Singapore Tatler - - STYLE JEW­ELLERY -

Elder­care in Sin­ga­pore seems be­set by de­mo­graphic chal­lenges. On the one hand, a quar­ter of the pop­u­la­tion will be aged 65 and above by 2030, which trans­lates to a need for an ad­di­tional 30,000 healthcare work­ers by 2020. On the other hand, there are now fewer younger work­ers avail­able, and a long-stand­ing dif­fi­culty of at­tract­ing peo­ple to the nurs­ing sec­tor. En­sur­ing our grey­ing pop­u­la­tion will be ad­e­quately cared for thus ap­pears to be a daunt­ing task. En­ter Homage, a so­cial en­ter­prise that uses an al­go­rithm to match se­nior cit­i­zens with trained and cer­ti­fied care pro­fes­sion­als— an Uber model for elder­care, if you will. Co-founded by techno­preneur Gil­lian Tee, along with healthcare ex­ec­u­tive Lily Phang, the ser­vice was launched in 2016 and has since amassed over 300 care­givers and de­liv­ered more than 20,000 hours of care­giv­ing. All of Homage’s care­givers are Sin­ga­pore cit­i­zens or per­ma­nent res­i­dents, and over half come with pro­fes­sional nurs­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. These for­mer nurses are given reg­u­lar re­fresher cour­ses, while those who are new to care­giv­ing re­ceive strin­gent train­ing that en­ables them to qual­ify for cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the Agency for In­te­grated Care. “We have so many peo­ple ap­ply­ing to be care­givers; our ac­cep­tance rate is now less than 10 per cent,” Gil­lian shares. “Be­sides be­ing a sus­tain­able source of man­power, the other ad­van­tage of a lo­cal care­giver work­force is that they can bet­ter con­nect with the el­derly by speak­ing the same lan­guages and di­alects. In terms of growth, we can eas­ily dou­ble ev­ery quar­ter.” Homage has been able to tap into this pow­er­ful la­tent work­force mainly due to its busi­ness model. Fam­i­lies seek­ing care­givers for the el­derly can en­ter their de­tails (for ex­am­ple, the med­i­cal con­di­tions the el­derly per­son has) on the Homage web­site or app, or sim­ply call up its hot­line. A care as­sess­ment by Homage staff might also take place in per­son, if nec­es­sary. All this data is then en­tered into the Homage sys­tem, to match the client with a care­giver who is both suit­ably trained (for in­stance, some might be ex­pe­ri­enced in en­gag­ing de­men­tia pa­tients) and avail­able dur­ing the re­quested care­giv­ing pe­riod. This flex­i­bil­ity means women who left their jobs to raise their chil­dren, for in­stance, can still earn an in­come by tak­ing on work that fits their sched­ules. Cur­rently, over 90 per cent of Homage care­givers are women, and client re­quests are typ­i­cally ful­filled within a day. Ef­fi­ciency aside, Homage’s larger mis­sion can be gleaned from the name of the busi­ness. Gil­lian was raised by her grandmother and an el­derly nanny as a child, and moved back to Sin­ga­pore after spend­ing 15 years in the start-up scene in New York and Sil­i­con Val­ley partly be­cause her mother was get­ting older and she wanted to be closer to home. “Homage means pay­ing re­spect to a per­son you hold in high re­gard. For me, it’s about giv­ing es­teem and dig­nity back to the peo­ple who have given us so much,” she ex­plains. Dur­ing the first few months of start­ing their busi­ness, Gil­lian and co-founder Lily fo­cused solely on un­der­stand­ing their cus­tomers. “If you start off with the tech­nol­ogy, it will not work,” Gil­lian ex­plains. “We found fam­i­lies who needed care­givers and learned about the is­sues they were fac­ing and how we could help them.” That hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence—right down to help­ing to change adult di­a­pers—made her re­alise that fam­i­lies of all shapes and sizes fre­quently faced the same prob­lems but sel­dom talked to oth­ers about these chal­lenges. “There’s this weird at­ti­tude about age­ing that’s al­most like ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’” she muses. That strange ret­i­cence will not help the de­mo­graphic changes that are com­ing our way. “We take for granted the things we do ev­ery day—walk­ing around, mov­ing from our bed to the din­ing ta­ble, feed­ing our­selves. But when we ad­vance to a point in our lives when we can’t do these things any­more, what are our op­tions? As we get older, what does it take to be in a set­ting of your choos­ing, where you can be in­de­pen­dent? For us, trans­form­ing elder­care is about think­ing through a holis­tic set of healthcare and well­ness solutions, so that peo­ple can have op­tions and feel in con­trol.”

Tank Améri­caine watch in white gold with di­a­monds, Love neck­lace in white gold with di­a­monds and Juste un Clou ring in yel­low gold, all by Cartier; Cartier Love bracelet in pink gold, Gil­lian’s own

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