According to estimates by the year 2030, about one in five Singapore residents will be aged 65 or older. Furthermore, these residents have a longer life expectancy than before, projected up to 85.3 years as compared to 78.8 years in 1980. As the nation experiences an ageing population, there is a dire need for robust, reliable old-age support that caters to evolving social and healthcare needs.
This isn’t an issue in Singapore, but also around the world and in Southeast Asia as well. COVID helped exacerbate this issue, while at the same time it merely highlighted an ongoing issue that many countries face when it comes to an increasing elderly population.
To provide a viable solution that provides the necessary space, while also solving issues around elderly care, startup Red Crowns Senior Living was born. This Singapore-based company aims at filling these gaps by providing a number of quality care homes across the country at affordable prices making retirement and ageing a pleasant process for seniors.
Founder and CEO Joshua Goh isn’t new to this sector, having previously founded and run ST Hospitality prior to its acquisition by Katrina Group. We spoke to him to better understand how he plans to solve the silver tsunami issue and what are his plans for his business.
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With many more seniors on their waitlist, Red Crowns is also developing a new digital platform, retireGENIE, which acts as a digital concierge and marketplace. The new platform will help match the seniors more efficiently and provide them with a better experience. Homeowners looking to house seniors can also engage this platform to find suitable senior tenants. With retireGENIE’s matching abilities, Red Crowns aims to cater to thousands of senior citizens across the country.
Can you explain how Red Crowns works?
Red Crowns helps seniors to age-n-place in homely environments instead of institutional settings. Seniors will co-live in domestic HDB flats or condominiums with up to 3 other housemates and live-in caregivers. The process includes matching each senior with the most suitable housemates and caregivers based on their individual needs and assisting in setting up the homes and maintaining them over time. Red Crowns provides three types of co-living environments: independent living, assisted living and memory care.
Landlords in Singapore typically do not lease to seniors but with Red Crowns, there’s a track record of more willingness to do so. Another challenge for many seniors is that they own properties but are unable to generate any income plus find themselves living in isolation. This is another area where Red Crowns can help by introducing rent-paying co-living tenants.
In essence, Red Crowns acts as a concierge manager for the seniors. We manage their housing rental, caregiving needs, meals, medication, social activities, and more. We make the process effective yet simple so that the seniors can focus on enjoying their time with their families and their newfound friends. Technological advancements can add years to life. We hope we can add life to years.
Co-living is an interesting concept for the elderly. Do you plan to expand this around the region?
We are planning to enter and have our first co-living homes in Hong Kong by Q3 this year. Hong Kong has a dense urban population which is also rapidly aging. The seniors in Hongkong are facing financial pressure from the high cost of housing and caregiving support. This makes aging-in-place more challenging. Our hypothesis is that Red Crowns co-living solution should be able to bring down the costs through the sharing economies.
We have the vision that Red Crowns seniors from different cities can swap homes and continue to travel the world. Interestingly, our name was inspired by a type of migratory bird called red-crowned crane. It lives long, is highly sociable, and migrates smoothly over long distances each year. It is the perfect epitome of aging gracefully that we at Red Crowns embrace.
What do you foresee as some of the major challenges to expanding this concept?
Bringing quality care and service standard to every Red Crowns coliving homes all over the island requires a rethink of the conventional command and control approach. We advocate humanity above bureaucracy: to build an organization culture that inspires ownership from the bottom up is what fundamentally makes us different from major institutions in elder care. A household of seniors derives their sense of belonging from our ability to garner community support and compassion from the caregivers, their family members, and even the seniors themselves. This requires the best of the team to look into the tiniest of details, and that is not always easy.
Red Crowns is the first mover in this domain. In many aspects, the existing government policies were not designed for seniors coliving. Active advocacy in influencing policies, with respect to conditions of stay, level of subsidies, and human resource deployment, is required for the solution to gain widespread adoption.
Although many people are not aware of our solution and may take more to be convinced, thankfully, I do witness that seniors are less resistant to Red Crowns model as compared to traditional nursing homes.
How will retireGENIE work?
There is urgency to tackle the growing housing and caregiving needs for our seniors. And for that, we need to scale up fast. retireGENIE is a senior coliving marketplace that activates latent resources in our society for better cost, operations, and logistical efficiencies. It is a matching platform to bring together people with spare rooms, caregivers with available time, and seniors with needs. Through consolidation, real estate spaces and manpower are more efficiently deployed. This will also increase the available options for seniors, and it will be fast. retireGENIE allows the coliving units to be self-organized without relying on concierge managers like Red Crowns. Given enough time and experience, we will be able to know what to automate and how to automate the process for greater efficiency. Subjecting the matching algorithm to machine learning will further improve the success rate of each match. If it sounds like seniors Tinder meet Airbnb, it is likely not a coincidence.
What’s next for Red Crowns?
We anticipate more than 1000 seniors to join our coliving program within the next 24 months with the development of retireGENIE. We will focus on streamlining our processes and developing our people. The current process for the seniors and live-in caregivers to move into a coliving home is painstakingly long and tedious. It involves many government agencies, multiple documentations, and human indecisiveness. It is imperative we simplify and automate the customer journey. It is an ongoing journey to build a team that is driven by purpose and compassion. Empowering our talents and lifting them up is what will prepare us for the infinite game. We will not continue to be the only mover and competition is around the corner.
It was an exciting first year for us, and we are learning and moving fast. What is most encouraging is to know that our solution is well received by the seniors and their families. Their words of approval and satisfaction on our Google business review page are nothing but motivations for us to scale up fast to serve millions of seniors globally. Let’s do good and do well!