Photo: in old age, apart from other health concerns,

Photo: Homage / Homage Care Pro Lee Peng with Mdm Ting, a senior who receives regular home care from Homage.Award-winning social enterprise Homage uses technology to tackle the needs of Singapore’s ageing populationWhile learning to care for their ageing parents, Gillian Tee and Lily Phang discovered a lack of home care services in Singapore. Both were concerned about how to cope with their mothers’ loneliness in old age, apart from other health concerns, and found it difficult to look for trusted caregivers.”On top of that, we also realised that a lot of the elderly ended up in hospitals because of poor living conditions at home. For example, they might easily contract pneumonia from poor feeding, which can be avoided with the right kind of home care,” says Phang, who has had experience working in public healthcare here. (CAN WE SAY WHAT’S HER EXPERIENCE? NURSING?)”We wanted to improve the quality and accessibility of home care services in responseto that.”Together, they co-founded Homage in 2016 to combine healthcare and technology to tackle the needs of Singapore’s rapidly ageing population.Homage, which is available online or as a mobile app, offers on-demand home care services that mainly assist ailing seniors with their Activities of Daily Living (ADL). Most frequently requested by those in need of caregiving, these everyday activities run the gamut from personal hygiene and care to providing companionship.”Beyond acute medical care, what is important to these seniors during their golden years is to have support for their mental and emotional well-being in the comfort of their own homes,” says Phang.Photo: Homage / Co-founders Gillian Tee (left) and Lily Phang (right) at the National Day Rally 2017, where Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong highlighted Homage as an example of how technology is being used to improve the safety of seniors living alone.’A service we can personally trust our parents with’A wide array of home care services is offered on Homage’s platform with a starting cost of $22 an hour for a one-off session. Apart from basic nursing and ADL, caregivers are also skilled in administering nursing procedures such as catheter care and injections. More specialised care is also available, such as speech therapy and home physiotherapy.When matching a senior to the best-suited caregiver, otherwise known as a Care Pro, Homage uses a smart algorithm that takes into account more than 50 variables from their profiles, which include the senior’s medical conditions and the caregiver’s experience and availability.On the mobile app, users can schedule visits on behalf of the senior—who is typically a loved one, access reports about each care visit, and communicate with Care Pros on the go.But although Homage uses technology to facilitate each care visit, Tee and Phang are quick to stress that the core of their service is about providing the human touch.”The way we weave technology into our service is to enhance our users’ experience and allocate caregivers more expediently than what a human coordinator can achieve. But ultimately, we are always looking to add more of a human touch and go beyond a basic, minimal level of care,” says Tee.For example, before assigning a Care Pro based on the algorithm, Homage will send a senior registered nurse to assess a care recipient’s medical and environmental conditions at home before recommending a holistic care plan. This helps to ensure that the senior’s needs can be accurately met.Standards are kept high at Homage since it accepts less than 10% of Care Pro applicants. Currently, more than 400 caregivers work part-time for Homage. They must undergo a rigorous selection process which involves a background check, CPR certification, tuberculosis screening, among others.Homage also hires those who have some form of caregiving experience, such as stay-at-home mums looking to return to the workforce, and equips them with the relevant nursing skills. (HOW IS THE TRAINING DONE? WHO TRAINS?)One such caregiver was Mary who had resigned from her full-time job to take care of her late mother-in-law—a stroke survivor. “Upon joining Homage, we trained and supported Mary on her first few assignments. Over time she gained confidence and is now one of the most trusted and trained Care Pros available,” says Phang.”At the end of the day, we want to keep our service quality high so that we know we can personally trust our parents with Homage’s Care Pros,” adds Tee.Photo: Homage / The team at Homage What lies aheadFor now, they still have their work cut out for them.One of the challenges that Homage faces is to increase awareness about the types of home care available to seniors.”While we are experiencing a shift in healthcare to home- and community-based care, we still regularly encounter Singaporeans who need to be made better aware of what options are available. It’s one of the reasons why we’ve officially partnered with some of the largest local care organizations and Voluntary Welfare organizations (VWOs) such as The Salvation Army to deploy Care Pros and provide care to lower-income seniors,” says Tee. In 2016 Homage was awarded the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant, which recognised the start-up’s potential to not only plug the gap in demand for home care services but also to shake up the healthcare industry. Since then, they have also gone on to win the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise Start-up of the Year in 2017.”We will be using the grant to continue improving our home care services. For example, we are refining our mobile app to support multiple family members managing the same care recipients, which will help to reassure the family that their loved ones are in trusted hands. “After all, no one will ever wake up in five years and wish for poorer and less accessible care for their loved ones, so we see ourselves investing even more resources to meet higher standards in those areas.”