Researchers create Amazon Alexa skill to help older adults stay active

EngAGE is a new pilot project helping adults 65 and older stay active with a little assistance from Amazon’s voice-controlled speaker Alexa.

The project is part of a 14-week research effort that’s underway at the University of Chicago Medicine to see whether Amazon Alexa’s technology can coach older adults through daily exercises designed to increase their mobility, balance and stay active while at home. This is something especially vital for those who’ve recently been hospitalized and to help avoid disability and falls.

“I can order physical therapy to jump-start rehabilitation, but, unfortunately, most people don’t continue the exercises on their own,” said Megan Huisingh-Scheetz, MD, a geriatrician and co-director of the Successful Aging and Frailty Evaluation (SAFE) clinic at UChicago Medicine. “I can’t tell you the number of times I have heard ‘now that physical therapy is over, how can we keep them exercising?’”

Huisingh-Scheetz partnered with Louise Hawkley, PhD, senior research scientist and expert on loneliness and social isolation at National Opinion Research Center (NORC), to build EngAGE. The UChicago Medicine – NORC team thought that would make a natural fit for older patients who might be more likely to engage with the device than a smartphone app or a computer-based platform.



Originally reported in The Forefront, 10/25/2019