One such example can be seen by Karim Kaba, a mechanical engineer from Calgary who recognised the weight of the pandemic on the senior members of the Ismaili community and launched a project to address the challenge. Karim said that his “motivation regarding this project started during the pandemic, quickly recognising that people could not visit families, especially seniors who live independently or in a care-home. These seniors often depend on either their family members or caregivers to visit them and to help them with day-to-day activities. Of course, this has not been possible during the pandemic and it has become increasingly difficult to stay in touch with loved ones.”
“One of the things I've been able to witness firsthand has been how seniors were isolated, especially being involved with the Multigenerational Housing - Generations (MGH) elderly care facility.”
In response to this, in December 2020, Karim created “Technology4Seniors,” a non-profit organisation that uses voice-assistant technology to help seniors connect with their families and friends, as well as access entertainment such as TV shows, devotional poetry, and music.
“Many seniors are unable to use a phone, TV, or computer due to conditions such as visual impairment or decreased fine motor skills,” Karim said. “Furthermore, many seniors are not as technologically-inclined, able, or as willing to learn how to use these devices during later stages in life.”
According to the CDC, one in four seniors in the US is lonely. With voice-assistants such as Alexa at the disposal of Karim’s Calgary community, Ismailis and other members of the MGH are able to access a world of entertainment, the voices of loved ones, and hopefully feel less isolated during the pandemic. Karim also mentioned the ease through which remote family members can control Alexa to continuously personalise the songs that are played and what news is shared with seniors. In addition, Alexa can remind senior citizens about taking their medication on time, talk to them like a friend, and provide photos to dementia patients to remind them of special moments in their lives.
“Through a device like Alexa, anyone can easily use this technology, without having to memorise the numerous steps associated with, for example, using a laptop. All it requires is a simple voice command.”