Senior Helpers CEO: Town Square Franchise Model Is Like Adult Day ‘On Steroids’

In many ways, 2019 was the year the home care industry solidified itself as a major asset to the larger health care continuum. As we head into the new year, industry leaders are looking toward the future.

For Senior Helpers CEO Peter Ross, that means adult day services, which he thinks could be the next big thing in senior care.

“I look at the adult day care industry and think that it is kind of like the home care market was 20 years ago,” Ross said during a Home Health Care News outlook webinar on Tuesday. “There is a tremendous opportunity there.”

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It’s an opportunity that Senior Helpers hasn’t left on the table. In fact, the company launched Senior Helpers Town Square Franchising, a reminiscence-therapy adult day concept created in partnership with the George G. Glenner Alzheimer’s Family Center — in 2018.

Town Square is the adult day concept “on steroids,” according to Ross.

The Town Square day centers were created to replicate 1950s aesthetics. They include dozens of stations that operate as mid-century diners, movie theaters, hair salons and storefronts.

But Town Square’s stations aren’t just nostalgia for the sake of it. The goal of the setup — which contextually draws inspiration from dementia villages pioneered in the Netherlands — is to help preserve cognitive function and memories from a given time in a senior’s life.

“We look at a retail space and turn it into a 1950s or 60s working town,” Ross said. “Giving seniors purpose through reminiscence therapy has been a great add-on.”

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Since launching the model in 2018, Senior Helpers has two operational Town Square locations: one in Baltimore, Maryland, and another in Chula Vista, California.

Plus, in just the past four months alone, Senior Helpers has sold 14 Town Square franchisees, according to Ross.

Along with health-related benefits of Town Square, the adult day model allows Senior Helpers to serve clients that want to avoid the costs of home-based care, according to Ross.

“When you look at the home care industry, there’s kind of been three segments of the market,” he said. “You have your middle class, upper-middle class and wealthy that can afford any kind of home care or long-term care they want. You’ve got the Medicaid waiver population, which, depending on the state … [some] can get care through there.”

The third segment is the large majority of people who fall squarely in the middle. These people typically become Senior Helper Town Square clients, according to Ross.

“You have the 30, 40 or 50 million people who are in the middle and might not have the money to pay for home care at $25 or $26 dollars an hour,” he said. “They don’t qualify for Medicaid, they are not a veteran or a long-term care insurance policyholder, so what do you do for them? I think Town Square offers that group a care option.”

Generally, home-based care clients pay roughly $24 per hour. Town Square clients pay somewhere between $11 or $12 an hour, according to Ross.

“We’ve been able to bundle it with Senior Helpers care and give people more coverage,” he said. “At the same time, people who can’t afford home care can come into Town Square and have an experience like nothing else.”

Looking ahead, a further expansion of Town Square is on the horizon for Seniors Helpers.

“We are looking forward to expanding,” Ross said. “I do think that Town Square could be as big as Senior Helpers, which is well over 300 locations in 45 states.”

Nationally, there are possibly as many as 10,000 adult day centers in the U.S., according to some industry insiders. If accurate, that’s up almost 50% from 2014.

While Senior Helpers is bullish on adult day, Ross also remains optimistic about traditional home care — calling the current moment an “exciting time for the industry.” The rapidly aging U.S. population is bound to keep demand high for years, though workforce challenges are likely to persist.

On its end, Senior Helpers has its irons in several fires when it comes to exploring new ideas for keeping workers are caring for clients with improved efficiency. Its recent partnership with security powerhouse ADT (NYSE: ADT) falls in line with the company’s strategy of unique partnerships that enhance its overall service offerings, for example.

In December, the company teamed up with ADT Health to give its clients access to two personal emergency response systems: ADT Medical Alert Plus, an in-home monitoring service that features fall detection and home temperature monitoring; and ADT On-The-Go, the mobile version that features GPS capabilities.

“ADT has been a great partnership for us,” Ross said. “For many years, home care was a little bit standoffish when it came to personal response systems and monitoring devices, mainly because they felt it would take away home care hours. I look at that totally different. Families who use home care want peace of mind that their loved ones are well taken care of.”

Additionally, Ross urges the home care industry not to “bury their head in the sand” when it comes to technology.

“You have to find a way to look at how technology will play a role,” he said. “There are opportunities especially with workforce challenges, especially with affordability. You have to look at technology as a way to fill in some of the gaps.”

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