In the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy Gale runs away from her family’s farm in Kansas to find her heart’s desire. After discovering a magical land filled with fascinating characters and experiencing an adventure of a lifetime, she quickly realizes that what she misses most was something she had all along. As she closes her eyes and clicks the heels of her ruby red slippers together three times, she recites one of the most famous lines in cinematic history — “There’s no place like home.”
So what does home mean to you? When I think of home, I picture someplace that feels like mine — a warm and welcoming space in a community that brings me joy and has a positive impact on my mental, physical and emotional well-being.
Giving Seniors the Power to Age Where They Want
Home is not an institutional setting. It’s not where I visited my grandfather after his health declined and he had to go into a memory care facility. He had an apartment that was filled with his possessions and sprinkled with family photos, but it did not feel like home. It was a foreign location filled with strangers — away from where he raised his family and created memories, and outside of the community where he had grown older.
Upside is the opposite of what comes to mind when you think of senior living. This idea of a non-institutionalized environment that is yours, where you can grow older within a community that you know and love is very important.
When my grandfather needed to be moved to a memory care facility, my grandmother was 87 years old and living alone for the first time in her adult life. She was in good health and able to take care of herself, but the large, two-story house that she and my grandfather had built was not safe for her. She also needed a little help with things like driving at night, going to the grocery store and paying bills.
She did not want to move into a senior living facility — a place where her independence would be stripped away, and she would be surrounded by people who were all around the same age. So we moved her into an apartment in the community where she had resided for many years, and I stepped in to help her.
Luckily, my family and I were able to provide my grandmother with a safe, suitable home and surround her with the assistance she needed without having to move her into a traditional senior living facility. But what about the other hundreds of thousands of families who could not provide older adults with the type of support we were providing my grandmother? Now, Upside is that solution — filling the enormous gap in senior living and providing a safe and fulfilling home for the 90% of older adults who do not want to age in a traditional senior care environment.
Upside takes an individualized approach to caring for older adults. That means providing a delicate balance of support, flexibility and independence — all of which are vital components to healthy outcomes.
One of the most common reasons older adults decide to age in place is to maintain their independence. They want to live their golden years on their terms, by their own schedules and with the freedom and flexibility to do things their way. Maintaining one’s independence is not only important to one’s emotional well-being and sense of worth, it’s also vital to their mental health. Allowing a person to continue caring for themselves as much as possible helps avoid cognitive decline. Institutionalized settings remove the need for people to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as cooking, cleaning, dressing and other more complex tasks that require thinking and organizational skills.
When people stop performing those tasks, they stop being able to do them. Then, cognitive decline can happen pretty quickly. If you remove the task of cooking, after a week, month or a year of not doing that yourself, you forget how to do that. At Upside, we believe that’s a bad idea. Instead, if you still like to cook, we help make that easier for you by delivering groceries to you or sending a housekeeper to help you clean up afterward so you don’t have to load the dishwasher by yourself.
Institutional settings take a pretty clinical approach to senior care. Staff members consist of trained professionals who help residents bath, use the bathroom and perform other ADLs. But what about the older adults who don’t need those kinds of services and would benefit more from having a person similar to a child or grandchild who can help them with the day-to-day activities that can be hard for them to accomplish by themselves? Through the variety of services Upside offers, we can provide that type of assistance. We allow our members to remain independent much longer as a result of these supplemental services.
That’s why the relationship between our members and their Upside Managers is so important. They act as care managers, helping our members understand the variety of services we offer, from meal prep, food delivery and transportation to experiences and health care services.
Trust is at the core of good health care. One of the things we aim to do — and I think we do a pretty good job of — is building trust with our members. What does that mean? Once our members establish a trusting relationship with their Upside Manager, they start trusting them with all of these other ancillary things that will enrich their lives and prolong their well-being and longevity. I like to call it help with heart. It’s a huge component of positive health outcomes.
Routine and socialization are very important. At Upside, we create communities within communities, providing members with opportunities to interact with people of all ages, as well as engage in activities in which they enjoy. We have weekly calendars of events and schedules — activities members’ have expressed interest in doing — that we try to plan regularly. It’s crucial to have some sort of routine, especially for people who are beginning to develop dementia. Providing older adults with structure and predictability reduces stress, improves sleep and makes them feel more grounded.
On the flip side, the type of routine that is built into traditional senior living environments is very much a one-size-fits-all approach. There’s a chair exercising class in the lounge every day at 10 o’clock, bingo at 3 o’clock and someone who sings folk music or plays the violin in the lobby three days a week after dinner.
There’s something about routine that is positive, but it also can be mundane. Some older adults who are younger and healthier desire diversity in their schedules and the types of activities they’re doing. The key here is flexibility. So regardless of whether someone wants diversity in their schedule or a strict routine, Upside’s customizable approach can accommodate those needs.
How Upside Senior Living Is Making a Difference in the Lives of Seniors
As Upside continues to grow, I think about my grandmother. I built this company with her in mind. It was too late for her to utilize it, but it’s something that would have been perfect for her. The reality is that there’s nothing quite like Upside available. We’re proud to bring this to the market and transform the way people think about senior living and their futures.