A Victoria-based retirement community is doing a pilot project with the Amazon product Alexa to see if it helps keep seniors engaged. (iStock photo)

B.C. seniors’ home uses voice-activated Alexa in pilot project

The virtual assistant is being used in Victoria to help keep residents engaged

Staff at a Victoria retirement home have been testing the voice-activated assistant Alexa to help keep seniors engaged.

Residents at Berwick Retirement Communities have been testing out the virtual assistant, with reminders to take their medication and what time is dinner.

With a prompt of “Good morning,” Alexa can be programmed to turn the lights on, say the date and time, and give a weather forecast.

“The most important thing for a senior is a purpose to get up and do the day,” said Amir Hemani, chief operations officer of the company, which has locations across B.C.

“We onboard the residents to get into a suite, give them an orientation and demonstrate and lead them with it.”

Most seniors are generally not fluent in technology and don’t own a laptop or iPad, said Hemani, who is part of the Aging 2.0 Vancouver Chapter which helps keep his finger on the pulse for the latest technology and best practices of innovations for seniors.

Some may be visually impaired, have cognitive issues, can’t read, or have reduced mobility. Alexa is completely verbal and programmed for voice-activated requests.

Staff have done three months of testing for one of their visually impaired residents in Victoria, and has put Alexa in common areas of the facility.

If all goes well, Hemani said Alexa would become a standard feature in every suite when people move in. It could be ready as soon as next spring to be used in the newest retirement community being built in Qualicum Beach.

Sylvia Ceacero, CEO of B.C. Seniors Living Association, agrees that the social piece – keeping seniors connected is important.

“For all of us, socializing and networking has a direct influence on our health and well-being,” she said.

While technology offers many benefits, Hemani added, there’s nothing that can replace receiving a hug from a loved one.

“Physical touch is hard to replace from a technology alternative,” he said. “It makes us want to stretch a little further to see how we can help. When things are reduced for our seniors, we need to find out how to bridge the gap.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

Highly poisonous mushroom found fruiting near Filberg Park

The Salvation Army Christmas Kettle Campaign will launch on Nov. 13 this year. Black Press file photo
Salvation Army Kettle Campaign ringing this year with an electronic twist

The new tiptap machine used by the Salvation Army will be set at $5 denominations

Jimmy Carter, left, is pictured with country music legend Willie Nelson — one of many musicians featured in a documentary about the former U.S. president. The film, Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President, is the latest feature in World Community’s film series. Photo supplied
Comox Valley non-profit presents ‘Jimmy Carter: Rock and Roll President’

World Community’s film series continues Nov. 6-8 with a new uplifting film,… Continue reading

The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
Despite challenges, 2020 good year for Vancouver Island marmot population

In 2019, the foundation counted 60 pups; this year, it reached 46

Several local schools took part in Student Vote for the B.C. election. Black Press file photo
Students in Student Vote support NDP in Comox-Courtenay

Unlike actual vote, students in Mid Island-Pacific Rim back Greens

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

MMFN First Nation has said that it will restrict access to portion of Highway 28 that passes through the Nation’s land until a road use agreement is reached. (Black Press file photo)
Vancouver Island First Nation blocks highway access to logging trucks in Gold River

Mowachaht/Muchalaht First Nation restricting access for Western Forest Products pending road deal

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

From left: Rick Weaver, Anita Eldershaw-Pitman and Area A director Daniel Arbour at the Friendly Port Child Care Centre. Photo supplied
District funds enable expansion at Union Bay child care facility

A grant from the Comox Valley Regional District will help create eight… Continue reading

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
Cowichan Search and Rescue save dog from icy Cowichan River

Search and Rescue’s swiftwater team was called in

Most Read