Understanding the potential of digital home assistant devices for older adults through their initial perceptions and attitudes

Travis Kadylak, Kenneth A. Blocker, Christopher E. Kovac, Wendy A. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Voice-activated digital home assistant (DHA) devices, such as Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo products, can help support a broad range of daily activities within home environments. DHAs may address many of the needs of the growing aging population required for independent living. However, there is a lack of research that investigates the initial perceptions and use of these devices for older adults with disabilities (e.g., mobility or hearing impairments), who might particularly benefit from the adoption of DHAs. Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that influence initial attitudes and perceptions of DHAs, specifically for older adults who had no prior experience with these technologies. Method: We introduced 18 older adults with and without disabilities to two different Amazon Echo form-factors to evaluate their initial usage of DHA devices, followed by a series of semi-structured interviews. Results: Older adults with and without disabilities developed positive initial attitudes and perceptions towards both voice-activated DHA form-factors. In addition, we identified factors that may influence the perceived usefulness and ease of use of voice-activated DHAs. Participants discussed how the devices would be useful for promoting independence, productivity, and enjoyable activities such as playing music. Pertaining to ease of use, participants expressed that both devices had a high degree of learnability, but some participants expressed concerns about the lack of system feedback provided by the Echo speaker which did not have a screen interface. Conclusion: This diverse sample of older adults with no prior experience using DHAs had positive initial attitudes and perceptions towards the devices, and demonstrated the capability of successfully using the technology upon following a brief demonstration. We discuss implications for the design of DHA devices that meet older adults’ needs and capabilities along with directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • Older adults
  • Technology acceptance
  • Voice-activated digital home assistants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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