‘Airbnb for Seniors’ to Replace Home Care Aides?

Sharing is caring. The concept resonates at one Miami, Fla.-based startup whose caregiver-senior pairing service offers an alternative to traditional home care in a way that resembles the widely popular Airbnb for vacationing renters.

Similar to Airbnb, which pairs travelers with hosts who have listed their homes for rent, Room2Care is establishing a marketplace for people to find care and for others to list their own residences and services to provide care within their communities.

But the service is tasked with targeting a much different and more challenging clientele than the typical vacationer looking to lodge on the cheap for a weekend.

“Twenty-two year-olds will try anything,” Todd Florin, M.D., cofounder of Room2Care, tells HHCN. “Seniors aren’t like that.”

Incorporated in 2014, Room2Care launched earlier this year in late January/early February. While the company currently offers its services only in Southern Florida, Florin sees significant opportunities to grow the business as the need for elder care continues to boom.

Essentially, the service recreates a situation that has long been routinely performed by extended family: caring for aging loved ones when the primary caregiver is not available. But it puts a different spin on typical home care by allowing people to monetize both the extra space within their homes as well as extra time they might have.

Since no medical training is required of hosts, the care they provide may include helping seniors with activities of daily living such as getting dressed, preparing meals and providing transportation to appointments.

All Room2Care hosts are subject to background checks. Reviews of both the hosts and senior clients help determine the payment model, which is largely based on an escrow system.

Before a senior can come into a host’s home, they must pay for that time period in advance; however, if the interaction between host and client doesn’t work for any reason, the senior is able leave without paying.

“The host doesn’t get paid until the senior is happy and satisfied,” says Florin, who believes strongly in creating a end-to-end marketplace that also allows clients and hosts to negotiate certain costs.

For the most part, Room2Care offers recommendations to clients, essentially leaving it to the senior or his/her representative and the host to negotiate.

“We want everything to be as transparent as humanly possible,” Florin says.

Affording the costs of care, whether it’s the services of a home health aide or facility-based care, presents a barrier to a number of seniors who might not be able to afford $3,600 a month to live in an assisted living community—that’s the price tag according to the 2015 Cost of Care Survey from Genworth. On a national basis, the median annual cost for a home health aide, Genworth reported, is $45,760.

“Seniors don’t have a lot of money so we need to come up with something that can provide a reasonable level of care at a more affordable price point,” Florin says.

The fundamental goal of Room2Care, Florin adds, is to be able to provide a service for half of what the prevailing wage structure is for something like assisted living, which in Florida runs a median price of about $3,150 per month, according to Genworth’s data.

The company is currently working on an additional product that would let seniors seeking care to list their homes on Room2Care in hopes of attracting a caregiver to come live with them and provide services they need.

It’s a platform that enables intergenerational co-habitation, Florin says, where someone like a college student, for example, would move into the home of a senior to help him or her with tasks or needs, whether it’s help with grocery shopping, preparing meals or running errands.

“We’re looking to provide people who may not be getting any care right now a bit of support so they may not need it later on,” Florin says. “We’ll still need home care and we’ll still need [assisted living] facilities—those aren’t going away. But we’re dealing with an explosion of seniors and I believe our services will be very useful.”

Written by Jason Oliva