Updated June 30, 2022 – There are so many wonderful ways that older adults could use Alexa and we write about that here. But one of the most difficult things about using Alexa (at least for seniors) is to remember what to say to her.
I remember once when I was trying to teach my elderly mom-in-law how to use Alexa to listen to her favorite songs. She asked Alexa to play Twenty One Trombones – which she did. But it wasn’t the version my mom-in-law wanted.
So, instead of saying “Alexa, stop,” my mom-in-law just said, “Stop.” And when that didn’t work, she said “Stop it” and when that didn’t work, she yelled, “Shut up!” It was quite funny, like a skit we would see in a comedy show.
Well – despite this flaw of having to remember what to say – I would still recommend Alexa devices for seniors.
A List of What Seniors Can Ask Alexa
Here are 30 ideas on what seniors could ask Alexa to do.
1) The Buddy Skill
Once the Buddy Skill is set up – if you need help – simply say…
“Alexa, ask my buddy to alert (name of a contact)”
“Alexa, ask my buddy to alert everyone.”
And the contacts that you’ve listed on your Buddy Skill will be contacted.
The person or persons that you asked to be alerted will get an alert from Alexa letting them know that you need help.
Note: There is also a paid version of this skill that would allow you to add 5 more contacts to your list.
2) Checking Symptoms
Yes, you can now tell your Alexa device what symptoms you are having and she will give you answers on some possible causes or reasons for these symptoms. She will repeat to you that her answers are informational only and you should seek a doctor’s advice.
But, for general knowledge, it’s a great tool. Here’s how it works:
Simply say “Alexa, check my symptoms.“
She will then answer with, “I can help you understand what your symptoms mean by asking you a series of questions developed by medical experts at Amazon Care.“
Then be prepared to answer a slew of questions (it’s more than I’ve ever been asked on any medical examination!). So, it made me feel that she was being fairly thorough.
3) Find Products On Sale
When you shop on Amazon, you can put an item in your shopping cart, saved for later list or on a wish list to purchase at a later date. Amazon Prime customers can now get notified when any of their items on these lists goes on sale.
To set this up you,,,
- Go to your Alexa app on your smartphone
- Tap on the “More” icon at the bottom right of the screen
- Tap on Settings
- Tap on Notifications
- Tap on Amazon Shopping
- Scroll down to Shopping Recommendations
- Turn on the two options there. Deal Recommendations and Reorder Recommendations.
When an item goes on sale, your Alexa device’s ring will turn yellow letting you know that there’s a new notification for you.
When you see the yellow ring, simply say “Alexa, notifications.” She’ll give you any notifications in your inbox.
4) Video Phone Calls With The Echo Show
With the Echo Show – you can make video phone calls to another Echo Show or to anyone who has the Alexa app on their phone.
To make a call you simply say…
“Alexa, call (name of the person you want to call)”
5) Drop In Skill
The Drop In skill can be used by any Alexa device. It allows you to instantly connect to another person’s Alexa device – acting like an intercom.
After it’s been set up, to activate it simply say…
“Alexa, drop in on (name of your contact)”
I would recommend using this between Echo Show devices to activate the video so you can “see” and monitor a senior loved one.
6) Reminders and Notifications
This skill can be used for everything from reminders on when to take medications to notifications of doctors’ appointments.
You can easily set up each reminder and notification by saying…
“Alexa, remind me to take my heart medicine at 3 pm every day.”
This is an example, but obviously, you can put in whatever content it is that you need to be reminded of.
7) Jokes and Entertainment
Seniors can have some fun by asking Alexa to play a favorite song or tell a joke or even to answer a question.
You can say things like…
“Alexa, tell me a football joke.” or
“Alexa, who starred in the movie Casablanca?” or
“Alexa, what is the stock price for Microsoft.”
NOTE: Alexa devices can do many, many things but the ONE feature that she lacks is her ability to answer almost any question. The reason for this is that Alexa uses the Bing search engine to give you her answers. Google Home is connected to Google and therefore does a much, much better job of answering questions.
8) Audio Books
Many seniors may enjoy listening to books instead of reading them.
Alexa can do that by reading Kindle books (and there’s no cost for her reading them).
To use this you just simply say…
“Alexa, play the Kindle book (and give the title of the book)”
She can read the free books or the books that you purchased from your Kindle account.
How To Use Alexa To Listen To Books
- Amazon owns and operates the Audible program which is a monthly for pay program of audio books.
- Amazon also owns and sells Kindle products and the Kindle Unlimited program. There are free books on the Audible and Kindle program, but for the most part you do have to pay to belong to one or both of these to listen to the books in their libraries. Here’s a link to a good comparison of these two audio book programs.
- Simply say “Alexa, play (name of book)” or “Alexa, play my book.” This last command will re-open the last book you were listening to.
9) Old Time Radio Shows
My 100 year old mom-in-law often talks about the radio shows that she and her family used to listen to when she was younger.
Seniors can use Alexa devices to do that again!
“Alexa, open Vintage radio.”
You can also try asking for a specific radio show like…
“Alexa, play CBS Radio Mystery Theater.”
