How the Amazon Echo could help you to continue to live independently throughout retirement

Written by Emily Ryan

Until recently, Personal Virtual Assistants (PVAs) were the preserve of those with a high level of disposable income who love to own the latest gadgets and gizmos. What couldn’t have been predicted though, was the positive impact these PVA’s could have on people with mobility or accessibility issues around the home.

One recent development in this line of gadgets has been the Amazon’s own version of the personal assistant, the ‘Echo’ and it’s personable PVA ‘Alexa’. Both affordable, accessible the possibilities are endless when it comes to independent living.

The device has gained support among elderly adults as well as their families and caregivers with more than 30,000 customer reviews on Amazon praising the Alexa for its ability to assist. The reviews discuss how Alexa has given them a sense of independence and freedom that was once thought to be impossible.

We’ve spoken to the independent living experts over at Ability Superstore about just how some of their customers have made use of the Amazon Echo device, and how it has allowed some of their customers to live more independently as a result.

How the Alexa can help combat loneliness

As well as being practical, Alexa can help to alleviate the pain of loneliness in older adults. In the elderly community, loneliness can be the difference between good health and poor health. Alexa attempts to provide as much assistance and companionship as possible through its voice activation controls, as well as being able to connect with other internet users through communication software such as Skype.

The Amazon echo is a fantastic piece of technology that sits neatly on your table without causing too much clutter or without clashing with any decor. One specific feature of the echo is that it can connect to your devices such as your radio and your tv. From here, you can talk to your echo and command it to control these devices. Imagine being able to just ‘call out’ to Alexa to instantly find out information about your local neighbourhood, rather than having to use a fiddly timetable?

The additional features of Alexa

Additional features include being able to gather information, read the news, listen to music, check for sport scores, add an alarm or even check the weather. It’s a fantastic assistant that is available to you whenever you need it. Not only that, but with its voice command, there’s no need for handheld controls. To ‘wake up’ your device, simply call out the name “Alexa”. Once activated, the virtual assistant will ‘wake up’ and listen to your commands.

This is particularly handy for those who have trouble navigating around the house or if you tend to lose remotes fairly often! Your Alexa is in the room with you as far as your voice can travel. Once set up the Alexa couldn’t be easier to use making it ideal for even the biggest technophobes.

Help aids such as Alexa are a brilliant way to ease you into retirement. The possibilities are endless with Alexa – you can with send emails and text messages, update your Facebook and communicate with the grandchildren through Skype – you can even do your weekly shop through its voice activation!

Alexa isn’t just an aid for the disabled or the elderly it’s a tool that many people both old and young can use in their day to day lives. So don’t see it as an object of defeat – see it as an object which can help liberate your life and improve your everyday independence.

Do It While You Can

No one knows how long they will remain physically or mentally able to enjoy what life has to offer. The reality of aging is things get harder rather than easier as the years pass. Activities we took for granted just a few decades ago may suddenly become too difficult to undertake. No one wants to spend their second act looking in the rear view mirror at what was. We want to look forward to what will be.

Glenn Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Think of all those plans you hope to embrace once you leave work behind to focus 100 percent on retirement. Free time is a blessing. Freedom to do what you want when you want is what retired life is all about. Once you arrive the trick is to not let the moments pass you by without making an impact, without grabbing for all you can.

My folks have been retired about 20 years. They have pretty much given up on long distance travel. Hassles of airports and security lines, rental cars and navigating unfamiliar surroundings is to the point they just don’t want to do it anymore. But before that they were traveling machines. They wandered Europe in a VW bug while my dad was stationed in Germany. They made regular car trips across the US in search of historic sites and memorable monuments. Mom and dad truly traveled, loved it, have collected many great memories, and are now content with staying closer to home. The point is they did it while they could.

A month ago my dad had a stroke. He is 85 and had been struggling a bit over the past year with his balance and a slight slur when he talks. The stroke was severe impacting his speech and leaving him paralyzed on his left side. After three weeks of intensive rehabilitation he is improving and we are moving him home. But once home, mom will require 24/7 help to assist with day to day living for how long yet to be determined. Dad is improving – we can understand what he says and he is getting stronger. But how far will he recover? No one knows.

You don’t always have to wait for retirement. I know it’s hard to set aside time when living an incredibly busy life but how rewarding it can be to explore your passions before you retire. Younger with more stamina and no sore knees you can truly enjoy the moments to their maximum. Your eyesight is as good as it will ever be. You may feel a bit tired at days end but you have the will to press on – mind over matter is still possible. Although you cannot do all those things you hope before your second act delaying everything is a risk. You never know where you will be or in what shape in 10 or more years.

Most of my family is big believers in walking, hiking and generally getting out into nature. My wife and I deliberately chose a retirement area with an abundance of state and national parks packed with enough winding trails and hidden vistas to keep us busy for years. My favorite aunt at age 75 traipses around the world on tours and trips that inevitable involve navigating many miles on foot each day. And don’t get me started about my Swiss family. They can walk me into the ground while easily hiking seemingly vertical paths leading to hidden lakes and secluded restaurants only accessible on foot (or helicopter). We are generally in the same age group and love hitting the trail. And we realize we may not be so fortunate to be as mobile as my aunt when we reach her age so we do it now while we still can.

Having reached retirement age or thereabouts most of us realize we are not in control of as much as we would like to be. So much is beyond our sway if we hope to make good on our second act we must remain opportunistic. Don’t let possible good times pass us by. Stop thinking about it and instead do it. Get going while the going is good. I know I cannot change the past. And I don’t know exactly what the future has in store. But I am here today, now, in this moment. It is up to me to make the most of this moment while I am still ready and willing and able.