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How Voice Assistants Will Become More Significant for Seniors

The healthcare applications that could prompt growth

An interview with:
Heidi Culbertson

The heartwarming commercials that show aging parents connecting with their children and grandchildren via voice-activated devices might be fictional, but they depict a real, rising trend: Seniors really do use voice assistants.

We forecast that by the end of 2018, 7.0 million people over the age of 65 in the US will use voice assistants at least once a month, a 29.9% increase over 2017—which is noteworthy growth, considering these consumers didn't grow up with the technology.

As baby boomers age and the 65-plus population expands, the need for healthcare services will increase rapidly. Heidi Culbertson, CEO of Marvee—a tech company that builds Alexa skills for aging adults—is among a group of healthcare providers and entrepreneurs betting that voice assistants can fill this need.

Culbertson spoke with eMarketer’s Caroline Cakebread about why voice assistants work in the senior community and the potential for voice in the healthcare industry, despite current regulatory restrictions.


Why are voice assistants a good fit for the aging population?

Heidi Culbertson:

Voice is the easiest interface for older people. Unless there are speech issues, everyone can talk. And we are in an aging country—in the US there are 49.2 million people over the age of 65.

They are seen as white-haired with walkers, but they spend money on travel, learning and connecting with family. Some are starting to need care but are still with it. And they're becoming isolated as their circumstances and social circles change. There is a ton of opportunity.

Interview conducted on October 18, 2018