Note: You will most likely hear ads so don’t be surprised if the episode begins with a commercial. (and no, they are not old time commercials!)
10) Ordering From Amazon
If you’re like me, you order almost everything from Amazon.
So, when I see that I’m running low on something I just ask Alexa to order it again for me.
So, I simply say something like…
“Alexa, order Lemon Pepper.”
She will respond with something like “I see that you’ve ordered Lemon Pepper before, would you like to re-order the same one?”
I can respond “Yes” or “No” – although I usually just say “Yes” and she does the rest.
11) What Am I Holding?
If you are visually impaired, you can use Amazon’s Echo Show to help you identify whether you are holding a can of tomato soup or a can of chicken soup.
Simply hold the item up to the Echo Show screen and say…
“Alexa, what am I holding?”
She will respond, asking you to turn the can, etc. and then give you the name of the item.
Note: This is a fairly new skill and I’ve found it to work about 90% of the time so don’t expect it to work for you at all times. But still, it’s pretty accurate!
12) Locate Your Cell Phone
We all lose our phones – I know that I do all the time!
So, when that happens, I simply say…
“Alexa, call my phone.”
She will then do that and as long as the phone is within earshot – I can then follow the ring and find my phone.
13) Phone Calls and Calling 911
Yes, Alexa can call anyone on your contact list and also 911 if you are in need of help. But in order to use the 911 service you will have to use an Echo Connect device (which unfortunately is no longer available from Amazon).
So, you will have to try to purchase the Echo Connect on EBay or perhaps a used one.
To use this great skill simply say…
“Alexa, call (name of person)” or
“Alexa call 911”
You will then be connected. Pretty cool, right?
14) As A Medical Alert Device
Although Alexa can’t be used as a medical alert device while you’re out walking, it can certainly be used for emergencies while you are at home.
Not only can you use it to call 911 as I mentioned above but you can also use…
- The Emergency Contact feature
- In conjunction with the SOS Family app
- In conjunction with Vayyar and Assistive Technology Service subscriptions.
15) Games (Yes you can play games with Alexa)
Many seniors enjoy trivia type of games – and that’s a good thing because games that challenge you mentally can help to sharpen your mind.
Alexa has a trivia type of game called Common Knowledge.
This is a game that asks questions about practical, every day incidents such as “What do you use to remove crayon from a painted wall?”
The game gives you several choices.
To play Common Knowledge just say…
“Alexa, let’s play Common Knowledge”
You can play a new game every day.
16) Help You Sleep
There are several skills that you can enable that may help you sleep better. They all focus around the concept of sleep sounds (read more about sleep sounds here).
So, you can find skills that are ocean sounds or rain sounds or even forest sounds. If any of those help you sleep, then you can certainly enable those.
- Sleep Sounds: Beautiful Dream – say “Alexa, open Beautiful Dream”
- Sleep Sounds: Coqui Frogs – say “Alexa, open Coqui Frogs”
- Sleep Sounds: Heavy Rain – say “Alexa, open Heavy Rain”
- Sleep Sounds Thunderstorm Sounds – say “Alexa, open Thunderstorm Sounds”
- Healing Sounds for Sleep, Relaxation and Focus – say “Alexa, open Healing Sounds”
But you can also just use the Sleep and Relaxation sounds skill which gives you a variety of sounds to choose from.
To start Sleep and Relaxation Sounds simply say…
“Alexa, open Sleep Sounds“
She will then ask you what sound you would like to play. She gives you a few choices such as Thunderstorm or Ocean. But you can also ask for a list of all the sounds available.
Then you simply say “Play (name of the sound)”
17) Zen Sounds
If you sleep better with zen type of sounds then this app is for you.
To launch it just say…
“Alexa, open Zen Sounds”
You can then choose to Spirit Sounds or Wolf Sounds or Sailing Sounds or simply say “Relax” and you’ll get a variety of peaceful sounds that play for at least one hour.
18) Weather Information
I ask my Alexa devices questions about the weather several times a day and it’s just super convenient for a few reasons.
- When I’m getting dressed in the morning it’s nice to know what the temperature is and what the weather will be so I can dress appropriately.
- When I’m planning to go out to the grocery store it’s good to at least have an idea of when it might rain that day.
- Emergency weather alerts come through on Alexa which is always a great safety feature.
- If you are a boater or into fishing, you can get your local tide report.
- If you have severe allergies – it’s always a good idea to get the daily pollen count and what allergens may be most active each day.
So, what skills can you get for this weather information?
For weather reporting on temperature, when it’s going to rain and severe weather alerts – you don’t need to enable any specific skills.
You simply say…
“Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?”
“Alexa, is it going to rain today?”
“Alexa, tell me when there’s a severe weather alert.”
TideGuide – a great little skills that you use by saying…
“Alexa, ask tide guide for the tides for in (city, state)”
You, of course, use your own city and state to get the information you need.
Allergy Forecast – this skill gives you the allergy report in your location. You simply say…
“Alexa, ask Allergy Forecast to get my allergy forecast.”
