Smart Speakers Electrify Residents Lives

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Residents at a Dorset care home are using smart speakers and phones to access their favourite music and keep in touch with loved ones.

Colten Care’s Newstone House in Sturminster Newton bought two, Alexa smart speakers to use in group games and music quizzes. But the devices proved so popular with residents that the home has bought more speakers to cope with demand and several residents have also gone on to buy their own.

Rebekah Goddard, Companionship Team Leader at Newstone House said: “Far from being frightened of technology, our residents have shown a real willingness to embrace it and to use it for their own benefit.

“When we first introduced a smart speaker they were enthralled by its ability to play music instantaneously – as if by ‘magic’. “It was the talk of the lounge and a few people asked me to order them one and they now play them in their rooms for their own enjoyment.” She continued: “The same goes for smart phones.

“More and more residents now come into Newstone House with their own phones, which their families have invariably bought them to stay in touch. “Some residents are part of Whatsapp groups with their friends. “And one lady Skypes her daughter three times a week for a chat.”

As well as the benefits of keeping people in touch, technology is also enabling Newstone House staff to improve their communication with residents who have dementia. “When you are reminiscing over favourite music or films from someone’s past it is invaluable to be able to play that music, or a clip from that film instantly,” Rebekah explained. “In the past we would have been playing songs for people from a stack of CDs and often by the time we would have looked up a song and put it on, the person’s memory of that music might have faded. “Being able to play a piece of music while a person with dementia is recalling it evokes an incredible reaction. It’s simply wonderful.”

Fiona Pritchard, Colten Care’s Music & Arts Partner agreed: “Music plays a huge part in our residents’ lives and technology can enable us as staff to maximise what we can offer them. “I can go into a resident’s room and play them music with any one of my instruments. And if I am with someone else and a resident wants to listen to Brahms, some Doris Day, or even a Bruce Springsteen concert, they can have that available through a smart speaker, right there and then. It’s extremely exciting.”

Adam Smith, Colten Care’s Consultant Admiral Nurse said: “As a care provider we need to constantly strive to provide excellence and utilising the latest technology plays a part in that. “When communicating with people with dementia, including those who cannot communicate verbally, technology can improve both engagement and interaction.”

Newstone House resident Norma Richards is a former ballet dancer with a passion for music who can now summon all her favourite tunes in moments, via her smart speaker. She said: “It’s transformed my life.

“When I sit in my chair and ask her to play the music from Sleeping Beauty, or Swan Lake, the music instantly strikes up and I can retrace the dance steps in my mind. “It’s also enabled me to discover music I probably never would have known about it – I’ve become quite a fan of George Ezra for example!”

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