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180: Jake Rothstein

For the older adult who is not ready to move to a senior living community yet, a technology-driven solution like UpsideHōM might be the answer. Jake Rothstein, Founder & CEO, discusses the partnership opportunities between the healthy aging adult and the traditional senior living community.

Lucas:

Welcome to Bridge The Gap podcast, the senior living podcast with Josh and Lucas. Another great topic for everybody to lean into today on this great episode here on Bridge The Gap network. We want to welcome Jake Rothstein. He’s the founder and CEO of UpsideHōM. Welcome to the show. 

 

Jake:

Thanks for having me guys, really appreciate the opportunity.

Lucas:

Yeah, this is going to be an interesting conversation. You know, the senior living industry over the past, I would say year, year and a half, has now come to the forefront of the world’s knowledge, right? Given COVID and a bunch of other things and lockdowns a bunch of other things. The aging marketplace for older adults, the demographics are very compelling. There’s also a big talk around affordability and attainable housing. How does that work? There’s different levels of care, different levels of acuity. And then you also have this whole trust factor that the industry is trying to bring back occupancy and also bring back trust around the space of older adult care and senior housing. And Jake, you are the founder there at Upside Home, which is more of a home care model. But then there’s also a lot of great correlation and relationship that you do, that you have to traditional senior living. Before we get into some of these topics around individualized aging technology, and even the cost of traditional senior living, why don’t you give our listeners some background of why you even got into this space and why it was so attractive to you?

Jake:

Sure. Yeah. So started in the industry six or so years ago, due to a personal family need. My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, my grandmother who was 82 at the time was trying to care for him. And it was a big challenge for the family and for us. And so I’d go provide some respite here and there for her and she was still very mobile and active. So she’d get a call from her girlfriends, “Hey, can you meet me at Starbucks for a cup of coffee and a half an hour, just for an hour to get away,” and I’d go do that. And it became, again, it got to the point where I was not able to do it consistently anymore. And so I remember calling a bunch of home care agencies locally. And with that simple request, can you send a caregiver?

Jake:

Doesn’t need to be a caregiver. He sent someone to essentially babysit my grandfather, you know, in an hour for an hour. And of the five places I called, all five of them laughed me off the phone. And they said, well, we can’t really, we’re not set up that way. You got to do a minimum of 20 hours a week and then send out a nurse for an evaluation. And I said, that’s not how my grandmother’s life works. Like she just needs, we’re talking about the Uber for everything days. Like let’s just, how can we can’t do grandkids on demand? And so my first company started with my cousin, Andrew to tackle this need called Papa after what we call our grandfather to do just that, to build grandkids on demand. And so fast forward, six years, Papa’s now doing thousands of visits across the country every day.

Jake:

And it’s being reimbursed by Medicare Advantage for most of those visits. And it’s very exciting because we learned a lot about the industry and the needs of the older adult population. And what we found was not only is loneliness a massive problem but there’s a lot of people that are saying they want to age in place. 90% of people say they want to age in place with that surveyed. But because of some sort of triggering event in their life, that solution becomes very unviable. And so UpsideHōM was founded, and it sort of happened organically after my grandfather passed away, my grandmother found herself alone, but at 87 and in otherwise perfect health. But she was in his big two-story house with stairs and she had just had knee replacement surgery and it was unaffordable for her. She had spent all this money caring for my grandfather.

Jake:

And so she needed to prolong her financial wellbeing. So we sold our house. We got her into a smaller one-bedroom apartment in the same neighborhood that she knew and loved. So like this idea of aging in proximity to the things that you care about. And I functioned that was there. I was again functioning as her home manager and I’m like, well, there’s gotta be a lot of other people just like my grandmother, healthy agers that maybe don’t drive at night anymore. Maybe need some extra support services, like help with grocery shopping, or maybe she still likes to cook, but she doesn’t want to cook every day. And so she needs a pre-prepared meal delivered. And so what we found was that with the advent of the gig economy and technology-enabled services that are already at scale, we said, well, let’s just use existing infrastructure in apartment communities.

