Doing good by people. That’s what it’s all about at Upside. Through our network of premium, age-diverse apartments and dedicated Upside Managers, we strive to make the lives of older adults better — that’s our focus every day. How do we accomplish this? By helping those who are 55+ age in the right place.
During the past several years, the broader senior living market has created a buzz about aging in place. It’s become a prominent headline in media stories. When surveyed, 90% of people 55+ say they want to age in place.
At Upside, we believe that, fundamentally, the theory behind aging in place is flawed. When you’re 65 years old and of sound body and mind, of course you’re going to want to continue living in the house where you raised your kids and hosted dozens of beautiful Thanksgiving dinners and birthday parties. But the reality is that in the long term, people are not able to age in place. Over time, the circumstances of people’s lives change. We’ve bucketed those situations into five distinct categories: death, downsizing, divorce, disaster and disability.
Each of our Upside members has experienced at least one of those five life events and as a result, needed to move out of the house in which they had previously lived and raised a family.
Interestingly, if you asked anyone — regardless of their age — if they wanted to continue aging in place if they were amid one of those major life events, the result would be a very different number than 90%.
At Upside, our goal is to capture people before that trigger event happens, so they don’t have to move under a crazy amount of anxiety and duress, which we see a lot. We want members to age with us, so that when one of those major life events happens, they’re already nestled in a good place and can deal with those hardships without having to significantly alter their entire lives.
That’s the idea behind aging in the right place. Maybe at 55 years old, the right place is the home in which someone has lived for the past 50 years and built with their husband or wife and raised their children. But, maybe at 75 years old after their spouse has passed away, and they’ve run out of liquid assets to be able to support the care needs they might have, maybe that house is no longer the right place for them.
Upside is there to be on that continuum with them, and this theme of aging in the right place is the takeaway.
I started this company based on a personal need. Upside is the second company I’ve created in the longevity economy. The first company, Papa, which offers care and companionship for seniors, was inspired by my grandfather, who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and my grandmother, who was caring for him. At the time, I was a recent college graduate, and my grandfather just needed a little extra help and assistance. He didn’t need full time care because my grandmother cared for him, but she needed to get out of the house occasionally and visit her friends. So, I stepped in to help watch him and keep him safe when she left the house.
I really enjoyed spending time with my grandparents and thought of all of the other younger adults out there, especially college students, who needed flexible, part-time work. That’s when I created Papa (the name I used for my grandfather).
A few years later, my grandfather got to a point that he needed more care than what my grandmother was able to provide for him. So, my family moved him into a traditional senior living facility that specialized in memory care. At 87 years old, my grandmother was alone for the first time in her adult life. Overall, she was in good health, but she needed help accomplishing tasks, such as driving at night, going to the grocery store and paying bills — things that she had never done by herself. She also had recently undergone knee replacement surgery and was unable to navigate the large, two-story house that her and my grandfather had built.
At that point, my family and I decided that it was time for her to move into a situation that would be safer and better for her health. So, we sold the house and found her a rental apartment in the same neighborhood she knew and loved — where her doctor’s office, grocery store, family and friends were located. Then, I stepped in to help her. If she wanted to go to the grocery store, I’d take her. If she wanted to have dinner with my parents, I’d pick her up and take her home.
Afterward, I thought that my grandmother couldn’t be the only person in the U.S. who needed the type of support we were providing her. That was the genesis of Upside.
Initially, I thought of creating living environments like those of the Golden Girls. My grandmother would have loved to live with some friends, split the cost of a house and have someone else manage all of the maintenance needs and other necessities. However, I quickly realized that concept was unsustainable. For one thing, younger, healthier, older adults want amenities such as activities programming, gyms and pools. Then, there’s the issue of dealing with individualized landlords, some of whom may not be around on a regular basis to care for the properties and deal with maintenance issues in a timely fashion.
Then, I started thinking about how to execute this concept in regular, multifamily communities. Could an organization be created that could move older adults into these communities, and then wrap around this layer of services that members could use to duplicate the experience that they might get in a traditional senior living facility but without the stigma and at a much lower cost with more flexibility?
That’s how I landed on Upside’s current model and the environments, experiences and services we provide our members.
Many years ago, the tradition used to be that when older adults were no longer able to care for themselves in their own homes, they moved in with their children, who helped take care of them. Culturally, that doesn’t happen in the U.S. much anymore. Instead, people chase their careers, oftentimes moving across the country and leaving their parents behind. That trend has taken root during the last 30 to 50 years and created the need for a new solution to senior living. That solution turned into a model where companies found opportunities to buy less expensive land in the suburbs, far from society where building was more affordable. The idea was to create a facility where a large group of older adults could live under one roof in a relatively efficient manner with standardized care services, such as meals, common areas and activities.
