Vista del Monte resident Len Hoffman likes to shop online. But instead of using his keyboard and mouse to navigate to merchant websites on his laptop, he asks Alexa for help. "Alexa, go to Costco dot com," he says, and when Alexa instantly takes him to that destination, he politely replies ... "Thank you Alexa!"
"It's just so convenient," Len said. "I have a lot of fun with it." Resident Marilou Shiells' favorite feature is used when she is ready for bed. Instead of turning the bedroom light off first and walking to her bed in the dark possibly risking a fall, she asks Alexa to turn off the lights after she is in her bed. "It's a safety thing for me," Marilou said. "It's hard getting around in the dark. She's my helper. She's like a person. I say thank you when she responds and I even apologize when I ask her the wrong question."
Smart and voice first devices like Alexa, other Amazon devices as well as products manufactured by Phillips, Honeywell and Google, help make Vista residents' lives more convenient, fun and safe. From speakers to thermostats, video-enhanced door bells and home lighting, voice first and similar technologies are finding their niche in the homes of older adults — retirement communities included. At Vista del Monte, more than 50 accommodations currently feature such devices with more to come, according to Executive Director Doug Tucker.
Residents can be more independent than ever thanks to home automation and smart devices. While this technology may feel daunting at first, the end result can help improve quality of life through increased connectivity and a sense of community, not to mention making environments safer.
"At Vista, residents use these smart devices for entertainment, convenience and safety," Doug said. "Residents can access exercise programs or play Trivial Pursuit and other games with Alexa. They can program devices to remind them to take their medications and they can turn lights on and off or set their thermostat with voice commands. Controlling lighting by voice reduces the risk of falls and increases safety."
When Vista's accommodations are being refurbished for new residents they are equipped with at least one Amazon smart device. Current residents can also request their accommodations be outfitted as so-called "smart homes" free of charge. "These types of conveniences are more like necessities these days," Doug said. "Vista is simply meeting the needs and requests of residents."
The technology used in Vista's smart homes is supported by the Front Porch Center for Innovation and Wellbeing, a team that works with innovative partners to find solutions, solve problems and enhance the lives of residents living at Front Porch communities.
Devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa are an easy way to work technology into a resident's home no matter if it's an independent living, assisted living or memory care setting. Among the planned technology upgrades for accommodations in the future are streaming media players, voice first climate control, color ambiance light strips and face-to-face communication with staff.
About Vista del Monte
Vista del Monte is a multi-level retirement community that offers independent living, assisted living and memory care. Ranked among the top Santa Barbara senior communities, it is senior living at its best.