Jake:

Multi-Generational in sort of inherently multi-generational apartment communities, and then create easy access to these services that might help to duplicate the experience that a person might get in a traditional senior living facility environment. But for someone that’s not quite ready for that yet, that just needs this extra support. They don’t need care, they don’t really need assisted living yet. And because it’s flexible and because we’re able to offer services in an individualized way, if you need food, you pay for food. If you don’t eat food, you don’t pay for food. We can offer this type of living at a much lower baseline cost. And so that’s how it all came together.

Josh:

Oh man. Well, so this is really exciting to talk about. I love new and innovative ideas and approaches. This is something that I think so many people in the industry, maybe when they first hear it, Jake, they’re thinking, oh my gosh. I’ve got a census issue right now, like already. And are you talking about maybe enabling people to stay in another setting longer? And you know, I’m kind of saying I think so. I think it’s an option. One of the things I’m personally really passionate about, I think Lucas is as well is with the aging boom, that is upon us, even as large as the continuum is in the capacity is already in senior housing, senior living, you know, that’s kind of a broad definition. There are and there is such a thing as a consumer, as a person’s choice and freedom to be able to have options to age in place wherever they want to do that, whether it’s in their home, whether it’s in a multi-generational apartment, whether it’s in a senior living community of some form. And there’s right places for everybody out there, or at least there should be.

Josh:

And so I love the idea of this, of enabling people and equipping them with an opportunity to have some more options and some more choices for whatever level they want, they can afford and that they need. So if you’re talking to maybe our audience, which is predominantly a senior living audience, what would you tell them would be some of the reasons why perhaps they should be considering partnering with solutions like this?

Jake:

Yeah, it’s a great question. So we work with a lot of senior living communities sort of in a referral capacity, in a partnership capacity. We see ourselves as sitting in this continuum before traditional senior living. And senior living, you know, acuity’s have gone up in age and entry has gone up over the years and it’s become seemingly more of a healthcare product rather than a wellness or a lifestyle product, which I think was the, maybe the original intent of traditional senior living. And so what we really want to do is we want to capture people that ultimately might need traditional senior living, but get them in that transitionary period where we can support them as they age as they’re in this continuum, but do it outside the walls of a facility so that if, and when they do need that, we can be that very easy guiding hand into the right facility.

Jake:

And so what I’d say is there are people that are looking at traditional senior living that aren’t quite ready for it. And they know that, and maybe the traditional senior living communities know that also. And so we get referrals that way. And then, ultimately we would send them back if, and when the timing is right. There’s the other piece of this is the affordability piece. I mean, there’s a big gap in affordable senior housing. And so where we play, and one of the unique things about our model is that we are able to match people based on compatibility. So if you’re a single older man or woman, and you don’t want to live alone, or your kids don’t want you to live alone anymore, because you, you know, you had a spouse that just passed away or whatever it might be, we’ll match you with someone compatible.

Jake:

And that compatibility is not necessarily based on age, but it’s based on you know, activity level and interests and things like that. And we say, okay, well, why can’t you live with a roommate at 78 years old? Why can’t you wake up in the morning and have someone to say hello to wouldn’t that be nice? And by the way, we alleviate loneliness and help to prolong your financial wellbeing while doing those things. So we offer price points as low as $1,500 a month for a shared unit. And so that’s a price point that probably most senior living communities can’t even do, just because they’re, you know, they’re tied that tethered to big assets and it’s hard. It’s just hard to make that that offering available. And so that’s one of the sort of the selling points for us. It’s like, okay, well, if this person was never going to go into traditional senior living at all because only 10% of people in older adults actually wind up in senior living, we can capture them and we can give them a safer place to age. 

