Voice Activated Personal Assistant for Depression Among Older Adults

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Northwestern University


Not yet enrolling


Depression, Anxiety


Behavioral: Alexa with Guidebook
Behavioral: VIPA Treatment Program

Study type


Funder types



STU#: 00211894

Details and patient eligibility


Participants will use Amazon Alexa to test a new voice-assisted program for mental health management. The older adult and their support person will use this program to help with goal setting, reminders, and various other services. Participants will be asked to complete surveys and assessments about their experiences during the 16-week study period. Participants will be randomized into two groups: those who receive a guide to help them with utilization of the program to its fullest potential and those who do not receive that guide.

Full description

Older adults have often been on the fringe of benefiting from technology. However, voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants (VIPAs; e.g. Google Home, Amazon Echo), with their natural interaction style and ease of use, are a simple interface technology that may be useful to older adults with depression and their caregivers in the home setting. Caregivers would be able to schedule and follow the interactions between the older adult and the VIPA. The VIPAs would potentially be able to provide functional, cognitive, and social stimulation as well as improve anti-depressant medication adherence through reminders to older adults. The aim is to evaluate a VIPA that was designed to provide the caregiver with the skills and tools to deliver stimulation and medication reminders to homebound older adults with depression. The program model is based on a simplified behavioral activation program designed for administration by lay persons. Through user centered design (UCD), we have adapted the model for remote delivery by a caregiver with the aid of VIPAs that provide psychoeducation, as well as features that support social, cognitive, and functional stimulation and reminders. The ability to deliver a caregiver-coordinated depression management program remotely, through an easy-to-use voice activated end-user interface, has the potential to deliver cost-effective care, easily implementable, to millions of homebound older adults, who currently are unable to access effective treatment. The study duration will be 16 weeks. During those 16 weeks, participants will be able to use Amazon Echo Show 8 and the study's VIPA program to set goals, reminders, and the like to help with their mood. Participants will also be asked to completed associated assessments. Caregivers will be able to interact with a dashboard to see how their older adult participant is faring and also be asked to complete assessments.


160 estimated patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Older adults: Inclusion criteria: Adults 65 years or older; English-speaking; elevated depressive symptoms (PHQ-9 ≥ 10), cognitively intact (Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA) score ≥24); homebound defined by having physical impairment, difficulty leaving the home, or requiring the assistance of another person to leave their home; have access to Wi-Fi; and demonstrating capacity to consent.

Caregivers: Inclusion criteria: Adults 18 years or older; English-speaking; provide ≥2 hours of weekly support (e.g. emotional, social, physical, task-related) to the older adult; have access to Wi-Fi; and demonstrating capacity to consent.

Trial design

160 participants in 2 patient groups

Digital Mental Health Intervention (DMHI)
Experimental group
Participants randomized to Arm 1 will be sent an Amazon Alexa device, with a newly designed VIPA treatment program installed, and will receive a guidebook to help the older adult and their caregiver understand the device and utilize the VIPA treatment program to its fullest potential.
Behavioral: VIPA Treatment Program
Control Treatment (CT)
Active Comparator group
Participants randomized to Arm 2 will be sent an Amazon Alexa device with guidebook to help the older adult and their caregiver understand how to use the device.
Behavioral: Alexa with Guidebook

Trial contacts and locations



Central trial contact

Allison Carroll, PhD; Olga Barnas

Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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