However, during the last 10 years, we’ve experienced this technological boom that has enabled the economy to deliver services that, historically, have only been able to be accessed efficiently under one roof. Now, services can be disaggregated and delivered anywhere if they’re packaged properly and offered through an easy, single point of contact.
I saw all of these services that were helping millennials live their lives better and thought about how we could help older adults take advantage of them. I always think about my grandmother when I ponder these things and quickly realized it would be too cumbersome for an 88-year-old to try to access services such as Uber or Instacart or pay bills online through a portal. There’s too many login usernames and passwords to remember. But, through our Upside Managers, we can deliver this incredible experience that duplicates what older adults might get in a traditional senior living community, but it’s done outside the walls of it.
So, what’s the reason for pulling people away from the traditional senior living model? When someone is entered into a community of people who are very homogenous to them, it creates an environment that is very conducive to decline. I saw it with my own grandfather.
At Upside, we believe that we can capture people earlier in their aging journey and keep them healthier and out of institutionalized settings for longer — maybe even indefinitely. My critique for traditional senior living solutions is that bucketing people by age is not a fair thing to do. Aging is nuanced. You can be a 97-year-old who runs marathons. Or you can be a 55-year-old who has diabetes and is in a wheelchair. At Upside, we can increase people’s longevity by keeping them integrated into society, giving them more opportunities to thrive and making sure they don’t decline to the point that people do in traditional senior living communities.
Older adults can live better, longer, healthier, less expensive lives in an Upside home because it’s a controlled and destigmatized environment. We’ve selected, curated and hand-picked apartments that have undergone an extensive quality assurance. When we can control elements of someone’s built-in environment, we can start controlling their health outcomes and longevity and wellness.
Our process is almost like apartments.com on steroids. We help people find an apartment in the area that they desire that we’ve already identified as meeting our strict criteria for accessibility, geography and safety. Once we get someone moved in, we continue that relationship with them through the Home Management Team. All of the bills, rent and services go through us, and the renter just pays one monthly fee. It makes everything easy for them.
The services we offer fall into four main categories: food, transportation, experiences and health care services. But, there is so much more that goes into it. Our Upside Managers act as care managers. A lot of what we do is coaching and training our members to understand the variety of ways they can utilize their Upside Manager so they can get the most value out of that relationship.
The Upside Managers are virtual, but they are focused on meeting our members’ needs. One Upside Manager is dedicated to 50 members at the most. So that Upside Manager really builds a relationship with their members over time. They become accustomed to the things that their members want to do and things they need.
The services we’re providing through Upside are predominantly third-party services. We work closely with Papa, sending Papa Pals into members’ units every two weeks to help them with grocery shopping, light cleaning or whatever the members want to do. Papa Pals are available to members for two hours every month. But, if members want to spend more time with a Papa Pal, they can call their Upside Manager to set that up. Whatever members need, they can call their Upside Manager. It’s amazing to see the relationships that our members are building with our Upside Managers. These people are passionate about what they do and truly care for their members. It’s not like our members are using a call center; we really strive to keep humanity in this experience.
Our Upside Managers are really holistic life managers. They get to know our members and predict the things they like to do. It’s very personalized. We want to make sure we’re creating these individualized experiences because it’s something senior living facilities can’t do.
In a senior living community, it’s pretty much a one-size-fits-all approach. Members pay a certain amount every month, and that includes two meals a day, transportation and care. Even if the members doesn’t need transportation, care or food, they must pay for those services. At Upside, our goal is to segment that a little bit. We give our members the things they need today. We also offer the things they may need in the future, but they don’t have to pay for those services until they utilize them. It’s a more affordable, individualized solution.
Upside also has certified aging in place specialists who can conduct a home safety assessment and make recommendations about what systems, tools or devices could make their apartment safer. Things like threshold covers, shower grab bars and hallway lighting are all important and have a huge impact one someone’s health. These are simple things that, because we control the environment, we can easily help install in a member’s home. Overall, when it comes to aging in place, Upside focuses on discovering the right place for every individual and creating a personalized approach to helping them live their best, healthiest lives within a caring, intergenerational community. For those looking to take the next step toward aging in the right place, schedule an appointment to meet with an Upside team member today.