Josh:

Okay. So question, because I’m trying to visualize the solution in my mind. Is this more of a technology app-based where software is doing the work or is this more of like on the spectrum of a placement, a referral, a coordination, a concierge that’s bringing all this together? Is it an app? What exactly is this technology?

JAke:

Yeah, so the technology sits behind the scenes right now. And what we found and one of the things that we learned early on at Papa was that older adults have very widely varying degrees of ability to use technology. Some are really comfortable with their iPhones. Some have a flip phone that they can’t even turn on. And so what we said is let’s build really great technology to facilitate the coordination and the execution of all these great services that people will want. And then let’s put a human touch between that technology and the older adult themselves or their families. And so with that, we say, okay, well, let’s give them access. However, they are comfortable accessing really great technology. If they want to text us, you can text us. If you want to call us, you can call us. If you want to FaceTime us, you can do that too.

Jake:

And then let our home managers, we call them home managers, they’re are people that are building relationships with our residents, let them go do all the heavy lifting, using technology and some human touch. And so we said, we want it to be a personal experience, a personalized experience. We want to build trust with these customers, with our residents because we want to be able to point them in the right direction for the right services at the right time, and really improve quality of life and improve health outcomes and do all of these important things. But we don’t want to overwhelm with technology. Technology is like every company in our mind is a technology company. It’s 2021. If you’re not using technology to run your business, then you’re probably doing something wrong. And you know, in some capacity. What we’re finding though is now that we have a critical mass of residents, we’re understanding what are the baselines of how people are going to engage with us.

Jake:

So does it make sense to build a consumer-facing app that gives them simplified access to ordering food or groceries or rides, or even healthcare services like, you know did urgent care telemedicine or primary care telemedicine visits in the home? So things like that we’re thinking about. But really this is a technology-driven approach where we just are stringing together all of these different existing infrastructure and existing services to recreate, or to create this senior living like experience, but do it for a demographic that’s a little bit younger and still healthy.

Josh:

So that demographic in particular, I think as a senior living operator, that’s a very intriguing group. I’m assuming you’re probably talking more about the boomers generation, which is, we’ve been talking as an industry about this generation as if they’re in our industry already, but they’re really not yet. They’re kind of on their way. So we’re needing to learn a lot about them because we really believe, and I think data and demographics kind of show us that it’s a much different group as far as their needs, their preferences, their affordability, their ability to use technology, then this greatest generation of elders that we’ve been caring for as an industry. So I’m really curious to hear, and I know probably our listeners are too with you being in the technology world, I’m assuming you guys track a lot of data points. Can you tell us some interesting things and trends that maybe you’ve started scratching at the surface of and seeing as you’ve had this cohort start using your system?

Jake:

Sure. Yeah. So one of the really interesting learnings actually, and I think COVID has really accelerated this, and this has been a topic of discussion among operators in technology companies and everyone else, but technology adoption has really accelerated. I mean, I think we’ve probably come five years over the span of a year and a half in terms of how older adults are engaging with technology out of necessity. I mean, I taught my 87-year-old grandmother how to use zoom in the middle of COVID and she figured it out. I mean, her hat and her face was half cut off most of the time when we talked to her, but like she made it work. And so what we’re seeing is a higher level of adoption than I think we anticipated. Which is good for us because it gives us the ability to scale faster without as many humans on the backend to help deliver all these services.

Jake:

And so it’s been really interesting to see the 82-year-old engaging with technology and putting in her maintenance requests on her own where we really thought that the home manager is gonna have to lead that you know, lead that engagement, or lead that interaction. And then, you know, it’s interesting because we also have residents as young as 57 and as old as 85, and there’s such a wide spectrum of from acuity levels to ability with technology. There’s just a very wide spectrum of people that we’re attracting now. But I’d say if you had to put a target on it, it’s at a 65 to 85-year-old, healthy ager.

