don't make presumptions about someone's ability to learn new things if they have a diagnosis of dementia or are elderly. With the right support and a confident, informed conversation, technology can be wonderful solution for people to keep doing the things they have always done, and learn new skills too!
What I thought about it overall
This product changed her life and it didn't take much extra effort from me to support her as I was involved anyway for a period of time and all I had to do was think more creatively about how I could ensure this lady stayed at home, as independently as possible and had a good quality of life.