Siri and Alexa: Friendly Memory Aids at the Command of a Voice

Introduction
Having the ability to set little reminders or alarms for ourselves to remember to take a pill or schedule an appointment is beneficial, especially in the fast paced world today. “Hey Siri,” is a phrase that is very popular among Apple users; this phrase is the activation of this service. The inanimate service provided on Apple devices has been named Siri. Siri is available on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, and Apple TV. By simply speaking into the device, Siri can be commanded to set alarms, book appointments, check the weather, call a loved one, or just about anything necessary. Alexa, is a service similar to Siri; Alexa operates on devices or speakers by Amazon. Alexa is a service that is designed to ease the use of technology and helps with time efficiency. This service can also set alarms, change the music, read the news, etc. Like Siri, Alexa is also voice activated. This voice activation could interest some technology impaired, older adults because they would not have to worry about different search engines or screens on the device.

Discussion

Little ability and capacity for older adults to use technology is also an observed stereotype. Poor memory in older adulthood is seen as a common issue and stereotype. Trouble with hearing and perceived forgetfulness has been found as common factors in poor memory. The usage of new technologies, such as Siri or Alexa, can help with older adults’ memory and quality of life. Older adults using Siri or Alexa would stimulate their working memory; having a time or date to add to the calendar in mind and having to recall it to relay it to the device exercises this memory (Charness, Best, & Souders, 2013). Studies have shown that this working memory declines in older adulthood, it is observed that this decline interferes with how older adults interact with complex technology. Devices such as smartphones require a great deal of storing and retrieving because of their complex menu setups (Charness et al., 2013).

Devices such as Siri or Alexa could be helpful for older adults because they operate via voice command instead of having to navigate a search engine or complex screen. They may also be beneficial for older populations because of the correlation of poor memory and poor hearing. The audio on an Amazon device has the ability to be turned up to high volumes so the older adult has the ability to hear information. On Apple devices, there are also screens that a user can view if hearing abilities are impaired. However, an older adult’s ability to hear may lead to an ineffective utilization of these devices. In one study, a population of 66 to 81 year olds was divided into two groups. One group had better hearing than others and another group had individuals with hearing loss. Each group was read a list of 16 words and then asked to repeat back the last three words. Results revealed that the group with hearing loss was less likely to be able to recite back the three words, proving that they had issues remembering. This issue was not due to the fact that they had trouble hearing the words but that they had to increase their effort to hear the last three words, which then resulted in the process of memory encoding (McCoy, 2005).

The use of these devices would benefit older adults because of the ability to set reminders and alarms to notify forgetful individuals. The ability to help older adults become less forgetful and remember events, dates, etc., can improve their quality of life. The devices ability to increase this memory would also increase the adults’ confidence in their abilities. There have been findings in a study conducted by Mol that can link the effects of older individual’s view of their own poor memory to a lower quality of life (2007). It was observed that over 50% of older adults had poor memory objections. There were five separate studies conducted that lead to this conclusion. The studies measured individual’s quality of life with questionnaires, a satisfaction with life scale, and the Philadelphia Geriatric Centre Morale Scale. Multiple of these studies concluded that participants that were less satisfied with life also had a poor memory. Mol (2007) yielded that there has been a strong correlation between the quality of life in older adults and their poor memory or forgetfulness.

A study that worked directly with Apple technology proved that older adults’ memory and quality of life improved after their experience. The study was conducted with 54 adults, ages 60 to 90, who participated for 15 hours a week for three months. The participants that were doing their new learning experience on an iPad, versus interacting in a social group, displayed great improvements in their episodic memory. Episodic memory reflects back on times, events, emotions, etc. The research concluded that older adults who learn a new technology benefit with increased independence and quality of life (Chan, 2014). An older adults ability to adapt to a new form of technology may take longer than younger adults, but is still cognitively beneficial.

Conclusion

Services like Siri and Alexa can be valuable for older adults and their memories; they may also be unhelpful for some adults depending on how inadequate their memory is. For simple tasks of reminding or alarming an older adult, the service and devices are helpful. Concerns with remembering specific steps in how to operate the device maybe grow tricky for older adults with poor memory. The stimulation of working and episodic memories is a large advantage of these services for older adults. These services are so widely known by younger populations, employing a helpful informative program of these devices and services for older adults would not be too problematic. If older adults do not have access to this new technology, there may be some obstacles commissioning memory aid among them.

References

Chan, M. Y. (2014). Using iPads could help older adults’ thinking abilities. The Gerontologist.

Charness, N., Best, R., & Souders, D. (2012). Memory function and supportive technology. Gereontechnology, 11(1).

McCoy, S. L. (2005). Hearing loss and perceptual effort: Downstream effects on older adults’ memory for speech. The Quarterly journal of experimental psychology. A, Human experimental psychology, 58(1), 22.

Mol, M. (2007). The effect of perceived forgetfulness on quality of life in older adults; a qualitative review. International journal of geriatric psychiatry, 22(5), 393.

 

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