Boomers find value later in life as senior caregivers


There are two colors that bubble to the surface as it relates to at-home senior adult care. The first: Graying baby boomers are averse to living in a nursing home. The second: Older adults are willing to part with their greenbacks in exchange for services that help them avoid spending their remaining years in a skilled nursing facility.

Dave VanderLinde Jr., regional owner of Seniors Helping Seniors in-home services along with his sister, Judy VanderLinde, said these and other trends are compelling reasons he has his eye on expanding the franchise network in Grand Rapids from its current one to three. Seniors Helping Seniors has 14 franchises in Michigan with nine in the greater Detroit area.

“Our typical franchise serves about 250,000 people and we have about 600,000 people in Kent County, so this area certainly can support three of our businesses,” said VanderLinde.

Franchisees pay $45,000 for the Seniors Helping Seniors license rights with another $75,000 to $100,000 usually needed to cover the costs of insurance, marketing and related equipment.

VanderLinde said Seniors Helping Seniors’ sustainable business model is based on a number of factors. They include a growing, aging population that wants to remain living in their homes but may need non-medical help, including cooking, yard work, trips to the grocery store, small home repairs, personal grooming and Alzheimer/dementia care.

Other factors reflect a well-known trend: An average of 10,000 baby boomers daily reach the age of 65, and 85 percent of them affirm they do not want a nursing home to be part of their retirement plans.

The final reason: People are living longer and are determined about where they want to live.

“In the last 75 years, people have been given an extra 30 years in life expectancy,” said VanderLinde. “People are living longer and don’t want to go into a nursing home, and boomers have the means to stay in their home. And now we’re seeing, as more seniors age, they’re able to stay at home.”

All of this means a bit of a hiring uptick, as well. VanderLinde said Seniors Helping Seniors employs older adults as part-time care providers who are matched to fit a client’s personality and needs.

“We’ve got about 40 seniors actively working right now and about a dozen more who made it through our interview process,” said VanderLinde. “They go through three interviews and a criminal background check. We’ve been blessed with this business. A lot of seniors need help here in Grand Rapids and, as the business continues to grow, we except to add 20 more care providers this year.

“We match up clients with healthy, active seniors. Some are retired — some not by choice — and are looking for a way to get out and be active in the community. Maybe they’re widows or widowers, and this is a good way for them to get out.”

Seniors tend to possess a work ethic that eclipses his generation’s, said VanderLinde.

“I’m in my mid-30s and my immediate reaction was, aren’t all these old people going to get sick or going to die on us? That was my initial thought and reaction, and as it turns out, last year I bet I’ve had more sick days than all our caregivers combined. They’ve got a work ethic that just blows my generation’s out of the water. If they say they’re going to be there, they’re going to be there and be there 15 minutes early.”

Kiran Yocom, who worked with Mother Teresa for 14 years before moving to the United States from India, teamed with husband Philip Yocom to start Seniors Helping Seniors in 1998. The company, which began franchising in 2006, offers companionship and nonmedical care provided by other seniors, rather than younger caretakers.

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