CITYWIDE — Santa Monica — along with the rest of the nation — is trending older and a local startup is using new technology to make aging easier.
HomeHero, based in the Downtown office of startup incubator Science Inc., lets seniors and their loved ones find and manage caregivers all from their mobile devices or computers.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Santa Monicans over the age of 65 grew by 11 percent and, even more substantial, the number of residents between the ages of 55 and 64 grew 48 percent, according to the U.S. Census.
In the next several years, some of the members of this aging population are going to need home care. Personal care aide is the second fastest growing occupation in the country according to a report last month by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The percent change in employment for personal care aides is expected to jump 49 percent in the next 10 years, according to the report.
No. 1 on the list was industrial-organizational psychologists but guess what was number three? Home health aides, whose projected employment growth rate is 48 percent in the next decade.
HomeHero has two parts, said founders Kyle Hill and Mike Townsend.
One half of the idea is software that allows users to manage caregivers. It tracks their hours through smartphone-linked timesheets. Caregivers can record daily activities and get paid through the app. This half launched nationwide.
The other half is currently exclusive to the Santa Monica area. It’s an online marketplace that allows seniors and family members to vet these caregivers. HomeHero built a system that performs background checks and gives an entrance exam. They interview caregivers and shoot a high definition video that’s posted online. They vetted all of the candidates at the Santa Monica office, so right now most users are from the surrounding region.
They’ve also set up a $1 million insurance policy that covers bodily injury or property damage.
For Hill, the invention of HomeHero was the product of necessity: His parents live in Ohio but his grandparents lived in Seattle. When his grandfather died they spent weeks trying to find reliable caregivers for his grandmother.
“It was a mess,” he said. “We tried to find people on Craigslist. They were under-qualified. They didn’t have experience. It took a couple plane rides for my dad to fly into Seattle to interview caregivers in-person.”
Once his dad found someone, they struggled to manage the relationship.
“My dad didn’t know what time they showed up to the house or what time they left,” he said. “He was mailing them physical checks in the mail. They were debating about hours.”
As more Baby Boomers reach retirement age and caregivers become more highly sought after, Hill and Townsend are betting that they aren’t alone.
Previously, the founders had worked on a San Francisco-based startup called Flowtab, which allows bar-goers to purchase drinks from their phone.
Science Inc. got behind HomeHero this summer. Hill and Townsend moved to Santa Monica to build the program. It launched last week.
“We thought it all could be done better,” Townsend said. “And the need is only going to keep growing.”
HomeHero’s website is www.HomeHero.org