If you think your parents or grandparents would have no use for an Amazon Echo Dot with Amazon Alexa technology, you might want to reconsider.
When I asked for an Amazon Echo Dot a year ago for Christmas, I thought it was a frivolous request and wasn’t sure how I’d actually use it. Was I ever wrong!
Right away, my dad, who was visiting for the holidays, started asking questions of Alexa. My dad doesn’t use a computer or smartphone. He still uses a flip phone. He depends on my fairly tech savvy mom for looking things up on the internet for him.
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We soon discovered that my dad really would love to have one of these gadgets, so my mom bought him one. He initially had some trouble asking questions in the right way. However, Amazon has continued to fine-tune and improve Alexa so that it’s now much easier to ask the right questions to get Alexa to do what you want.
Here are 10 ways in which senior citizens might find it handy to have an Amazon Echo around the house.
Ask My Buddy for Help
While Amazon Alexa can’t call 911, Alexa offers a skill called Ask My Buddy that’ll let you notify a group of friends and family if you need help. This could be extremely valuable for a senior citizen living solo or who spends many hours alone.
It’s not a substitute for 911, but it’s a way of summoning assistance from someone with your voice when you can’t get to a phone or assistance device. Plus, it’s free to use, unlike wearable devices that can cost $30 or more per month.
Don’t Forget Your Pills
You can say “Alexa, set an alarm for every day at 10:00 a.m.” to reminder yourself to take your medication.
You can also set timers for when dinner will be ready or when you need to call someone – “Alexa, set a timer for 20 minutes.”
Listen to Music You Love
If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you can listen to music going back several decades. You can also subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited, which costs a bit extra and gives you access to just about any song you could think of. This is one of the things my dad likes to do with his Echo Dot.
“Alexa, play Greatest Songs of the 1940s” (which is an album available through Amazon Prime Music).
“Alexa, play some Glen Miller music.”
“Alexa, play some Bing Crosby.”
“Alexa, play some Fats Domino.”
“Alexa, play some Elvis Presley.”
“Alexa, play some Louis Armstrong.”
Here’s another thing my dad likes about Amazon Alexa. You can ask Alexa for all sorts of information, including:
“Alexa, what’s the capital of China?”
“Alexa, what’s the population of Japan?”
“Alexa, how far away is the North Pole?”
“Alexa, when was the last time Mount St. Helens erupted?”
“Alexa, what day of the week is June 22?”
“Alexa, give me a Star Wars fact.”
Just Joking Around
If you could use a good laugh, ask Alexa to tell you a joke. You can also ask for certain types of jokes and “fun facts.”
“Alexa, give me a fun fact for lefties.”
“Alexa, tell me a football joke.”
“Alexa, tell me a fun fact about sleep.”
“Alexa, what’s the quote of the day?”
“Alexa, tell me a Star Wars joke.”
“Alexa, tell me a light bulb joke.”
“Alexa, tell me a knock knock joke.”
Check Your Investments
My dad loves to ask Alexa about how the stock market did in general and the price of the stocks he owns. Here’s what to ask:
“Alexa, stock price for Microsoft.”
“Alexa, stock price for A-M-Z-N.”
“Alexa, how’s the stock market?” (Summary of Dow, S&P 500 and NASDAQ)
“Alexa, check Google stock.”
Listen to Books
Alexa can read Kindle books that support Text-to-Speech technology. This includes books you bought from the Kindle Store, books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited or Prime Reading, or books borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
To begin, say “Alexa, play the Kindle book [title].”
You can also ask Alexa to pause, skip, stop or resume. If you started reading the book on another device, Alexa will pick up where you left off.
To find out which of your books Alexa can read to you, go into the smartphone Alexa app’s menu and select Music, Video and Books. Scroll down to Books and select Kindle. You’ll see a list of the books in your Kindle library which Alexa can read. My dad doesn’t read Kindle books, but certainly many elderly folks do.
Reorder Stuff You Use All the Time
If you order Bounty paper towels from Amazon regularly, say “Alexa, re-order paper towels.” Alexa will tell you the item it found in your order history and its current price, then ask if you want to order it.
To keep others (such as grandkids) from ordering items on Alexa, make sure to set a passcode that you’ll need to speak before Alexa will process any type of order.
Check the Weather
If you ask Alexa what the weather is like, it’ll give you the local weather by default. If you’re not getting your local weather, then you need to go into the Alexa smartphone app and set your ZIP code.
You can also ask for what the weather is like in another city where you plan to travel or where you have family.
You can also say “Alexa, will it rain today?” or “Alexa, will it snow this week?” Or, ask for the weather forecast at a certain time of day – “Alexa, what will the weather be at 7 pm today?”
Keep Up With Your Favorite Sports Teams
Alexa will answer all sorts of sports questions, including the score of games that are currently being played and the results of past games. Ask questions such as:
“Alexa, who won the Cowboys game?”
“Alexa, what’s the score of the Penguins game?”
“Alexa, who won the Stanley Cup?”
“Alexa, who won the Super Bowl?”
Things to Remember
- You’ll need home WiFi in order to set up and use an Amazon Echo Dot.
- To set up the Echo, you’ll also need a smartphone, tablet or computer. My mom set up Dad’s Echo Dot using her smartphone.
- To talk to your Echo unit, you need to get in the habit of always saying the wake word first, which is “Alexa” by default. You can change it (using the smartphone app) to “echo” or even “computer,” if you’re a trekkie.