Josh:

Interesting. So if a senior living operator is out there thinking, man, how could I potentially make a technology solution provider like this work for me? Is this going to be a solution that a provider should be positioning that their potential residents are going to be using this software and system in their community? Or is this more of something that would be a partnership on the front end that might be a referral to then get that resident to actually move in and then they don’t really need the system anymore? Or is this like an ongoing partnership that kind of helps the senior living community as well? How do you see that happening now and in the future?

Jake:

So today I think we see it as a referral partnership predominantly. Is there an opportunity to be able to provide our technology to traditional senior living? I think so. I think there will be that, I mean, there’s certain elements of senior living that I think that would benefit from stuff from technology like this. Like you pay for that van that sits out front to take people to the grocery store where. That’s a depreciating asset that sits out in the, on the balance sheet, in the driveway. And you can just easily order an Uber and you do it on demand. You don’t need to pay for that asset. The same is, you know, maybe goes for pre-prepared meals. So we use a pre-prepared meal delivery service and are able to provide fresh meals twice weekly on ice to our residents.

Jake:

And, we don’t have to have big kitchens and chefs and teams of servers. And so I think that there’s an opportunity for senior living to utilize a lot of this and provide more flexibility in their service offerings. But like you said, at the beginning, I mean, 11,000 people a day turning 65, there are a lot of people and they have a very widely varying set of desires. And so there are people that are ready for senior living and senior living will be ready for them. And then, then there are people for some that aren’t quite ready for that. And, you know, we’ll be here for them.

Josh:

Well, Lucas, I think it’s a great opportunity for the providers that are listening just another opportunity to where through partnerships being better together, you know, you as a provider that are listening, you have the opportunity to, pun intended, bridge the gap. And this tsunami of elders in our population that are aging, the aging population, we are not going to have the capacity to care for all of their needs, but we can be a resource. And if we can be a resource as providers in our places of community that people know, Hey, I can call these people and they’ll connect me with the Jakes of the world. And they will connect me with the resources that I need. I think that is the best play for all providers is to be the connector, to be the bridge. I mean, you’re in a lot of communities every day, Lucas talking to a lot of operators. What’s the sense that you have of openness to these kinds of technologies?

Lucas:

I think more than anything, it’s just an important topic of conversation that is needed to have right now. I think that there’s going to be varying degrees of openness to this, but the fact of the matter is, is that there are older adults out there that need these types of services and the senior living industry, as we’ve talked about Josh, you know we have our VIP ignite event coming up here in Nashville, and we’re going to talk about change. We’re going to talk about the opportunities that the senior housing world has to care for older adults, to house older adults, and to provide these options to this big group of people that deserve to have dignity, deserve to have affordability, deserve to have options for whatever stage that they’re in. And as we’ve talked about, you know, we are pro older adult and we are also pro senior living in whatever capacity that looks like. And so I think it’s a fascinating conversation, Jake. I know that our listeners are going to want to learn more about this and we’ll connect that in the show notes. What’s the best way for people to engage with you to have this conversation? 

Jake:

Sure. Yeah. Go to our website UpsideHōM.com is probably the best way to get in touch with us. And you know, we’re happy to have conversations. I think that, again, the challenges are so great ahead of us that from a societal standpoint, that it’s going to take all hands on deck to get this right and to meet the challenges of the day of today and tomorrow. And it’s going to be from providers across the spectrum. And so we want to be a part of the solution with senior living.

Lucas:

Jake Rothstein of UpsideHōM on the program today. Thanks for spending some time with us. 

Jake:

Thank you very much to both of you.

Lucas:

You got it. And to our listeners, if you want to come alongside Bridge The Gap and have this conversation about building trust and igniting change, we want you to go to our website, go to VIPigniteexperience.com. Request your invitation to come to our August event so that we can get face to face, knee to knee, shoulder to shoulder with you to build trust and ignite change. Thanks. And we’re going to put Jake’s information in the show notes. And to all of our listeners, thanks for listening to another great episode of Bridge The Gap.

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180: Jake Rothstein