Seniorly was recently featured on the front page of The Mercury News technology section, with a highlight on our new short-term tool for families in need of respite care, transitional care post-hospital stay, or an assisted living vacation for an aging loved one.
The following article was originally written by Marisa Kendall and featured on The Mercury News website.
On-demand services online are no longer just for Snapchatting, GIF-loving Millennials. Now, it’s grandma’s turn.
With a new wave of digital services that connect seniors to housing, caregivers, instant rides and tech support, the Baby Boomer generation is getting a crack at Silicon Valley conveniences that started out catering mostly to the young.
“This is the new frontier,” said Scott Smith, founder of San Francisco-based investment bank Viant Capital. “The VC community has finally woken up to the fact that, next to Millennials, this is the largest market in the world and it’s grossly underserved.”
As seniors are living longer, retiring later and staying more active, they’ve become an increasingly attractive market. Americans 50 and older spent $7.6 trillion last year, according to a report by the AARP and Oxford Economics. Worldwide, the number of people in that age group is expected to double from 1.6 billion last year to 3.2 billion by 2050 — by which time Millennials will be seniors themselves.
A new group of startups is capitalizing on that growing market with technology and web-based services geared toward helping seniors maintain their quality of life.
There’s Seniorly, a 2-year-old San Francisco-based startup that provides a free online platform to make navigating the confusing world of assisted living facilities as easy as booking an Airbnb. San Bruno-based CareLinx and San Francisco-based Honor, among others, let users summon caregivers on-demand via online platforms or mobile apps, paying the caregivers a set rate for hours or months of care. And both Lyft and Uber have launched programs to shuttle seniors to doctor’s appointments and other errands even if they don’t have smartphones — a service also provided by independent startups like GoGoGrandparent.
Arthur Bretschneider, whose family has been running assisted living centers since the 1950s, founded Seniorly to take some of the frustration and guesswork out of the already emotionally difficult process of moving oneself or a loved one into a care facility.
The online platform lets users search for facilities based on factors including location, cost, size, languages spoken and medical needs. Once a user selects the right home, he or she can book and pay through the platform. Seniorly takes a percentage of the booking fee. For quality control, the Seniorly team visits facilities in person when it can, consults companies’ inspection records and aggregates user reviews from around the web.
When Bretschneider first started Seniorly, more than half of the assisted living facilities he and his teammates met with didn’t have a website and many didn’t accept payment online.
“So huge problem there, right?” Bretschneider said. “People would find communities through word of mouth — which is if you’re lucky, you know someone who has gone through it. Or maybe it’s just on a busy street and you’ve driven by it.”
Nancie Lualhati, of San Francisco, recently used Seniorly to move her 76-year-old mother, who has dementia, out of Lualhati’s home and into a care facility in Sonoma. Before she found Seniorly, Lualhati was struggling to find the right fit.
“I thought that you could find anything on the web,” she said. “And it’s tough to find information that is actually meaningful.”
But building online services for seniors can be tricky, as they tend to be less tech savvy than younger consumers and less likely to adopt new technologies.
The Seniorly team discovered the challenges first-hand when it invited a handful of spirited seniors to try out the online platform and share what they liked, and what they didn’t.
“My main trouble was I couldn’t navigate,” said 80-year-old Carol D’Onofrio of Piedmont. “I got 25 possible matches in San Francisco, but I could only see about four of them.”
So Seniorly tweaked the platform’s navigation, hoping to make it more intuitive.
It’s a problem others in the industry have faced as well.
“You want to make it as easy to read and as user friendly as possible,” said Colin Barceloux, CEO and founder of Techmate, an online platform that offers tech support for seniors. “That means you want big font, very clear lettering, and you want a very simple navigation.”
Quality phone support also is key, he said. Many seniors want to talk to someone, unlike younger generations who are conditioned to doing everything online.
Last month, Seniorly launched a new feature that allows users to find and book short-term stays at assisted living facilities nearby. The idea is to help seniors find a place to go if they need a few weeks to recover from a medial procedure. These temporary stays also give live-in caregivers a break, which can be crucial, said Elizabeth Edgerly, chief program officer for the San Jose-based Alzheimer’s Association.
“There’s evidence that caregivers’ health can be tremendously impacted by their caregiving responsibilities,” she said. “So it’s critically important that they take care of themselves.”
Seniorly, Palo Alto-based Home Care Assistance and other companies also have partnered with Lyft, serving as a go-between for seniors who don’t have smartphones to summon an on-demand ride. Seniors call Seniorly or one of the other companies, where an employee uses Lyft Concierge, Lyft’s third-party request system, to book a ride for the customer. Uber offers similar programs in southern California.
“Every year, around 3.6 million Americans miss or delay medical care because they lack appropriate transportation to their appointments. Lyft wants to fix that,” wrote Gyre Renwick, Lyft’s head of enterprise healthcare partnerships, in an email.
Investors also have set their sights on the senior market. GoGoGrandparent, a startup that lets seniors who are still toting flip-phones call a hotline to order an Uber or a Lyft, received backing from prestigious Mountain View-based accelerator Y Combinator. Honor, which lets seniors summon on-demand in-home caregivers, is backed by storied Sand Hill Road VC firm Andreessen Horowitz.
“This is a major sea change,” said Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of market innovation for the AARP. “The space is making its way into the mainstream.”
What: Online platform that lets users search for, research and book assisted living facilities for seniors. The platform can be used for long-term care or short-term stays.
Where: Based in San Francisco, users can access 1,000 senior housing facilities, mostly in Northern California.
New feature: In September the company launched a short-term tool that lets seniors book temporary stays at assisted living facilities
What: Connects seniors online with in-home caregivers. Users can book care by the hour, and can schedule visits and keep in touch with caregivers via mobile app.
Where: Based in San Francisco, serves the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
What: Online platform and phone service that lets seniors book in-home appointments with IT experts.
Where: Based in San Francisco, serving the Bay Area and Sacramento