19) Get The Latest News
Many older adults grew up listening to the radio and getting their news that way. Using Alexa to listen to the news is a similar activity.
There are multiple “stations” that you can get your news from…
Or, you can listen to a variety of news sources by setting up your Alexa to read you their “flash briefing”.
Once it’s set up you simply say…
“Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?”
20) Listening To Music
You can use Alexa to listen to music from multiple sources.
- iHeart Radio
- Apple Music
- Amazon Music
- and many more
If your music list is on any of these services then you can certainly listen to your own music list.
If you have Amazon Prime, then Amazon’s Prime Music is free (otherwise it’s about $10.00 per month). This is unlimited music from just about any artist and any genre that you can think of.
21) Smart Home Applications
There are many ways that you can attach Alexa to your home devices.
Some appliances and devices come with built in Alexa capabilities and others can be plugged in to an Alexa smart plug.
This can work for…
- Holiday lights
- Light switches
- Garage Doors
- Door locks
- and much more
Once it’s all set up you simply say…
“Alexa, turn on (or off) the light.”
“Alexa, close the garage door.”
“Alexa, turn the heat up in the living room.”
22) Countdown Timers
I use this often especially in the kitchen. The beauty of using Alexa for timers is that you can set multiple timers and name them.
So you can say…
“Alexa, set a baked potato timer for 1 hour.”
“Alexa, set a steamed kale timer for 20 minutes.”
Then when the timer goes off she’ll tell you which timer it is.
This works great if you’re making a large meal with multiple items on the stove and in the oven.
23) As A Speaker
My late husband was beginning to lose his hearing before he passed away and I can tell you that the volume on the television set was just getting louder and louder!
An Alexa device right by his chair would have worked out amazing.
Your television set must support Bluetooth.
It requires a bit of work and multiple steps to set it up but once it’s done, you can set up a speaker right by your usual spot on the sofa or recliner and you’ll be able to hear your TV set without letting all the neighbors on your block know what you’re watching!
24) Interactive Stories
The skill Earplay is an interesting skill.
Basically, you are part of the story. So, intermittently you are asked to make a choice (i.e., take the gun or leave the room)
It’s a fun way to spend a little time.
25) Alexa Guard
You can use Alexa to alert you if it detects the sound of an alarm (like a fire alarm or burglar alarm) or even the sound of breaking glass (if someone tried to break into your home through a glass pane or window).
26) As An Intercom
If you use multiple Alexa devices throughout your home (and yes even out in your patio or porch) – you’ll be able to use them as an intercom.
Initially, when you set up an Alexa device you are asked to give it a name. It can be any name but most people use the name of where it’s located (kitchen, bedroom, garage, etc.)
If your spouse is in the garage and you want to call him, simply say…
“Alexa, drop in on the garage.”
You’ll see a green light come on and you can start talking.
When you’re finished, simply say…
“Alexa, hang up.”
27) Control Fire TV
I use Fire TV to connect to Netflix and Amazon Prime shows and much more.
And when I’m busy in the kitchen cooking I like to simply say something like…
“Alexa, play Glee on Fire TV.”
“Alexa, play the movie Aliens on Fire TV.”
It will either automatically turn on the TV set and play what you asked from wherever it’s located or it will ask you…
Do you want to see it on Netflix or Amazon Prime?
You can get Fire TV by connecting a Fire Stick to your existing television set (if it has an HDMI plug) or you can go ahead and purchase a new television with Fire TV built in! Get more information here.
28) Find Your Phone
I don’t know about you but I lose my phone every now and then and when I have walked around the house multiple times and checked every room – I cry uncle and ask Alexa to help me.
I simply say…
“Alexa, call my phone.”
She will then call your phone and you can find it by following the sound.
29) Alexa Routines
A routine is a way to set up a series of skills that you want done either at on a schedule or when you give a command.
I use a morning routine and this is what happens…
1) I wake up in the morning and I say “Good morning Alexa”
2) She responds with “Good morning Esther…”
3) She then turns on the light on my nightstand
4) Then she gives me today’s weather, then the news and then music by John Denver (I love JD!)
You can set up routines for just about anything you can think of.
Pretty cool, right?
If you keep your calendar on Google, Microsoft, Apple or Microsoft Exchange, you can integrate those with Alexa.
Then, you simply say…
“Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?“
You can also add, change or delete items from your calendar by simply asking Alexa to do so.
You can also invite someone who is in your contact list to an event by saying “Alexa, invite (first and last name) to (name of event) today at 4pm (or whatever date and time).”
She may respond with “What’s the name of the event?” – after you give her your answer she will tell you that she has scheduled the event and will be sending an email to that person.
She will repeat the email address and ask if that’s okay.
Can Alexa Be Used By Seniors With Hearing Loss?
Yes, even though I listed all the ways that you can “ask” or “tell” Alexa to initiate these skills, there are ways that you can do the same thing if you have hearing loss, are deaf or have a speech impediment.
Introducing Alexa Hunches
When you activate Hunches, your Alexa device will alert you that a connected device isn’t doing what you normally ask it to do. or that something you normally do isn’t being done. Read More Here.