Enhancing the quality of life of older adults everywhere — that’s the mission of Upside, the organization Jake Rothstein and I founded as an alternative to today’s traditional senior living options. Our goal is to help people age in the right place, and that journey begins with offering members the safest, most supportive and flexible environments possible so they can be free to live their best lives. Home is an “upstream” factor of overall health — the core of everything we do at Upside. If you can’t get that right, then the other things you do to positively impact social determinants of health don’t have as strong of an effect.
When Jake first pitched the concept of Upside to me, I was immediately hooked. I was already familiar with everything Papa had accomplished and was fascinated by the opportunity to help create this new category of senior living.
The mission of Upside is very personal to me. It hits home, as I am extremely close with my grandparents and experienced firsthand the challenges associated with finding them an appropriate place to live as they got older. Today’s options were not up to any of our standards, and it was difficult seeing them go through this process of trying to figure out what’s next for them when their choices were so limited.
They weren’t ready to move into a traditional senior living environment, so for me, it was very personal to create this new option for older adults. The more involved I got, the more I realized that my grandparents were part of a large majority of people facing the same struggles. Only 10% of older adults opt for senior living, so what’s going on with the other 90%? Because they don’t want to move into a 55+ community, assisted living facility or nursing home, they choose to ‘age in place.’
Everything starts in the home. The circumstances of people’s living environments influence their daily outcomes, which significantly impacts their overall health and well-being. At Upside, we don’t believe in aging in place — we are strong proponents of aging in the right place. If the only options an older adult has is between a traditional senior living environment and their 1920s three-story colonial home where they’ve lived for the past 50 years, more likely than not they’re going to choose to age in place. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their longtime and beloved home is the right (or safe) option for them anymore. At Upside, we’ve created this new type of living environment for older adults where we can fully manage and monetize buildings across the country and provide this layer of services that’s geared and customized to our members’ needs at any given moment.
When you think about it that way, it’s a no brainer. I always say that if I’m fortunate enough to get older one day, the type of living environment Upside provides is what I would want for myself. We’re doing this for our grandparents and parents, but also for ourselves. Our goal is to create an enhanced quality of lives for all of us — now and many years into the future.
It’s truly like senior living in disguise because our members live in standard apartment buildings surrounded by people of all ages. No one would ever know that their next door neighbor, Betty, is living in an Upside home and receiving the extra services she needs to live her best life and age in the right place. What’s more, Betty can feel comfortable inviting friends and family to come to her home because it’s a normal apartment that she’s proud to show off.
Not only are members proud to live in multigenerational communities, it’s also better for their health. Extensive research has shown the rapid decline that takes place in traditional senior living models, where people are separated into homogenous populations and activities of daily living, such as cooking or caring for yourself, are taken away. In this setting, people can start to lose their sense of independence and freedom, and it just accelerates the aging process. I didn’t want that for my grandparents, and it’s certainly not the way I want to go through my aging journey.
The key to improving one’s overall health begins with providing them a safe and secure home in which to live. We say, “Housing is health, and health is housing.” There’s a strict quality control process that each of our properties passes before being offered to our members. We have garden-style apartments, which are typical three- to four-story complexes that don’t have elevators, so our members live on the ground level. Then, there’s high-rise apartments, which include elevators that allow our members to live on any floor they want. But even then, we check every building and every unit to make sure they are accessible and provide safe living environments.
Each of our apartments also come equipped with in-unit washers and dryers and various other amenities, such as grab bars, toilet risers or fall detection software that can be added to any of our units before a member moves in or later if they decide they want to incorporate those extra safety features.
For our members, knowing that they’re going to be in a place that’s immaculately maintained and going to protect them the right way is very important — as are the fixed rates and financial stability Upside provides. Bills can add up quickly, especially when there’s so much to keep track of and maintain. Our members pay one bill, which is itemized for them to see each service that is being charged to them.
As people age, their health needs and services that are available to them change. But people often have little to no understanding of these benefits or how to take advantage of them. For example, many people’s health plans already include free transportation or food or exercise programs, so why pay extra for services they can already get for free? Navigating the complexities of health care and insurance benefits can be overwhelming, but there are a variety of tools available to help older adults navigate this process. On top of that, it’s part of Upside’s mission to help our members become aware and access these services.
With a safe and stable foundation members can trust, they are free to spend their time engaging in more enjoyable activities that enhance their overall quality of life, such as taking a cooking class, participating in a golf league, attending a concert, meeting friends for coffee, signing up for a book club, visiting a local art exhibit or community event, volunteering at a local food bank or animal shelter or even considering employment opportunities. The possibilities are endless and easily accessible to our members with the help of their Upside Managers.
Everything we offer our members goes back to our core purpose — it goes back to the home. If we can put a roof over our members’ heads and gain a level of trust with them, they’re going to come to us and let us help them live their best lives. It’s all about customization and the strong, organic relationships that exist between members and their Upside Managers. Unlike a traditional apartment rental, we don’t just hand the keys off to our members and never speak to them again. We are with them every day throughout the entire experience.
Recently, we had a member who wasn’t feeling well and admitted himself to the ER. The first person he called was his Upside Manager to let that person know what was going on with him. It’s amazing to see that our Upside Managers can build relationships like that with our members. That’s the ultimate goal. It’s our job, but more than that, we truly care about each of our members. We treat every member like we would our own grandparents or parents. We’re here to be an extension of our members’ families. We want to be that trusted resource for our members. For their families, it provides a sense of relief and a weight off of their shoulders to know that there’s an expert looking after their loved ones.
If you figure out aging in the right place, housing is truly at the core and services like ours provide a lot of different — no pun intended — upside potential for older adults and the adult children who are involved in this process.
If you’re fortunate enough to get older — that’s a real treat, and you deserve to put your feet up because you earned it. Let us deal with the burdens. It’s our job to take care of as much (or as little) as you want. We have the systems and technology in place to streamline everything for you. Beyond that, Upside’s success is a true testament to the dedication of all of our employees, from the Upside Managers to the sales, marketing, real estate and operations teams. Our mission is personal to everyone who works here, and nothing is going to stand in our way of making our members’ lives better.