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254: Jeff Salter

Hear how one bike journey is changing the future of in-home care. Jeff Salter, CEO of Caring Senior Service, providers of in-home care, began his career in senior care in 1991. From April to August 2021, Jeff rode an electric bike more than 9,000 miles through 20 states to visit 45 Caring Senior Service franchise locations in a bid to launch the company’s “Close the Gap” program, a movement designed to spotlight the overlooked and underserved aspects of senior care.

Read about the “Close the Gap” program story.

Listen to more Bridge The Gap episodes here.

Jeff

Really, my ride was, while it was celebrating 30 years, it was about inspiring others to get involved in senior care. I wanted to inspire individuals that maybe want to become caregivers. People that recognize that’s a career path and something they could be passionate about.

00:15

Welcome to season 6 of Bridge the Gap. A podcast dedicated to informing, educating, and influencing the future of housing and services for seniors. Powered by sponsors Accushield, Connected Living, Hamilton CapTel, Referah, The Bridge Group Construction, and Solinity. The contributors are brought to you by Peak Senior Living and produced by Solinity Marketing.

Lucas 00:39

Welcome to Bridge the Gap, the Senior Living podcast with Josh and Lucas. A great topic on today and exciting guest. We wanna welcome Jeff Salter. He’s the CEO of Caring Senior Service out of San Antonio, Texas. Welcome to the show.

Jeff 00:53

Hi guys. Thanks for having me.

Lucas 00:54

We’re so glad that you reached out to us because you have a fascinating story. You’re an entrepreneur, a businessman that has dedicated your life, career, and talents to the senior living industry, to older adults that need care. We loved hearing about your story of bringing attention and awareness, you know, a big platform here at Bridge The Gap is we want to bring attention and awareness to this industry that we serve and that we love, and the people and the stories behind the caregivers and the businesses and everything that takes this industry forward every single day. And you’re a big part of that. Jeff, tell our listeners about your story, because this is not an overnight success. You’ve been at this for at least three decades and you’ve come up with some really creative ways to build awareness around older adults.

Jeff 1:46

Yeah, absolutely. Definitely been involved in senior care now for those three decades. I started my career in 1991 and I decided to work with seniors that were needing to find care and remain at home. They didn’t want to go to assisted living, didn’t want to move in with their children. They were really challenged with finding someone that could be with them for hours at a time. I worked for a home health company that provided skilled care and the individuals that needed assistance around the clock were kind of left in the dark and didn’t have any opportunities. So I decided to create a company that would help schedule caregivers to be with a senior for those activities, their living, help them with meal preparation, help them with some simple housekeeping duties, and then also get involved with personal care, help them with bathing, help them with restroom assistance if they needed, really anything they needed to be safe at home. 

Started off with the idea of just helping my local community, you know, Odessa, Texas, but quickly realized it could help a lot more people, and decided to open a second location, then a third, fourth and a fifth location in Texas. And then in 2002, decided to expand our vision much broader and decided to start franchising our business. And today, we’re now in 50 locations in almost 20 states helping seniors across the country really maintain their independence for as long as possible, avoiding that relocation to a nursing home or assisted living. And it’s been something that has been a passion of mine. And I, as a 20 year old kid that got involved in business, I did not think that that was gonna be where my career was going. But quickly discovered that there’s a lot of joy in helping others and helping, helping families with the desire to stay home, but also helping families with work and employment. Our caregivers each and every day are out there doing the real work that matters and helping these seniors with their independence.

Josh 3:49

So Jeff, you’ve been at this a very long time, as you mentioned and Lucas brought up, but, you know, one of the ways that we actually found out about you and heard a little bit about your story was actually about this amazing 9,000 mile journey that you made on an electric bike over the, I believe, the last year. And I think you covered something like 20 states or something like that. For our listeners that may not have heard about this story, could you unpack that for us?

