- Gillian Tee, 36, Chief Executive Officer of Homage
- Lily Phang, 44, Chief Operating Officer
Most people look forward to a good rest at home after a long day at the office, but this was seldom the case for Ms Tan (not her real name). She had to juggle work as well as singlehandedly take care of her elderly mother, who suffers from dementia.
The situation was taking a toll on Ms Tan, both physically and emotionally, until she discovered Homage, an app that connected her to professional caregivers.
Now, a caregiver comes in during the day to look after her mother, while Ms Tan is away at work. This is a typical family that Ms Tee and Ms Phang have been helping through their tech company Homage.
Like a Grab for elder care, it matches suitable caregivers to seniors who need help. “We want to improve their quality of life in the comfort of their homes,” said Homage co-founder Ms Tee.
“It’s also about providing respite for the caregivers in the family,” added the 36-year-old. “Taking a break allows them to go the longer haul. If you can’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others.”
Pay it forward
For Ms Tee, Homage is a tribute to those who have taken care of her.
Her nanny raised her until she was 10, while her maternal grandmother looked after her when her parents were going through a divorce.
Before starting Homage, Ms Tee was based in New York and Silicon Valley. She was the co-founder of a start-up that helped people save on travel costs, which raised US$18 million ($25 million) in funding.
Upon her return, she got to know Ms Phang, a former healthcare executive, who shared her vision of using technology to enable better senior care.
Since its launch in 2016, Homage has recruited over 500 caregivers, and provided more than 100,000 hours of service.
All the caregivers are Singapore citizens or permanent residents who go through training from schools certified by the Agency for Integrated Care.
“Being able to speak the same language (as the seniors) is important. Our caregivers not only help with their physical and medical needs, but also provide emotional care,” Ms Tee explained.
Preparing for a greying population
These caregivers come from all walks of life – some are full-time freelancers, while others hold full-time jobs and work as caregivers in the evening or on weekends. Many are relatively young, with more than 70 per cent between 20 and 40 years old.
Ms Tee hopes that Homage will attract more young people to the profession, and widen the pool of caregivers for Singapore’s greying population.
“We want to educate people to be aware of what’s involved in caregiving. You can start by just being a bit more caring to your parents who are still well.”
Last month, Homage received $4.15 million of fresh funding from investors for expansion. The funding will be used to enhance training for its caregivers, and to foray into new foreign markets.
For Ms Tee, the upcoming NDP is a reminder that even though Singapore is a small country, there is still a lot that Singaporeans can do. Using Homage as an example, she said: “With just a small pool of 500 caregivers, we make a difference to many people by helping them to live independently.”
“My wish is for Singaporeans to take more risks, build innovations that have human elements, and to solve society’s problems in a way that has never been done before.”