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[November 14, 2012]
SitterCity adds site dedicated to senior care
Nov 14, 2012 (Chicago Tribune - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Sittercity, the Chicago-based company that pioneered online matchmaking between families and caregivers, has introduced a subsidiary dedicated to senior care.
Years Ahead launched in beta mode in the second quarter and is now making a bigger marketing push because the holidays tend to be the busiest time of year for those seeking senior care, said General Manager Melissa Marchwick. She said children who may not see their parents frequently tend to notice aging more during holiday visits.
Chicago entrepreneur Genevieve Thiers launched Sittercity more than a decade ago to connect families with babysitters. Since then, the company has expanded to petsitters, housekeepers, tutors and senior companions. Marchwick, who joined Sittercity in 2007 and headed marketing before being tapped to lead Years Ahead, said the company looked at demographic trends and identified a significant business opportunity in elder care.
The category was also quite different from child care, prompting the need for a separate website and platform. Marchwick said her team's research revealed that most consumers were unaware of the differences between options such as assisted living, nursing homes and home health care. They also didn't know what would best fit their parents and were often stressed out by the decision-making process, especially if the search was prompted by a health crisis.
"We set out to build a site that helps people get educated into what they need and links them into the right level of care," Marchwick said.
Years Ahead partnered with the University of South Florida's School of Aging Studies to come up with an online needs assessment that users complete, answering questions on the senior's cognitive ability and medical conditions. The assessment then assigns the senior a 1 to 5 independence rating, which can be matched with a care provider. Years Ahead acquired a company called assistedlivingsource.com last year to help build out its network of facilities and institutions. Users can also speak with a certified senior care adviser if they need additional guidance in choosing a provider.
Years Ahead uses a different business model than Sittercity, where consumers searching for a caregiver pay a membership fee to use the site. On Years Ahead, the professional providers pay to be part of the company's network and connected with users, who can search for free.
Marchwick said her team functions like a startup within Sittercity and consists of about 10 people. She declined to share statistics on how many users Years Ahead has so far, but the company said in a press release that its network boasts more than 34,000 in-home and facility-based senior care providers nationwide.
Care.com, one of Sittercity's biggest competitors, offers senior care options, including assisted living and retirement communities.
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