The Impact of Voice Technology on our Elderly Population
This weekend I listened to an episode of one of my favorite voice tech podcasts, “Alexa in Canada.” Teri Fisher, the host of this podcast (as well as another called Voice First Health), is an MD by day, and one of the most active members in the Voice community by night. He probably would have won the Alexa award for “commentator of the year” if he had not been going up against Bret Kinsela of Voicebot, who, let’s be honest, is damn near impossible to beat for that award.
The episode I listened was an interview with “tech futurist” Ian Utile. Ian has lived in Silicon Valley his whole life and has been working in and around the tech industry for 20+ years. During their conversation, Ian explains why he believes voice technology will be profoundly impactful for our aging population (something I completely agree with and have written a lot about).
Here’s a transcription of what Ian had to say:
“There’s 10,000 people on average that turn 65 every day. Both of my parents are over 65. It wasn’t that long ago that my grandmother was living at my parents house and she got Alzheimer’s and dementia and then she eventually passed away. The last few years of her life were very difficult for my grandmother but also my mother.”
“… This is the future I imagine for the elderly that are set up with this type of voice system. They’ll have an Alexa in their room. They will wake up, there will be some type of sensor that will know that they’ve just arose. The lights will turn on, in just the way that is best for their physiology. The TV screen will come up and a photograph of their son of daughter, niece or nephew, or family member will appear on the screen.”
“Alexa very gently says, maybe in Grandpa’s voice who has passed away, ‘Hey Gail, it’s Bob. This is a picture of our daughter and our son and their kids. Cindy’s going to come in the room in the next couple of minutes. She’s going to bring you your strawberries and your water, it’s what you like to have to eat. You are in Vancouver, Canada right now. This is where you’ve lived your whole life. I’m no longer with you, but you still have your family, hun. You love to listen to Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra, what are you in the mood for right now? And she says, ok… I’ll take Tony Bennett. And the next thing she knows, Tony is singing to her and now all of sudden we’ve created true companionship.”
This is a very exciting scenario and one that I believe is entirely plausible to orchestrate with the assistance of our smart assistants that are controlled through our voices (there’s actually already an Alexa skill, My Life Story, designed to do this to a certain degree). As Ian points out, 10,000 people per day are turning 65 and it’s estimated that by 2029, 18% of America will be above the age of 65 years old. We’re living longer too…so the question becomes, “how do we help care for our aging population?” I believe that a lot of that support can and will be offloaded to our smart assistants.
It will be up to the elderly person’s loved ones to help implement and facilitate this type of system, but so much of the care taking that is currently being shouldered by loved ones, can be done in an increasingly sophisticated fashion by our smart assistants. As the voice economy continues to grow and more companies pop up to fill certain niches, you can imagine that a number of companies (i.e. Lifepod) will arise to help to make this implementation and facilitation as easy as possible. The beauty of this is that it not only relieves some of the burden being carried by the loved ones, but it also empowers the elderly by letting them control their physical surroundings (IoT) and access the internet’s utility and information through simple voice commands. Voice has a very big role to play as our aging population grows and continues to live longer.
-Thanks for Reading-