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.
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.
Voice activation isn’t necessary for everyone, but it is beneficial for the following groups of older adults.
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.
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.
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.
Classic Guardian costs $29.95 per month and does not include an equipment charge. The newly updated Home 2.0 costs $37.95 per month and includes a $149.95 equipment fee. While the monthly fee is slightly higher than many other at-home landline systems, the nice thing is that you don’t pay any activation fees. The voice-activated wireless wall-mounted button will cost you an additional $2.99 per month.
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HandsFree Health offers a unique pricing system for the WellBe Speaker. First, the equipment fee for the speaker is $189. This part is not unique – other medical alert systems with high-tech equipment charge similar prices for their equipment. However, HandsFree Health does not charge a monthly fee for its use (much like Alexa or Siri), unless you want the benefit of access to the emergency response center. For this benefit (really, a core function of medical alert systems), the monthly cost is a minor $10 per month, lower than any other monthly fee that we have seen.
Aloe Care Health offers sophisticated systems and technology, so their prices are somewhat steep. Monthly fees range from $29.99 to $49.99, while equipment prices begin at $99.99 and run as high as $349.99. To help justify the cost, keep in mind that the two most expensive packages are really two systems (at-home and mobile) in one. For a good comparison between the pricing of Aloe Care Health and other systems, read our overview of medical alert system costs.
GetSafe charges one monthly price, regardless of the package you order. And it is a price that you will like: only $29.95 per month. The trade-off is that you will pay an equipment fee based on the package you select. This one-time cost starts at $79 and runs as high as $279 for equipment costs. Still, these equipment fees are somewhat lower than what we’ve seen with other medical alert systems.
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:
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.
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
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