Rise of Concierge Services for Seniors Makes Aging in Place EasierRise of Concierge Services for Seniors Makes Aging in Place Easier

Who could have predicted that the rise of smartphones and Wi-Fi connected tablets would usher in an era of old-fashioned local home delivery? Merchants of yore delivered milk and eggs, prescriptions, clean laundry and other items because so few people had cars. These days, time is the scarce commodity that has people hiring help with everything from grocery shopping and standing in line at the pharmacy to changing lightbulbs and walking the dog. Investors have put millions of dollars into startups designed to help people get all kinds of items and help at a moment’s notice.

These days you can use your computer or smartphone to get help with:

Other companies offer a combination of concierge services. Envoy delivers groceries, runs errands, and does light household chores. TaskRabbit does pretty much everything from furniture assembly and party help to groceries and cleaning. Postmates delivers groceries, drugstore items, and meals from local restaurants.  Favor runs local errands and delivers restaurant meals. Amazon Prime Now delivers items from ice cream to internet routers on short notice.

Not all of these services are specifically marketed to seniors. Envoy is the only one listed above that’s tailored to serve seniors and their family members. But all of these services and others like them have the potential to make life easier for seniors, full-time caregivers who need extra help, and family members who balance senior care with maintaining a career and/or raising children.

The trick to getting the most from today’s service companies is understanding what each company provides. Questions to ask before using an on-demand service include:

Does the service operate in your area? Many services, such as ZipDrug and Zeel, are only available in certain cities—a typical choice for startups who want to develop a customer base and iron out their processes before expanding to more locations. Others, like Rover, cover pretty much the entire country.

Is the service available via computer, or must you use a smartphone or tablet app? Instacart lets users place orders and rate deliveries through its apps and via computer, while Amazon’s Prime Now service is only accessible via mobile app. That’s something to consider if vision or fine-motor skill problems make it hard to use a smartphone or tablet.

How much support, screening and training does the service platform provide? Many home-delivery and service startups are set up as digital platforms to connect independent workers with customers. This type of company usually assumes no or limited liability if something goes wrong with your order, although they do offer customer support. Read the terms of service and ask customer support before you place an order if you’re unsure about the company’s policies.

Understand whether and how the company does background checks. Envoy puts all prospective task runners through extensive checks and interviews and trains the successful applicants in customer service. Rover, on the other hand, makes background checks optional for its sitters and walkers, so it’s up to customers to read reviews left by other users and to look for the background check seal.

Once you find concierge services you’re comfortable with, you may find that the cost of delivery fees and tips is a small price to pay in order to remain at home, to have more time to take care of other responsibilities, and to spend more time with the people you care about.

Need help now? Explore the wide variety of vendors who offer concierge services for seniors.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance writer whose childhood was made awesome by her grandmothers, great-grandmother, great-aunts and -uncles, and their friends.

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