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Frank is an active older adult who regularly takes his mobile medical alert device along with him when he goes out as a precaution. But when he’s at home, he feels encumbered wearing a lanyard or bracelet and doesn’t wear it.

Helen is an older adult who rarely goes out on her own. Still, Helen is resistant to wearing a medical alert device because it makes her feel old. She also struggles with using new technology.

Mary, who lives at home, is in the early stages of dementia. She often misplaces her medical alert device or forgets to charge it.

Frank, Helen, and Mary are all great candidates for voice-activated medical alert systems. Voice-activated systems come in a few different forms. For some systems, voice activation is the central feature of the system. Others embed voice activation within a base unit that provides other functions. And for still others, voice activation is included as an accessory to the base unit.

If you’re in the market for a new medical alert device, a voice-activated system might be an excellent option for you. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at voice-activated systems, who they’re best for, and popular providers that offer them.

What Is a Voice-Activated Medical Alert System?

Let’s begin by discussing what voice activation is not. Many medical alert systems enable users to speak directly to a response center agent or caregiver through a base unit or mobile cellular device. This feature is typically referred to as two-way communication. However, two-way talk is not voice activation.

Voice activation works with the sound of your voice. When you say a predetermined word or phrase, such as “Emergency help needed,” out loud, the alert system activates in response to the command and completes a specific task. In this case, a call goes directly to the system’s emergency response center. This is different from other types of medical alert systems, where users need to press a button to call for help.

Quick Tip: If you’re new to medical alert systems, check out our guide to medical alert systems to learn more about the different types, features, and providers.

Most systems with voice activation are limited to the single function of alerting the response center of an emergency. A few systems have more advanced features you can activate with your voice, such as contacting family members or even retrieving health information from a database.

WellBe Smart Speaker

Testing out the WellBe Smart Speaker

Do I Need a Voice-Activated Medical Alert System?

Voice activation isn’t necessary for everyone, but it is beneficial for the following groups of older adults.

Resistance to wearables

Some older adults prefer not to wear a medical alert device. They may feel stigmatized, find wearables uncomfortable, or just not want the bother. With voice activation, the system stays in the background unless emergency help is needed.

Difficulties with technology

Voice-activated systems are simple to use. You don’t need to remember which button to press or whether the battery needs charging or replacing. (Voice-activated systems are generally plugged in with a backup battery available in case of a power outage.) If you’re not a big fan of high-tech products with confusing bells and whistles, voice-activated systems keep things straightforward.

Physical or cognitive impairment

Finally, voice-activated systems are beneficial to the 6.2 million Americans living with and approximately 6.1 million older adults with vision With a voice-activated system, you don’t wear a help button or have to keep the unit charged, and you don’t need to look for your system in an emergency. They also are handy for those with mobility issues who may have difficulty getting up to press a button or retrieve a device during an emergency.

Medical Alert System - Medical Guardian's Home Guardian system

Medical Alert System – Medical Guardian’s Home Guardian system

Tips for Choosing a Voice-Activated Medical Alert System

If you think a voice-activated system is the right fit for you, your next step is choosing one brand. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The life of the system’s backup battery: We recommend a minimum of 30 hours to ensure that you’ll be covered even if the system is unplugged or a power outage occurs.
  • The monitoring center’s average response time: The industry average is around 40 seconds. This response time is vital to ensuring you get the help you need when you need it.
  • The coverage range of voice activation: The coverage range you need depends on the size and layout of your house. You’ll want to ensure the range is extensive enough that the system detects your voice in key areas of your home.
  • System value: If the system is on the pricey side, does it provide other useful functions for you besides connecting with the response center? Are you uncomfortable with wearables, making voice activation the only type of system that you will use? Do you need this type of system because of health conditions?

After doing your research and answering these questions, you’ll be on your way to picking the system that works best for you.

To learn more about popular medical alert systems, visit our list of the top medical alert systems for older adults.

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Reviewed By

Linda Schlenker

Senior Safety Expert

Linda’s Acclaimed Career in Senior Care Linda Schlenker is a comforting voice for seniors and caregivers across the U.S. For nearly three decades, Linda has helped seniors remain safe in their own homes, while helping them to regain priceless independence and peace… Learn More About Linda Schlenker

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt