Bringing Google Home Mini Digital Assistants into Retirement Communities

Kiana Wilson, Getsi Paredes Hernandez, and Samantha Marcott worked with Dr. Rob Winningham at Western Oregon University to pilot a program to put digital assistants in the homes of older adults living in a local retirement community. During this process we came across some useful resources for people interested in doing the same. We also have some suggestions for others who want to incorporate digital assistants into their communities.

We chose to use the Google Home Mini, in order to maximize the usefulness and accuracy of web searches. Google Home Minis are widely available in retail outlets.

Possible Benefits for Older Adults

  • People with visual impairments could benefit from voice activated technology.
  • There could be benefits related to enhanced social engagement. When conversing with friends and family, one can ask Google Home for answers to questions or information about topics being discussed.
  • If text and phone features are set up, it is easy to call or text someone using voice commands. This could also facilitate social engagement.
  • There are possible cognitive stimulation opportunities and benefits. Setting up the Google Home Mini and then using it, could provide opportunities to learn new things and maximize one’s cognitive engagement.
  • The calendar feature can be helpful. One can begin their day with “Hey Google, what is on my calendar today?”
  • Many people enjoy the various options for setting up music and podcasts.
  • The breadth of features available within Google Home is immense and its use can be customized for the individual.

Suggestions Based on Our Experiences

  • It is important to get willing participants who are interested in and able to learn this new technology. One of our older adult participants kept saying “I can do that without a Google Mini”, which is probably true. Humans have survived for a long time with digital assistants but they can have value.
  • Participants will need a smart phone or tablet (e.g., Apple or Android) in order to use a digital assistant. Also, if they want to use the call or text features, they will need a smart phone.
  • Participants will need a Gmail account to set up their Google Home.
  • Participants will need to download the Google Home app.
  • Participants need WFii (Google Home and smart phone/tablet need to be on the same wife network).
  • Participants need to have their Gmail and app store passwords available for the set up process..
  • Participants might want to know that they can say “Hey Google, Can you repeat that?” or “Hey Google, can you repeat that more slowly?”
  • Where should the device be placed in the home? We generally found that participants preferred to place the device in their living room.
  • We recommend showing the participants where the manual microphone switch is located.
  • Consider using the Google Home Checklist that was created for this project.
  • Consider using the Google Home Basic Commands.

How to video set up


Streaming how to


Google home help





Google home mini


Demo videos



Leave a Reply