Kalamazoo senior home residents get updates from Alexa

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A senior living community in Kalamazoo is one of the first in West Michigan to roll out Alexa-enabled devices to help residents.

Friendship Village in the Westwood neighborhood has 120 of its more than 200 residents using Echo Dot devices and will soon have one for every person who lives there.

Ken Greschak, the director of fund development and life enrichment at Friendship Village, says the main purpose is to bring the community together.

“We’re able to connect our residents with our programming, our announcements, our calendar of events, our menu,” Greschak said. “Our residents can sign up for different events and through our connection with Caremerge and Amazon they actually get reminders.”

Caremerge provides technology that allows for this level of integration.

Fay Woolrich, a resident for more than eight years, said the devices are also helpful for residents who have a difficult time seeing.

“I can read my email but I use a five-times light magnifier glass so the voice activated is very helpful for me,” Woolrich said.

The village is installing technology that allows residents to turn lights on and off and adjust the temperature in the room. The devices can also call the front desk for help in an emergency.

Kay Haas already had her own Echo but appreciates the capabilities and information now available through the communitywide system.

“You can ask what the events are of the day,” Haas said. “I always ask, ‘Is the mail in?’ because if it isn’t, it saves me a trip down to the office to pick up my mail.”

The village first started installing the devices in July 2019 and hopes to have everything in place by the end of July 2020.

“You might think that 90-year-olds and 80-year-olds are resistant and really what we’re finding is they’re really trying to push us to roll this out even quicker,” Greschak said.

The Echoes at Friendship Village also have the capabilities provided to all other users, like delivering the news and weather or playing music.