It’s estimated that the number of senior citizens will double over the next 30 years, while the number of skilled nursing facilities will see a sizable decrease.
Entrepreneurs who spot an opportunity in caregiving are keenly aware that the U.S. elderly population is a growing market. These entrepreneurs are launching different senior care startups to meet the impending demand for nursing home alternatives.
Meeting the Demands of a Rapidly Aging U.S. Population
In the next 30 years, the number of senior citizens living in the U.S. will likely double as more than 60 million baby boomers enter their golden years. Before millennials outnumbered them, baby boomers were the largest generation in American history. Their considerable population begs the question: Are there enough nursing homes? Will baby boomers overwhelm nursing home facilities ill-equipped to handle their capacity? While one might assume that nursing homes will benefit, at least financially-speaking, from aging baby boomers’ impending demand for skilled nursing facilities, this isn’t the case at all. In reality, it’s just the opposite.
Decline in Nursing Home Care = Opportunity for Senior Care Startups
Although it’s not readily apparent to the public, the number of skilled nursing facilities in the U.S. has slowly declined over the last ten years. What’s more, available data indicate that fewer older adults are choosing to live in nursing homes. If these downward trends continue, baby boomers may find they need to look elsewhere if and when they need the kind of care which nursing homes provide.
In the midst of our country’s shifting demographics and declining nursing home utilization, senior care startups have popped up to support the increasing demand for senior caregiving and support services. Some companies, such as Hometeam, function as online marketplaces that match older adults with home health aides based on online profiles (it’s like Tinder, but for in-home elder care). Other ventures, such as Honor, bring an on-demand model to caregiving. Below, we profile five senior care startups that are changing the face of long-term care. By leveraging technology, these companies are creating new ways for older adults to live life fully at every age.
Hometeam brings caregiving into the digital age.
Mission-oriented and passionate about helping older adults, Hometeam was founded in 2013 with the goal of modernizing in-home care. Powered by technology and an ethos of compassion, this senior care startup seeks to improve the caregiving experience–for home health aides and seniors alike. The company’s digital platform pairs aides with seniors according to their shared interests and also provides an iPad for each home, outfitted with an app that caregivers use to track care. The technology enables caregivers to share medical updates with family members and to communicate via texts and photos.
Notably, Hometeam rejects the gig economy in favor of employing caregivers full-time (not to mention providing them with benefits). That Hometeam invests in its own employees reflects the company values and culture: Hometeam cares about people, and they care for people, including their own. A passion for people abides.
Honor helps older adults live and heal from the comfort of their own home.
Sandy Jen, Cameron Ring, Monica Lo, and Seth Sternberg co-founded Honor in 2015 to reinvent elder care. The company’s mobile platform serves to pair home health aides with clients and also provides monitoring so that family members can track the care a loved one is receiving. “At its core, Honor is an agency which provides home aides,” an article in the San Francisco Chronicle explains. But by employing “high-tech overlays and a systematic approach, Honor offers better care with more transparency and flexibility.”
Honor wants to help older adults who want to live at home for as long as they choose. Honor’s vision is ambitious, too, extending beyond the bounds of individual caregiving. The company recently announced its plans to partner with assisted living facilities and senior housing providers, a strategic move that could help the company enter new markets.
CareMessage uses mobile technology to make healthcare more accessible to underserved populations.
CareMessage launched its cloud-based messaging platform in 2013 to improve the way healthcare providers communicate with patients once they are discharged from the clinic or hospital. While the company serves patients of all ages, not just seniors, its digital platform is meant for low-income patients managing behavioral and chronic health conditions; seniors who fall into this category are an especially vulnerable group. In this way, CareMessage makes healthcare more accessible for a group that is often overlooked: seniors living in underserved, resource-poor communities.
Cake’s mobile app helps users communicate their end-of-life wishes to loved ones, physicians and lawyers.
It’s hard to talk about death. Our culture discourages it (and, certainly, there are topics of conversation which are more pleasant and light-hearted). Talking about death with an older parent or loved one is especially difficult. For many of us, it’s hard to know where (or exactly how) to start.
That’s where Cake comes in. Cake recognizes that end-of-life conversations aren’t easy and often don’t happen. Billing itself as “the easiest way to discover, share, and store your end-of-life preferences,” Cake leverages Tinder-like functionality to help people realize and convey their end-of-life preferences. “People are recognizing that it is part of the human experience to contend with mortality and experience loss,” says Cake’s CEO and Co-founder Suelin Chen. “CAKE acts as an ice-breaker for thinking about these issues.”
To help a person understand their own feelings about death, the app presents users with a series of yes-or-no questions that are meant to help them realize how they feel about certain issues and situations. Some questions deal with funeral and burial preferences; others are more focused on estate and financial planning. One question asks: When you’re gone, will you want your Facebook profile deleted? That’s a good question.
Rendever is a virtual reality platform that helps seniors in long-term care facilities experience the outside world.
Co-founded at MIT by Reed Hayes, Dennis Lally, and Tom Neumann, Rendever is a startup that makes it possible for people with restricted mobility to experience the outside world through virtual reality technology. Within the virtual environment, seniors can visit their childhood homes, experience their grandchild’s wedding, travel to a tropical island, and so on. “Our mission is to expand the world with virtual reality for older adults, [with the goal of reducing] isolation and depression and bringing them a higher quality of life,” Rendever co-founder Reed Hayes says.
Rendever also stands as a reminder that marketers of new technologies frequently overlook older demographics. VR technology is most closely associated with the gaming and film industries–it has many other potential applications too. As Hayes says, “seniors are a demographic who can benefit the most from [VR] but are the least capable of using it themselves.” Rendever hopes to change that.
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