As older adults develop physical and mental frailties, they sometimes have difficulty using products they want to be able to continue to use: such as the TV.
For example, physical impairments, like arthritis or tremor, may make it hard to press buttons. And cognitive impairments may make it hard for them to remember the way to navigate to a particular channel or streaming “show”.
I found I needed different solutions, depending on exactly what problem the older adult in question had.
Below, I describe three solutions — starting with a simple voice command to set the TV to a specific program; and escalating to special pre-programmed buttons that can be positioned near the TV and which, when pressed, automatically start the desired program.
All these solutions use something called Google Routines to keep things simple.
Solution A: Voice Commands & Google Routines
Lets assume your mother needs a way to watch her TV series — other than by using her remote. Perhaps because using the remote is confusing, or perhaps because she has some dexterity problems.
You could set up her “Google Assistant” so it plays a specific show (eg “Heartland”) when she says a complex Google Assistant command such as “Hey Google, play Heartland on Netflix on Living Room TV”.
But what if she has trouble remembering all the elements of this command? I know I do!
Google Home Routines provides a way to invoke the above command by a simple command such as “Hey Google, play Heartland”.
See instructions for setting up the Google Routine in the “Solution A” section below.
Also, you can remotely modify her Google Home Routines, in case her program tastes change. There is no need to physically access the tablet or Flic buttons (of the more complex solutions) later to make changes.
Here is a YouTube video showing it in action
Chromecast is either built into the TV or as a plug-in dongle
An Android tablet to run the software
Solution C additions
Requires a Google Nest hub or Google Nest mini
Flic buttons (no need for the Flic hub) (see on Flic website)
Solution B: Just Tap Large Buttons on a Tablet to Start a Specific Show
If your Mom still has a problem saying the commands after you create one of the simplifed voice commands above, you could add Google Action Blocks to an Android tablet.
This solution lets you provide large on-screen icons that she could tap to play her favorite shows.
Install these apps from the Google Play Store
Google Action Blocks
You might want to set “restricted mode” to filter context
In Google Home, create a routine
Tap Routine- manage Routines
Create a similar routine, using the name of your Chromecast device
You could now say “OK Google, Heartland” and it would start playing
In Google Action Blocks
Create a similar Action Block
You can now tap on the screen to lunch that video
Solution C: Actual Physical Buttons that Start a Specific Show
If your Mom has dexterity issues and can’t hold a tablet, you could add the Flic app with physical buttons to speak the Google Assistant commands for her.
In this solution, the older adult presses a button (that might be marked “Heartland”).
The button communicates wirelessly with a nearby tablet or smartphone, which “speaks” a command for her, after which the Google Routine activates the specific show (Heartland).
This will require a tablet or a smartphone that is charging so that the Flic app can “speak” the commands to Google Assistant when the Flic buttons are pushed.
Note: If your phone or tablet doesn’t support “hands-free” Google Assistant mode, i.e., you need to push the home button to get its attention, you will need to add an “always listening” device such as a Nest Hub or Nest mini to hear the spoken command from Flic.
You will need to perform the steps in Solution B first. Then:
Setup the Google Nest device
Install the Flic app and add buttons
Create a similar action
You should now be able to push a button and get that video to play.
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Retired Intel Engineer wanting to share DIY technology tips for the children of parents wanting to remain living independently. I like posting ideas and answering technical questions. If a product or software has an issue making it hard for seniors to use, I try to offer workarounds and also try to contact the manufacturer for solutions. I write a column for this website in the Innovation- Homebrew Solutions & Ideas section