K4Connect, a Raleigh, NC-based technology company, and Amazon are partnering to distribute more than 8,000 Echo Dots to more than 40 West Coast independent and assisted living communities affected by COVID-19. 

The devices, which allow residents to use voice technology to stay connected during isolation, were donated by Amazon as part of a $5 million device donations program created in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Echo Dots will integrate with K4Community, K4Connect’s enterprise solution that provides “smart” products and features for residents and staff of senior living communities. The devices will provide access to all of the benefits of Amazon Alexa, as well as content preloaded to the K4 online dashboard, including a community’s activity calendar, menus and community announcements. Residents also can use the device to call their families or the front desk of their community.

Senior living companies participating in the program include Eskaton, MBK Senior Living and Front Porch in California, as well as Era Living, Horizon House and Bayview in Washington. 

MBK Senior Living President Jeff Fischer said 23 of the company’s 33 communities initially will have the devices installed, although he expects all communities to eventually receive devices. Last year, MBK partnered with K4Connect to lead its technology transformation through the K4Community solution for 3,400 residents and staff. 

“We found it a fantastic way to utilize technology to better serve residents and provide them with technology to enhance their lives and, ultimately, turn individual units into smart homes with features to turn on the lights or adjust the temperature,” Fischer said of the 2019 partnership with K4Connect. “The very first thing that attracted me to it was the ability to do a morning check-in to make sure our residents were up and safe.”

Fischer said all residences have a pendant or a pull cord for emergencies, but the Echo Dots provide an enhancement to safety protocols.

“In addition to increasing their independence, I see it as a very important feature that augments the safety of our residents,” Fischer said, adding that the voice technology allows residents to simply say “call the care staff” if they are not near the pull cord or do not have their pendant within reach.