Stressed out and overwhelmed. If you’re in the aging care space you know how aptly those adjectives describe many caregivers. Not only do they need help looking after Mom and Dad, but also many of them need support deciding what to buy.
Longevity market businesses and agencies are responding with a growing number of programs taking a concierge style approach. By curating products, services and technology, the industry is streamlining choices and facilitating access.
One company that capitalizes on the need for guidance is BlueStar SeniorTech. A veteran-owned and run business, BlueStar acts as a tech concierge and curator, evaluating then recommending senior care technologies like pill management or blood pressure monitoring systems.
CEO Robert O. Wray Jr. says his company doesn’t try to push any one technology. He likens BlueStar to a hotel concierge whose role is not to convince you to see a particular movie but rather “to expose you to all the different possibilities and then… help you to realize those possibilities.”
Most caregivers don’t know about the range of technology out there and it can be overwhelming, says Wray, a retired rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. “If you just Google ‘senior technology,’ there are dozens and dozens of listings.” A caregiver might spend days researching medical alert systems, many of which are almost identical, yet be completely unaware of other products, like stoves that automatically shut off when the resident leaves the kitchen, notes Wray. “It’s an interesting dichotomy of, in some cases, too much information and in other cases, not enough.”
BlueStar is not alone: a few other players are taking a concierge approach. For instance, Parentgiving offers curated lists of what they see as the best mobility scooters, bath safety items and other aging products. TrustyCare, an AI-driven platform, simplifies the “byzantine” process of signing up for Medicare and Medicaid. Its highest tier plan of delivers concierge-level service with care advocates who walk clients through the process, step by step. Then too, there is Wellthy, which provides care coordinators to research care options and put together a game plan, and small-scale concierge providers like Denver-based Elder Concierge Services, whose employees escort clients to medical appointments, act as companions or run errands.
This model is not entirely new to the world of aging services, of course. The National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) represents a network of 622 Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) that have long been in the business of assessing families’ unique needs and referring them to service providers. After talking to a client who is looking for home meal support, for example, AAA staff may also refer them to several other “wraparound” services, says n4a CEO Sandy Markwood.
Traditionally, agencies have relied on grants for funding, but about five years ago some began offering a fee-for-service concierge program in addition to free home- and community-based programs. “It’s definitely a trend,” says Markwood. Only 17 percent of n4a members report funding from paid concierge services, but 70 percent are either implementing or working towards establishing a fee-for-service program.
Before signing a contract with any provider, be they public or private, agencies must feel confident they are sensitive to the needs of vulnerable older adults, says Markwood. Vetting standards for service delivery is key and critical. “That’s why we’re a trusted resource.”
Markwood thinks demand for concierge style services will grow as the population continues to age. She advises interested entrepreneurs to become well educated about the aging market—especially its variability. “You could have a very active 60-year-old, or you can have a very frail 60-year-old,” she says. “Also, you need to understand that in the aging market, you will not be dealing just with one generation, but with multiple generations.”
For his part, Wray recommends that start-ups offering concierge services geared to caregivers go high end. “Nice, upscale hotels have a concierge. Budget hotels do not. They have a rack in which there’s a bunch of brochures and you act as your own concierge. The concierge concept requires customers who are willing to sort of pay for that level of care.”