Source: The Straits Times

As a child, Ms Gillian Tee could not stand visiting nursing homes as they reminded her of the experience of her elderly nanny, who suffered from bone and breast cancer.

“I loved my nanny so much that I wouldn’t be able to take it when I’d go into a nursing home and see all these old people. I couldn’t go into a nursing home without feeling depressed,” she told The Sunday Times. Her nanny had raised her until she was 10.

So it is somewhat surprising that the 37-year-old is today the co-founder and chief executive of Homage, a start-up which connects professional caregivers with seniors who need help.

The company works with more than 20 partners, including hospitals, community partners and nursing homes. The three-year-old Homage, which started with just five caregivers, now hosts over 1,000 local caregivers on its online platform.

Ms Tee’s organisation provides caregivers to these groups that help escort their elderly patients between hospitals and nursing homes, deliver additional care services during peak hours and provide home care services for daycare centres that may not have the capacity to take in more seniors.

The company’s app also matches a pool of caregivers with seniors, similar to how ride-hailing apps match passengers with drivers.

Homage also provides care concierge and consultation services over the phone.

“We’re just trying to be a bridge in Singapore’s healthcare system,” said Ms Tee.

For her efforts, she received the Singapore Women’s Weekly magazine’s Great Women of Our Time Award last month. It honours Singapore’s most inspiring women.

While she is grateful and honoured, she said she does not put much stock in such accolades.

“That’s not why I’m doing it,” she said.

What she did appreciate was getting to interact with the other award winners, who she felt were inspirational and helped break stereotypes about women.

Ms Tee first started Homage in 2016, after returning to Singapore from a 15-year stint living abroad.

She helped build a successful start-up in Silicon Valley with her background in computer science and her Master of Business Administration degree.

While there, she noted how the United States was improving senior care using technology and decided to explore a similar model here.

Upon her return home, she was also struck by the signs of ageing in her mother, who had kidney problems and mobility issues among other afflictions.

Her two sisters currently live abroad and Ms Tee, who is not married, is the only one looking after her mother.

“I was living with her every day and realised she was getting older,” she said.

While trying to find a caregiver for her mother, she discovered there was room for improvement in the process here.

“It was very difficult to find assistance, and there was very little visibility. They’d just say, ‘Oh, here’s a caregiver’, but you wouldn’t know who was coming,” she said.

Together with two other co-founders, she created Homage, which has since expanded overseas.

It started operations in Malaysia in February, and is now operating in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, with plans to further expand to another four states in the country by the end of next year.

Closer to home, Homage has indirectly benefited Ms Tee’s mother.

Ms Tee would tell her mother about all the active seniors she met in the course of her work, which inspired the older woman, who is now 71, to lead a more active lifestyle in spite of her ailments.

“She does yoga now, she swims twice a week… She’s a transformed person,” said Ms Tee.

Looking to the future, Ms Tee said she hopes to partner Homage with more organisations, as well as ensure that families can continue to tap accessible care solutions.

She said: “In a world of ‘go, go, go’, sometimes a personal moment of care can make a huge difference.”