A Fort Lauderdale company moving into the Gulf Coast is looking to expand options for seniors who want the benefits of aging in place but the services they need to flourish in their new situation.
Jake Rothstein’s grandmother was living in a two-story home when caring for her husband, whose Alzheimer’s Disease was worsening, got to be too much. He needed to be in an assisted living facility that catered to memory care.
Rothstein’s grandparents had built the home for their retirement, but along with his grandfather’s problems, his grandmother had needed knee replacement surgery. It was difficult to get around, and she couldn’t take care of the maintenance.
In retrospect, building the house had been a mistake, says Rothstein, 33, the co-founder of UpsideHōM, a Fort Lauderdale company that helps older people find a place to live and gets them the services they need.
This was 2019. The family got together and decided to sell the house, moving her into a nearby apartment where she was close to all that was important to her. But that solution illuminated another problem.
“We realized quickly that she was just not able to do a lot of these little things that she was always able to do, like grocery shopping. She needed help carrying the heavy things, the big pack of water bottles, and she needed help driving at night, she really didn’t like driving outside of the 3-mile radius or at night,” Rothstein says.
Anyone dealing with aging parents, or who is themselves aging, knows the challenges Rothstein and his family faced.
They want to live on their own, but it’s getting more difficult. Yet, an assisted living facility, for a number of reasons, is not an option.
In Rothstein’s grandmother’s case, he was able to step in and help her. And from that experience, as well as the dealings with his grandfather, he saw there was a need for older people who wanted to remain independent but still needed some caretaker-like services.
UpsideHōM, which Rothstein founded with Peter Badgley, helps older people find a place to live and gets them the services they need without resorting to going to a facility. You can almost think of the company as an Uber for elderly care or senior living deconstructed.
Before starting the company, Rothstein, whose background is in enterprise software sales, created an app called Papa with his cousin Andrew. Papa, which Andrew now runs and which UpsideHōM works with, offers care and companionship to seniors.
What UpsideHōM does, Rothstein says, is create a new category of senior living “without laying a single brick.”
The program works like this:
The company has tapped into the multifamily market to create partnerships with apartment complexes. These complexes are vetted to make sure they are compatible for safety, accessibility and geography. The goal, Rothstein says, is to “to make sure that they’re really going to be safe and provide good places for older adults to thrive in.”
Once a complex has been approved, its added to the network and the units are retrofitted as needed.
A senior who moves in can then access a suite of services and is assigned a home manager. This is a dedicated person who, Rothstein says, is a surrogate grandchild of sorts that a senior can call, text, email or contact through a dedicated app.
The services offered typically fall into four categories: food, transportation, healthcare services and community events and activities. They include sending a single bill for water, electric, cable and internet as well as offering transportation, grocery delivery, regular housekeeping, a dedicated concierge team, optional companion visits, laundry and dry cleaning, virtual and in-person learning and fitness programming.
Because the company doesn’t deal with medical issues, it does not have to be regulated by the state.
While the company pushes the concept of independent living, it does offer a roommate service for those who want to spend a few dollars less by renting a room, want companionship or both. Rothstein says roommates are matched up based on compatibility and several other criteria rather than age.
The whole idea behind UpsideHōM, the company says in its marketing, is to create a “community of like-minded people who live in close proximity, the result is essentially a senior living community fused with the perks of independent living.”
Rothstein says the company is currently housing residents as young as 59 years sold to “as old as 95, 96 years old, who are also independent, but might need a little extra help here and there.”
In May, UpsideHōM announced that it was expanding its services beyond South Florida to other markets in the state, including Tampa, Naples, Jacksonville and Pensacola. And it plans to expand to 100 new markets across the U.S. by the end of 2022.
To date, there are 1,000 communities in nine states with residents paying between $3,500 to $4,500 per month, according to a spokeswoman. On its website July 28, the company showed apartments in Florida were available in Tampa, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Largo, Palm Harbor, Clearwater, Brandon, Riverview and Lutz, but did not name individual complexes.
Beyond disclosing the expansion and the number of communities, UpsideHōM is tightlipped about its numbers and operations.
Rothstein declined to disclose current revenue and projections with the Business Observer and would not say how much money the company had raised thus far. What he did say is that the company is “growing significantly month over month, double digit percentages month over month.”
A company spokeswoman did not respond to a request to be put in contact with a community in UpsideHōM’s network and declined to make residents available for an interview.
There is one number Rothstein is happy to discuss, and that is the number 90.
The number of Americans older than 65 is expected to top 90 million by the year 2030, he says. And traditionally, senior living facilities have had a 10% penetration rate in the 65 and older market.
“We’re not going after that 10%, we’re going after the 90% of people that say they want to age in place, that will never wind up, or never would have wound up, in senior living to begin with,” Rothstein says.
“So that’s our market. And we believe it’s a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity in the United States.”
And if that turns out to be true, his grandmother will have indeed taught him a valuable lesson.