Traditionally, families have cared for their senior loved ones by employing staff to look after their needs, by helping them move into care communities or retirement homes, or by caring for them directly. New technology, however, has enabled many families to participate more directly in administering care to their elderly loved ones and has enabled many seniors to live independently for longer.
Online Senior-Care Marketplaces
The disruption that Uber and Airbnb have brought to their respective industries is well documented. Now, we are seeing online marketplaces do the same in the senior-care sector. Two of the better known marketplaces, are profiled below:
Honor: Honor was founded in August 2014. The company’s motto is, “We’re building Honor for our own parents, and we’re building it for you too.” Honor helps families find caregivers online after an initial in-person assessment with a care specialist to identify the client’s care needs and formulate a care plan. After the assessment, families and individuals can schedule appointments and communicate with caregivers to make sure their loved ones needs are being met.
HomeHero: With a model similar to Honor’s, HomeHero lets families find, hire and manage in-home caregivers for seniors. Families and individuals look for caregivers online and can watch videos of them before they hire them. Families can access their account through HomeHero’s app and use it to communicate with caregivers. HomeHero also provides a home security camera that allows families to check in on their senior loved ones and make sure they are doing fine. The company has been partnering with hospitals since March 2016 to help families and seniors find caregivers.
Freelance Services Marketplace
Just like the marketplaces that help bring seniors and caregivers together, there are startups that connect Silvers with freelancers who offer services such as housekeeping, errand running and cooking.
TaskRabbit: TaskRabbit is an online marketplace that helps match providers of labor or services—such as furniture assembly, errand running or cleaning—with those in need of such services. Although the company targets consumers in all age groups, seniors who need occasional help with tasks can enlist the services of those registered on the site.
Chefs for Seniors: This marketplace helps connect seniors with professional chefs who prepare meals in the customer’s home.
Sa3ed: This is a marketplace to help users find people able to provide assistance with services such as senior and special needs homecare, tutoring, babysitting, gardening, carpooling and other errands, in the Middle East. Though this is startup caters to all age groups, it is primarily positioned to cater to “domestic services,” so seniors can find people for those tasks that they need help with.
Smart Devices and Apps
With the number of Internet-connected devices flooding the market, there are several that are disrupting the senior care industry. Smart devices help family caregivers provide remote care to seniors and, in some cases, can be an alternative to using the services of home care professionals.
Alarm.com: Alarm.com’s system relies on household sensors and a wearable device worn by the user to allow caregivers to track the user’s activities, sleeping habits, and medication intake. Sensors that detect activity are placed around the areas of a home that the user frequents; the information the sensors collect is then communicated to the app where caregivers can check on the users safety.
Sen.se: This company has developed a system called Mother that works through a set of sensors that can be placed in various parts of a house or on objects or devices the client uses regularly, such as a pill box or a refrigerator. The sensors placed in the house track the senior’s movement, and a sensor can be carried to track physical activity. A sensor can even be placed on a water bottle or coffee mug to measure intake. The sensors can also monitor temperature in a room, and measure sleep and other activities.
Robots: Paro is a therapeutic robot designed to reduce its elderly senior companions’ stress and stimulate interaction between caregivers and those in their care. The robot can be programmed to respond to certain sounds and gestures. Revolve Robotics has developed a telepresence robot called Kubi. Caregivers and loved ones can use an iPad to see how elderly parents and relatives are doing and to communicate with them through video calls.
Alternative Ways of Caring
New technologies are not the only way in which senior care is being transformed. In various countries, new ways of caring and new ways of living are also being tested to manage the growing costs and challenges of senior care.
Koreikyo, a senior co-op, was starting in 2004 and is run for and by seniors; those aged 55-75 care for less able seniors. The system helps solve two issues: providing employment for seniors who are still able to work and finding caregivers who have a good understanding of older seniors’ needs.
Another newer care concept is co-housing communities, residential communities that are created and run by the residents themselves. The model has worked successfully for seniors in Denmark, Germany, Sweden and the US.
In the Netherlands, student housing can be expensive, so some nursing homes and care facilities provide rent-free lodging to students in exchange for a stipulated number of volunteer hours per week. In addition to adding youthful energy to the facilities, students can teach seniors how to navigate technology and other tasks, thus reducing the dependence on paid caregivers.
The move toward in-home care has prompted the development of new technology products and services that enable seniors to live independently for longer, and families to participate more directly in administering care to their elderly loved ones.