elder concierge: a range of non-medical services for older people who are living independently; includes providing: companionship; transportation to recreation or medical appointments; and help with household tasks, travel plans. May also be referred to as “senior concierge” or “elder-to-elder peer care” services.
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AgeWell Global, based in Washington, D.C., is pioneering a model of elder-to-elder peer care. It hires adults 55 years-plus to help look after other older adults, who are somewhat more frail. Agewells–as the part-time community health workers are known–visit their peer mates at home, offering friendship and support, and gathering basic health information, which they enter into a mobile app. The app has an algorithm that crunches the data and triggers automatic doctor referrals, if the condition warrants it.
AgeWell aims to be an early warning system of potential health problems before they become full-blown health problems. By keeping tabs of elders at home, it hopes to cut expensive hospital or emergency room visits. At the same time, it also provides employment for Agewells, who are retired, or semi-retired, and may themselves feel the need for more social interaction.
“It’s a win-win-win because we’re hiring older people to do this, because our clients are healthier for longer periods of time, and because the medical system can reduce costs,” says Jack Downey, managing director of the startup, in an interview.
RWJF is planning to sponsor a pilot of the program and other trials are already underway in New York City (on the Lower East Side) and in Cleveland.
Downey says clients are more likely to open up about their problems to their peers than their own families. “Would you tell your son or daughter what you’re issues are. Maybe. But it’s more likely you’ll tell your peer with whom you have a relationship. We find that they open up a bit more,” he says.
AgeWell, one of several “elder concierge” startups, grew out of a program in South Africa called mothers2mothers. Founded by a Mitch Besser, an obstetrician and gynecologist, M2M employs HIV-positive mothers to counsel pregnant women about not passing on the virus to their children (either during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding). It now serves about 20% of the world’s HIV-positive mothers with its peer model.
In her 40 years as a photographer in the Denver area, Jill Kaplan did not think she would need her social work degree.
But when it became harder to make a living as a professional photographer, she joined a growing army of part-time workers across the country who help older people living independently, completing household tasks and providing companionship.
Elder concierge, as the industry is known, is a way for the semi- and fully retired to continue to work, and, from a business standpoint, the opportunities look as if they will keep growing. Around 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and by 2030, there will be 72 million people over 65 nationwide.
Some 43 million people already provide care to family members — either their own parents or children — according to AARP, and half of them are “sandwich generation” women, ages 40 to 60. All told, they contribute an estimated $470 billion a year in unpaid assistance.
Seven years ago, Ms. Kaplan, 63, made the leap, signing up with Denver-based Elder Concierge Services. She makes $25 to $40 an hour for a few days a week of work. She could be driving older clients to doctor’s appointments, playing cards or just acting as an extra set of eyes and ears for family members who aren’t able to be around but worry about their older relatives being isolated and alone. Many baby boomers themselves are attracted to the work because they feel an affinity for the client base.
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Concierges are not necessarily social workers by background, and there isn’t a formal licensing program. They carry out tasks or help their customers complete the relatively mundane activities of everyday life, and just need to be able to handle the sometimes physical aspects of the job, like pushing a wheelchair.
Medical care is left to medical professionals. Instead, concierges help out around the house, get their client to appointments, join them for recreation, and run small errands.
While precise statistics are not available for the elder concierge industry, other on-demand industries have flourished, and baby boomers are a fast-growing worker population.
Nancy LeaMond, the AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy officer, said: “Everyone assumed the on-demand economy was a millennial thing. But it is really a boomer thing.”
At 25, Denver entrepreneur Amanda Cavaleri is used to being the youngest person in the room, often by multiple decades — especially when she travels to conferences about aging, where she talks about Capable Living, the successful elder concierge service she founded.
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Capable Living, which provides companionship, errand-running and other services, is thriving with 10 full- and part-time employees. It’s doing so well that Cavaleri, who is finishing up her bachelor’s degree in business at Regis University, had to hire a manager to run the company.
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It all started about six years ago, when she was a University of California-San Diego student torn between majoring in classics or in business. She decided to take some time off from her studies to work as a server for The Academy, a Boulder retirement community. As she got to know the residents and their individual needs, Cavaleri began refining an idea for an elder concierge service.
She envisioned a business that connected millennials with elders who needed companionship, help with chores and errands, and caregivers who conferred with their clients to tailor solutions to challenges. Observing the habits of the residents she served refined her vision.
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