Jeff 4:21

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, what we, we’ll start off with was how do you celebrate 30 years in an industry? It’s a pretty long career. And again, being the person that’s lived it, it’s kind of not a big deal to me. But when you do take a step back, you recognize that not a lot of people spend 30 years doing something and not a lot of people have the opportunity to create a large organization. We wanted to come up with a way to celebrate 30 years of achievements, but true to who we are. We didn’t want to just make it about us. We wanted to try and figure out a way to give back to our communities. And what we decided in some crazy evening in our headquarters here in San Antonio, we said, “How will we do that?” And one of the guys had seen that I was riding my bike to work about 20 miles each way and said, “Jeff, you know what would be really cool is if you ride your bike to every location to celebrate.” And I told him immediately when he said that, the words came out of his mouth. I said, “That’s a crazy idea. There’s no way I’m gonna do that.” And that night, though, true to my entrepreneur nature, I went home and started thinking, “How could you do that? What would you need to travel that kind of distance?” I got on Google Maps and looked and found it was nearly 10,000 miles if I wanted to bike to each location and whatever route I could find. And I knew I could do it if I use an electric bike. So I decided, let me figure out how to modify an electric bike to where it has the batteries and had to travel. So I plotted out a trip in which we’d go to each location. 

And along the way we decided we didn’t just wanna celebrate what we’ve done. We want to also celebrate what is needed in the country and help bring awareness to the needs of seniors. So really my ride was, while it was celebrating 30 years, it was about inspiring others to get involved in senior care. I wanted to inspire individuals that maybe wanted to become caregivers. People that recognize that’s a career path and something they could be passionate about. Maybe it’s a starting point for a nurse who wants to get involved in caregiving before she becomes a professional nurse. One also engage people that were maybe thinking about technology and how they could devise and use technology in the betterment of seniors’ lives. You know, we don’t know what the next great gadget’s going to be. We don’t know what the requirements are going to be to help care for American seniors. 

And then finally, I hope to inspire entrepreneurs because we need more people involved in senior care. You know, the aging population, the 80 plus population, which is directly those that are needing our type of assistance and need the most assistance is going to be doubling and then doubling again in the next 20 years alone. And that’s just a staggering number of people. So we need people involved in senior care at all levels. It wasn’t just about Caring Senior Service, it was about helping people pay attention to the needs of seniors. And with that, we also wanted to do something to raise money. And we decided we wanted to impact seniors’ lives. We decided we would create a movement called to Close the Gap in Senior Care. And that movement was dedicated to helping communities understand what their gaps are, what areas in their senior community had issues. Was it funding, was it medications? Was it care that was needed for individuals? We weren’t necessarily deciding what it was going to be, but we wanted to solve one problem or wanted to at least have an impact on one problem. And that was falls in the country falls or the leading cause of injury, injury-related death among seniors. And we thought that, how can we help that? Well, let’s raise money to put grab bars into seniors homes. So along the way, we had events and we raised money to do an install in a seniors home for a small amount of money, we can install two grab bars in the restroom for a senior, which the bathroom is the most likely place someone’s going to fall. So we wanted to really try and see what we could do to secure and help seniors in that sense.

Jeff 8:27

So I’m excited and proud that during the ride we were able to raise money and at the end of the ride we were able to raise $170,000 towards this cause of installing grab bars. And today, now it’s been over a year since the ride happened, but we’ve just completed our hundredth install. So we’re excited about that milestone and we got a long way to go and continue to do that. But it was really a unique way to get on a bike and then ride to every location. The trip was amazing. It took me four months to complete. Left San Antonio, Texas on April 1st. Got back to San Antonio on August 1st, 2021.

9:07

We’re taking a break in our scheduled show to tell you about exciting opportunities for you to be featured on the Bridge The Gap Network. Click on the show notes to schedule your call with Josh and Lucas. Yeah, what he said. 

Josh 9:18

Oh my gosh, what an amazing story. And I can only imagine what all on the ride you actually encountered as far as experiences that you know, you could I’m sure tell stories for days.

Jeff 9:38

Yeah, it’s one thing that was amazing was just, I met people. I was for listeners, kinda the imagery you see, here’s an electric bike. And I was pulling a small trailer, like a kid’s trailer, almost like you put your kids in to tow them on a bike. But I converted it into a small box that actually carried all the gear. It was an unsupported trip, which means when you do adventure cycling or cross country cycling, you either have support where you got a van following you, or you do it unsupported. You’ve just gotta figure things out as you go. I had a companion rider for part of it, so about half the trip we’d have someone else that would ride with me. But it meant we had two vehicles that were on the road. We had to figure out how to repair where to stay each night. We camped out a lot of times at state parks and things of that nature. But the people I met and the experiences was just amazing because of the trailer. It was all marked up with Close The Gap. Everybody wanted to know what we were doing. We had people give us cash on the road to help our cause, they were that moved by what we were doing. So many stories of people that were experiencing challenges of aging and dealing with their loved ones that were going through these challenges. So it was, it was really inspiring to see the people that were really supportive of the movement.

