Business Plan Challenge

Room2Care: Cost-sharing program gives seniors an alternative to assisted living

CHALLENGE CHAMPION: Room2Care founders Todd Florin, left, and Richard Ashenoff, right, launched a cost-sharing senior home-care service. Edith Leake is one of their customers.
CHALLENGE CHAMPION: Room2Care founders Todd Florin, left, and Richard Ashenoff, right, launched a cost-sharing senior home-care service. Edith Leake is one of their customers. Courtesy of Room2Care

For aging South Florida senior citizens, the next step no longer has to be a costly assisted living facility when they find themselves not able to be as independent.

Todd Florin and Richard Ashenoff have created the cost-sharing website as an alternative in providing long-term care to a growing senior population. Room2Care placed first in the FIU Track of the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge, and because of the judges’ scoring and its high People’s Pick vote total, it also was named Challenge Champion.

Through their work with senior populations, Florin and Ashenoff saw there was a void in the market for reliable, affordable home care.

Both Ashenoff and Florin have had vast experience in the field. Ashenoff, who is currently working on his Masters of Accountancy degree from Florida International University, has spent his career in home- and community-based senior services, while Florin is a physician with 20 years of experience with seniors.

After the pair met while earning their MBAs at the University of Miami, they began to look for ways to provide another option in a growing market as the aging population reaches higher numbers than ever.

“Americans are aging, and due to technology, they are living longer, and we need to come up with more caregiving solutions,” said Ashenoff, 33.

They knew they wanted to develop a company that could make an impact in the community.

“We were drawing up schemes, and it happened that the idea was more based on social entrepreneurship, which we were interested in,” Ashenoff said. “We really wanted to create a business that helps people and makes a difference.”

Building on the concept of cost-sharing, which is seen with popular sites such as Uber and Airbnb, they came up with Room2Care to connect seniors with those who can provide them care or services in the local community. Ashenoff estimates that members pay half the costs of those in assisted living.

“Seniors and their loved ones are seeing cost savings,” Ashenoff said.

Room2Care hosts are able to list a space in their homes to offer basic care and supervision for a fee. Seniors can then select which services they need and pay for each of them individually, enabling them to save money. They also have the option to provide a room in their house to the caregiver free of cost.

“Not everyone needs to be in assisted living,” Ashenoff said.

Many seniors want to stay in the comfort of their homes or their loved ones are concerned about the quality of life for them in facilities.

“Everyone has heard about that senior citizen whose health began rapidly deteriorating from being in a nursing home so loved ones want to keep them at home if possible,” Ashenoff said.

Room2Care, which launched in mid-December, benefits part-time or retired nurses, home-care employees or nurse assistants looking for extra cash. Both the caregivers and seniors go through thorough background checks.

“The background checks are effective,” Ashenoff said. “There is a form for both to fill out, and we question the shape of our customers to see if you need a higher level of care where a nursing facility may be better suited for you.”

Once a senior is connected with a caregiver, either they or their primary caregiver can schedule needs such as transportation to medical appointments, order medications and purchase meals through the site’s “Care Commander” feature. Room2Care generates revenue from both the products available on the “Care Commander” as well as a percentage of the booking fees.

“You can easily tailor the services that you want through the website,” Ashenoff said.

The site also offers seniors the option to purchase services that do not necessarily need skilled people or supervision.

“We also provide services on an a la carte basis like grocery shopping, telling them to take their medication or mowing the lawn,” Ashenoff said. “Sometimes they just need someone to check in on them because their family lives far away.”

Ashenoff says he sees college students as ideal providers for these types of tasks. They would not necessarily live with the person in need of care, but this could be an option through the RoomAide program. The RoomAide would live in a senior’s home rent-free and provide basic supervision although they are not caregivers.

University of Miami professor Steven Ullman, who is the director of programs in the Center of Health Sector Management and Policy, worked closely with the pair and believes the program has potential.

“I think it is a model that is another area of niche marketing,” Ullman said. “It creates a competitive alternative to the long-term care options that are out there.”

Especially since the healthcare system will be faced with the looming crisis of aging baby boomers, he says.

“It is very much in need for the growing number of baby boomers, who are going to need more support heading into aging category,” Ullman said. “There were 35 million people ages 65 and over, and that grows to 60 million in the year 2025. This huge increase will put a lot of strain on the healthcare system.”

Currently, Room2Care is only available in South Florida, but the team hopes to expand despite stringent senior care regulations in other states.

“We want South Florida to be our pilot project, and when we’re established then go nationwide and be in the position to influence legislation,” Ashenoff said.

Related stories from Miami Herald