It’s no secret the seniors care sector has been in need of a major transformation for decades. While the pandemic has had tragic consequences for millions of people globally, it also served to highlight many of the industry’s long-standing problems and systemic issues that need to change.
For one, there’s a common misconception that seniors and tech don’t mix. However, this stigma is holding us back from new innovations that could revolutionize the way we care for our seniors in the future, so it’s time we challenge these misconceptions if we hope to make real progress in this area.
Transform It Forward with Sandy Jen: Transforming the seniors care space
This episode covers a topic that’s very close to my heart, so I was thrilled to welcome Sandy Jen to the show. Sandy is one of the co-founders of Honor, the world’s largest senior care network and technology platform.
By championing aging in place and prioritizing quality of life, Honor has been changing the game for seniors and their loved ones since 2014. Sandy and I had a great discussion spanning a wide variety of topics including current disruptions to the seniors care industry, Honor’s mission and vision for the sector, and how technologies like AI are revolutionizing the way we care for our seniors for good.
Reducing the stigma surrounding seniors care and tech
When Sandy Jen and Seth Sternberg co-founded Honor in 2014, they knew they were setting out to tackle a pre-existing challenge that had already been around for a long time. They recognized that the seniors care industry wasn’t growing as quickly as it could have been, given the rapid digital transformations that were happening in other industries around the globe.
Sandy believes this is partly because of the stigma surrounding seniors and tech, and some of the common misconceptions about seniors care that are still widespread today.
“There’s a general stigma of seniors and technology. So there’s this misconception that seniors and tech don’t mix, which is why I think traditionally there’s been little investment, innovation and interest in trying to push things into the senior space, and they are sort of a traditionally difficult demographic to reach.”
While Honor had already been around for six years prior to the pandemic, Sandy says the emergence of COVID-19 helped to bring some of these issues to light and help people gain a better understanding of the unique needs of this demographic.
“With the pandemic, what ended up happening was that the world opened its eyes to what we were already noticing, which is that we have this really large population of people who need a lot of help and they’re really vulnerable and are a lot more vulnerable than we thought. I’m actually really hopeful now and optimistic about where we are, just because I think people are realizing that there’s a lot of opportunity, there are a lot of misconceptions and things that we didn’t realize were possible, which are now possible in this space.”
Ultimately, the pandemic helped to generate a stronger appetite when it comes to investment in technology for seniors. With new innovations in this area, seniors are regaining a sense of control and agency over their experiences, which is something that can’t be valued highly enough.
Staying home for longer
One of Honor’s main focuses in the seniors care space is helping people age in place for as long as possible. By focusing on non-medical home care, the company is helping people stay in their homes as they age instead of relying on a long-term care home or a group setting.
However, one of the challenges of prioritizing an aging-in-place approach is securing enough qualified staff to provide in-home support for aspects of daily living when necessary. Currently, the seniors care industry is low on qualified staff, and turnover rates are high.
“One of the things that we’re really trying to do at Honor is to help people create more of a career out of seniors care. And so, sort of fundamentals that a lot of different other industries have like you get rewarded for performance and tenure and there’s stability and things like that, we’re trying to introduce more of that into the workforce to create that stability and just make it a more attractive career path for people.”
By working towards a system that’s less fragmented and more standardized, Honor is executing on its vision of bringing stability and security to the seniors care industry for qualified workers.
Keeping up with innovation
When it comes to innovation, Sandy says Honor consistently takes a forward-thinking approach. Instead of waiting for the healthcare industry or another third party to take the lead, Honor’s strategy involves taking the initiative first, and pushing ahead boldly from an innovation perspective while maintaining strong relationships with the other players in the game.
“First, from the pace of innovation perspective, we’re not going to wait for the health systems to catch up. So we’re not going to bank our success on a health system really quickly adapting to a new model or service, we’re going to go ahead and innovate as we can while making sure those relationships are warm, keeping abreast of those of situations and making ourselves available for, say, pilots or experiments or interesting partnerships that can create movement.”
Another element of their strategy includes maintaining a strong growth mindset and focusing on the end goal in everything they do. Sandy mentioned that in general, the seniors care industry tends to attract mission-minded, passionate people who are all after the same common goal of creating a better system for everyone, which typically works in their favor.
“I think the amazing thing about home care, and I think the seniors care space, is that people in the space, even though they’ve been doing things a certain way for a really long time, they love the space. They all love helping people. They know it’s hard, they know it’s challenging, but their heart’s in the right places. And that’s such a big advantage for us.”
The end result of this mission-minded attitude is a win-win situation that ultimately benefits everyone involved.
- There’s a common misconception that seniors and tech don’t mix, which is why investment and innovation in this area has been limited thus far. However, the pandemic helped to shed light on just how vulnerable this population is, and what could be possible in the seniors’ care space with the right technology. Overall, Sandy says she’s optimistic about the outlook for seniors and tech given the changes we’ve seen over the past few years.
- If you build it, they will come. Sandy mentioned that really great, usable technology like the Apple Watch will inevitably draw in users because people can integrate it into their lives seamlessly. Seniors don’t need technology that’s specifically geared towards their demographic—they need simple, effective tools just like any other age group.
- Although we all inevitably get older, there’s still a general unwillingness to broach the topic of aging in our society. However, with more access to technology and information today, it’s becoming easier to gain control over our own aging process. New technology is helping to empower people to age in place and enjoy a healthy, active lifestyle for longer.
- One of the current challenges within the seniors care space is attracting and retaining caregivers. The team at Honor is hoping to fill in the gaps by changing the attitude towards caregiving as a career path and introducing a sense of structure like you might find in other industries. Through their platform, the company is strengthening the foundation of the caregiving industry to create a more standardized system and offer more stability for caregivers.
- When it comes to innovation, Honor isn’t going to wait around for the healthcare system to adapt in order to create positive forward momentum. They’re working with what they have now to drive things forward for the future and build a better system for seniors. By maintaining a growth mindset, keeping an open mind and prioritizing collaboration, the team is creating a win-win scenario for everyone involved in the seniors’ care industry.
Listen to the full podcast episode here.
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