Josh 10:57

Wow, that’s amazing. Well, you know, Jeff I could talk for a long time about all that, but I would be, I guess, missing out. So you’ve been a thought leader leading in the aging population care in specifically the home based care model for three decades. You know, that’s a lot of history. What would you point to are some of the biggest changes that you’ve experienced in home based aging population care over your career? And then from the second part of that question would be kind of forward looking. Where do you think home based care and caring for the population because it’s such a huge booming sector, where do you think that’s going as we look forward?

Jeff 11:56

Well, I do get that question a lot. And being involved as long as I have an interesting perspective, in a lot of ways nothing’s changed. The fact is that people wanna remain at home. They’ve wanted to remain at home for a long time. Just the polls have kind of shown that year after year after year. And the challenges, though, are the aging population numbers that I don’t, I really don’t think that people have a grasp on. I think we all see the baby boomers 10,000 a day turning 65. But if you look at the last decade in America, you had just about 1,300,000, 1,400,000, people aged 80 years, you got to the 80 year age range. So a million new people got to 80. In the coming decade, that goes to about 2.5 million people. So it doubles.

So the biggest challenge that we have is how are we going to care for all of these people? And the scary number is the next decade from 2030 to 2040 that doubles again, it’s over 5 million people will reach the age of 80 at that decade. And the challenge that we’re all facing is how do you manage that? Everyone wants to stay home, but you don’t have enough caregivers to help those people age safely. As you reach 80, you tend to see the decline that really starts hitting us all. Mobility is really challenging at that point in time. There’s numerous things that go wrong with an individual. So the need for technology to come into play and the acceptance, the good thing is that the people, technology’s had a really tough road over the last 10 years, and that’s primarily because of adoption.

Jeff 13:44

Individuals that are aging 80 in the last 10 years have not been as willing to accept technology. The next decade it’s gonna get a little easier. And thankfully by the time we get to that 2030, it’s gonna be pretty easy cuz those people are gonna have been using technology in various aspects of their lives leading up to that point. So they’ll be more accepting of the things that are out there. But there’s really cool things that we’re doing right now that’s gonna help with keeping an eye and keeping someone safe and knowing when we need to be intervening with someone. The idea of a hourly caregiver with someone for multiple times a day is going to need to change. It’s just simply the numbers. You can’t make a match because there’s not enough caregivers to the number of people. And so there’s gonna be a dramatic shift in our industry to how we’re dealing with that. So that’s probably the biggest challenge. And to say that things haven’t changed that much, you’ve seen a rise in the Alzheimer’s diagnoses among people, dementia. So that’s been one of the…for lot of companies. And, but the solution kind of remained the same. If you want to stay home, you’ve got to get a caregiver in there. And that’s something that we’ve really worked to try and make that scheduling easier to make the caregiving experience more positive for people really understanding what their needs are and delivering services that meet those needs.

Josh 15:13

Well, you know, Jeff, that is such a great insight. Lucas, we’ve talked about this a lot. I mean, so much challenge in caring for this aging population. It’s not going away, but so much opportunity. And whether you’re bridging gaps or closing gaps as Jeff is doing we all have to work together to do this. And there’s no one size fits all approach. Everybody’s needs, preferences, financial abilities. So I think that just gives a green field of opportunity for us all to come together to care for the aging population. We’re all part of it. This has been a really fun conversation, Lucas, what do you think?

Lucas 15:59

Absolutely. And that’s why the Bridge The Gap Network is here, is to tell these stories and be a part of this conversation to provide care and solutions for today and for tomorrow. Jeff, thank you for coming on our network and spending time and telling your story.

Jeff 16:15

Absolutely, guys, thanks for having me and really appreciate the work that you’re doing because it is important that we get other people involved in this industry and continue to grow it because it’s got lots of challenges, but tons of opportunity and we’re really excited about being around and being part of the next, you know, next three decades of of care in America.

Lucas 16:36

It’s our privilege. And for our listeners, you can go to btgvoice.com to listen to all of our episodes, connect with us on social. We’ll also connect with Jeff, his organization, and the things that he’s involved in the show notes that you can learn more there. And thanks to everybody for listening to another great episode of Bridge The Gap.

16:54

Thanks for listening to Bridge The Gap podcast with Josh and Lucas. Connect with the BTG network team and use your voice to influence the industry by connecting with us at btgvoice.com.

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254: Jeff Salter