A year of Honor
It’s 5 AM. Her alarm goes off unapologetically and propels her into an upward position. No time to snooze. Her first order of the day consists of preparing breakfast for the kids and getting them ready for school. After that, she heads out for her client jobs: two in the afternoon, one in the evening, one pending confirmation. If she’s lucky, she’ll catch that job. It might mean an additional 40 dollars today. Of course she won’t be able to be back home in time to welcome her children. It’s hard to make ends meet. Even when she’s working multiple daily caregiving jobs through two different agencies.
This is reality for many caregiving professionals today.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
We started building Honor so our parents could age gracefully in the comfort of their own homes. In order to do this, we needed to make sure that Care Pros got a better chance to excel in their profession. We see our customers as both the Care Pros and the families in need of home care, that’s why we build our products and services with both groups in mind of equal priority. Higher pay and products specifically designed for Care Pros contribute significantly to better care. And in the process of building these products, we’ve heard many heartwarming stories illustrating how impactful well designed technology can be in underrepresented markets. Stories like hearing from one of our Care Pros that they’ve been able to move out of a shelter with their family to a place of their own since they’ve joined the platform are unforgettable. Being able to build a product for people outside of Silicon Valley’s tech homogeneity is a truly humbling experience.
We’ve been building for a little over a year now, and as we started to build the system, we knew we were up for a challenge. Most of us have seen our fair share of difficult problems that needed solving, but the sheer complexity of private duty home care can be overwhelming. Some amazing people gave us a chance to redesign a trouble-ridden market from the ground up, so we wanted to do it right.
We knew early on that seamlessly connecting caregivers to families in need was the first step. But to really make a difference, we had to design tools that would allow Care Pros to become better at what they do. Tools that would give them superpowers. Tools that would allow them to take better care of our loved ones, and ultimately, ourselves. This was easier said than done, because we planned to introduce technology to a workforce using their smartphones for purposes predominantly unrelated to their profession.
You can’t build a world-class product without being able to empathize with the person you’re actually building it for.
At Honor, everybody has been a volunteer caregiver. Caregiving is far more complex than driving someone from point A to point B. There are many subtle interactions involved that are easily overlooked when you haven’t experienced it for yourself. So by becoming volunteer caregivers ourselves — cleaning bathrooms and kitchens, organizing family photos and some heavy duty gardening work—we were able to both validate and contradict some of our earliest assumptions. Relentless prioritization allowed us to ship the right things without losing track of details that would contribute to Care Pros enjoying the product.
Joy, comfort, grace
Most well designed products serve their utilitarian purpose with simplicity and obviousness, but often have an emotional component to them that contribute to its enjoyability. Bringing that joy into our products and brand is crucial to our work. For Care Pros, so they can love what they do, feel appreciated in their profession, and have products that adapt to their lives rather than the other way around. However, for families needing care joy is often the emotion furthest removed from their days taking care of a loved one. Because let’s be honest: aging in today’s society comes paired with some massive issues. And it will happen to everyone.
On a personal level, a big piece is dealing with a gradual loss of independence. Apart from the wide range of physical issues that come with old age, we have to deal with social stigma and ageism. Imagine having to deal with an aging body, and being lumped into yet another grossly over-generalized societal group. We build for our elders by applying undivided attention to design principles that support the aging body.
In addition to that, the process of getting home care for yourself or a loved one is stressful and full of uncertainties. Many people are unsure what to expect of home care in general, and are often torn between taking care of an aging parent and raising a family. Creating transparency removes doubt, and we’ve addressed that need by building features that offer control to those needing care for themselves and those using Honor to help others. Visit summaries have kept families in the loop throughout a care plan, providing peace of mind in more difficult times.
We want to set high standards for products we’d want to use ourselves as we age. We found out that elder people much prefer products that are designed with context and make use of systems they’re already familiar with, rather than an I’ve fallen and can’t get up-ified version of an existing product — that is — a product that’s been “designed down” to an elder. It’s one of the reasons we made sure engaging with Honor works as well over a landline phone as it does on a smartphone.
Social fabric and support systems are also changing drastically. In the past, it was common for younger generations in a family to step up and take the role of caregiver for aging parents. Today, younger people prefer to live in or around large urban areas, meaning having less living space to take care of family members. Additionally, we’re seeing a growing number of older adults without children and fewer local family members to take on the role of caregiver.
Social isolation is one of the biggest drivers of depression at old age, and widely associated with a higher risk of mortality in adults aged 52 and older. Initially, we assumed our customers would predominantly consist of ‘adult children’ getting Honor for their parents. But when we went to market, we learned that about half of the people joining Honor every day sign up to get care for themselves, or their spouse. Designing with comfort in mind allows us to respectfully address the many issues facing people in a vulnerable state.
There are over 10,000 people turning 65 on a daily basis in the United States alone. We see this as 10,000 reasons a day to improve the way we talk to our elders.
You don’t wake up one day with grey hair and a cane, pockets full of hard candy, and notice you’ve suddenly ‘turned’ old.
Society tends to lump our elders into a single group of infantilized ‘seniors’, but we need to be aware that these ‘seniors’ are us–just a few years later. Some need a few hours of help each week. Others have conditions that require continuous care, day after day. It’s a group of people that is as diverse in terms of gender, race and age as it is in medical condition or musical preference.
We prefer to focus on the beauty of aging. The generations before us are the reason we are able to do what we do today. That inspires us immensely. By focusing on the positive aspects of old age, we hope to inspire and pay homage.
Building products for our elders and those who care for them comes paired with many emotions. It’s overwhelming. It’s full of hope.
And it needs to happen.
Through joy, comfort and grace we try to contribute to a better future for our grandparents, our parents, and ultimately ourselves. We believe that old age should be something to enjoy and respect. We will honor that.