A few months ago my dad called me in a panic from his home in Texas. My 73-year-old mom had just had knee surgery and the hospital was about to release her. Problem was, she was still feeble and wobbly -- not at all ready to go home. Would I get on the internet and find a place where she could safely stabilize?
Sounded easy enough, but after several hours searching the web for nursing homes in my mom's ZIP code, perusing outdated websites and calling around to find out which facilities had openings, I felt frustrated and confused. If our society is aging as rapidly as everyone says, why hasn't the technology caught up to meet the impending need? And, when time was of the essence (as it was for my mom), why would finding a place be such a time-consuming process?
So, no surprise that the story of Seniorly -- a startup that's tackling some of these issues -- caught my attention. Specifically, it's launching a new tool designed to make booking a short-term stay in an assisted living community as easy as booking a room on a site like Hotels.com or Airbnb.
"The senior housing industry is a highly fragmented industry," says Arthur Bretschneider, Seniorly's founder and CEO. "There are just so many options out there. And it's really hard to find all these options."
Technology in the senior housing industry has been moving at a slower pace, Bretschneider says. A lot of assisted living facilities are small, family-run businesses. Even in tech-savvy San Francisco, many still don't have websites.
The new search tool, launching first in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento, does a number of things that will feel familiar to customers of online hotel booking sites. Along with a comprehensive list of local facilities, users will be able to find pricing information, and conduct cost comparisons, book rooms directly through the site, take virtual video tours of communities and schedule in-person tours.
"I see this unmet need of technology meeting the busy lives of professionals to support their parents," says Daniele Farnedi, former Chief Technology Officer of Trulia who now serves as one of Seniorly's advisors. Farnedi says his support is largely driven by his own experience trying to help his father-in-law find supportive care.
"(He) was remote, in Florida and it was a nightmare for us to really find the right location, the right place," he says. "It was just very, very, very painful."