Alexa is not quite a magic genie, but she comes close to it. Just ask Larry Wilhelm. A 93-year-old Senior Village member, Larry was given Alexa by his daughter. Alexa can do things that are difficult for Larry because of his diminished eyesight. This device responds to your voice commands and can answer questions on general information. She is housed in a cylindrical container about the size of a flower vase and is designed for you to speak to it. Alexa is made by Amazon and there has been a lot of press about it and similar devices such as Cortana by Microsoft, Google Home and others.
Larry uses Alexa to track the weather in Minnesota where his son lives, check on the scores of the Minnesota Vikings and call his daughter in Phoenix without ever picking up his cell phone. Often, he will ask Alexa to play something from his favorite band “Six Fat Dutchmen.” When asked why he chooses this music, Larry states that the polka music “brings back wonderful memories and that just makes me happy.”
Ruthe Burgener has her Alexa turning on the lights and asks it for information on the stock market. Given to her as a Christmas gift, Ruthe had a Senior Village volunteer help set it up and program it. Ruthe likes to listen to NPR on Alexa so she can stop and ask questions about the individual they are interviewing. If they are interviewing a musician, she may ask Alexa to play one of their songs in case she wants to add it to her list of music on Alexa.
Lois Violanti, co-chair of the Senior Village “Fun with Friends” volunteer team, actually installed Alexa herself. Lois has Alexa turn on her lights, run her thermostat, open and close her garage door, change the channels on her TV, check on her Amazon credit balance and report the weather. As Lois says, the potential is limitless.
These Village members said that often Alexa is a companion, especially if you can’t get out or live alone. Alexa’s friendly voice helps people feel less isolated or lonely and she will even play games with you or tell jokes or remind you when to take your medications. Senior Village members are able to use these devices for a daily welfare check-in or to request a service without having to dial their phones. In addition, the Village will provide members with an Alexa device at no cost.
Larry, Ruthe and Lois have made Alexa a welcome part of their lives. We hope you and Alexa can become friends, too. Just call 520-314-1042 for more information. Remember: Village volunteers also provide many other services like transportation, fix-it house projects and social activities. Annual membership is $48 for a single and $60 for a household which entitles you to 72 services a year. Make life easier; become a member of Senior Village.