Right around the same time that Matt Perrin’s mother Rosemary was diagnosed with dementia, his father-in-law Steve was dealing with Lewy body dementia. After stepping into their new roles as caregivers, in what felt like 24 hours, Perrin and his wife Lindsay began scouring the internet for assisted living facilities.
What little they found online seemed dubious. Some websites, for instance, promised trustworthy reviews of providers—but only if users gave their contact info to unlock that content. “We thought, ‘OK, we’ll deal with the [telemarketers] just to get the information,’” explains Perrin. Even after subjecting themselves to the promise of relentless phone pitches, though, the results the sites offered seemed washed with corporate or marketing jargon. It was frustrating to Perrin: We’re living in the age of Amazon and Yelp, he thought, where almost everything is publicly vetted by the masses—why had no one applied that same model to senior living and care?
So after finally finding assisted living for his mom, Perrin decided to build the solution himself. He left his career as a software sales executive in September to launch his own senior care review site called, lovingly, Ro & Steve (www.roandsteve.com). “We’re putting something out into the world that will make the process more transparent, a bit easier, and less lonely for others who have to go through it,” says Perrin. People can review or read up on providers around the country, with reports ranging from food quality to staff expertise. (The website also includes listings for home health care providers—an option the family pursued when Lindsay’s father moved in.)
It’s still early—they had around 3,000 unique visitors in January—but Perrin is already excited about how the traffic is trending, especially since they’ve invested nearly nothing in paid advertising. Ro & Steve is free for users, but it does sell “subscriptions” to communities or agencies so they can spruce up their listing and reply directly to reviews. (What companies won’t ever be able to do, notes Perrin, is acquire users’ contact info.) Perrin’s paying a portion of that revenue forward: Five percent of all revenue is donated to organizations that help the aging population.
Although he’s got typical internet goals like increasing traffic, Perrin’s also intent on building a community and blogging regularly on the Ro & Steve site about life as a caregiver. A psychology major at Denison, he hopes the entire experience will be useful and cathartic, “It was important for us to have something different than anything else in the industry. Something that was personal.”