According to AARP, 3 out of 4 adults age 50 or older want to stay in their homes as they age. Yet less than 50% anticipate that they will be able to remain in their current residence. We’ve written before about how smart home technology can help loved ones age in place. Now Amazon is introducing a new feature that help aging friends and family members live out their lives at home.
The Care Hub is a free Alexa feature that gives family members or caregivers the ability to “check in” on someone via a connected device. The Care Hub feature provides a high-level summary of a loved one’s recent interactions with Alexa or other connected smart home devices. Before you start thinking that this is a bit too “Big Brother”, please note that the feed is just a generalized view, lacking specific details to maintain privacy.
In addition to showing general activity around the house, caregivers can set up alerts to receive notifications, access other features like Alexa Calling or Drop in, and enable emergency contact calling when a loved one says “Alexa, call for help.”
To give you an example, Care Hub can show the time of a first interaction with an Alexa device each day. Types of actions will be displayed such as requesting music (not the specific songs) or asking for the weather. If a person has multiple devices, Care Hub will identify which Alexa was activated. An alert can include notification if a loved one hasn’t used their Alexa device for a certain number of hours. As you can see, the goal isn’t for a caregiver to see the full extent of activity – just that there is activity (or not).
Many caregivers and older persons can immediately see the usefulness of this kind of service. Individuals can age in place. Caregivers can have peace of mind. In addition, it can be particularly helpful now that the COVID-19 pandemic is reducing personal interactions.
There are a few limitations. Only one caregiver can access the Care Hub feed and you can only support one person. At this time, the Care Hub service is only available in the United States. Lastly, Alexa calling does not support calls to emergency services numbers like “911”.
There is no cost to use Care Hub and all that is required for set-up is an Echo or Alexa-enabled device and a WiFi connection. Security and privacy are top of mind. This new feature is double-opt in, meaning that both the caregiver and the loved one need to first establish a connection between their Alexa accounts through an invitation process. Again, this isn’t designed to be something sneaky. In addition, the Drop In feature can be disabled if a higher level of privacy is preferred. And family members can delete activity information in the Care Hub feed at any time.
Caregivers are facing considerable challenges during this unprecedented time. Aging loved ones are sympathetic to caregiver restrictions but they also want to age in place. The Alexa Care Hub may be the compromise needed to give everyone in the family a little extra peace of mind.