How do you find a good care home for your elderly parent? Does your parent even need a care home? What do you do if you see your parents ailing, but you’re living at the other side of the country?
These were some of the problems that Ruth Darrah and Annabel James were dealing with as their parents aged. After 30 years of friendship with conversations covering every subject, Ruth and Annabel found themselves reluctantly turning to the new and uncharted topic of elderly care, often sharing their frustrations about where to find information.
‘We realized that while our parents’ situations were different many of the issues we faced were very similar’ says Annabel; ‘finding the right information and feeling we were making the right decisions was particularly hard, so we wondered if we could create an online space for our generation, both to find information but also to share experiences; a place where people could turn for support and advice from others who had been through the same thing.’
The friends discussed the idea with others, many of whom were experiencing similar frustrations. ‘Once we started the conversation, it turned out almost everyone we knew was dealing with similar issues,’ says Annabel, who believes talking about old age is almost a taboo.
After some deliberations about names, they settled on Age Space, purchased the domain and thanks to an initial injection of funds from a friend, built a basic website to test out their idea. A soft launch followed in 2015 and later that year Age Space acquired enough funding to commission their first piece of research, later published under the title ‘Keeping Mum. The unspoken impact of caring for elderly parents.’ The report confirmed the need for a forum, the central conclusion being that over half of Britons above the age of 45 are concerned about their ageing parents, and yet never talk about it.
Following the publication of the research and a PR push in the spring of 2016, Age Space has seen increased traffic on the site. The research also helped cement the idea of providing local support. Hence, Ruth and Annabel are working with local partners and authorities on a pilot scheme in Norwich, a one-stop shop with advice on all aspects of care, from local listings of mobile hairdressers and recreational facilities to at-home and long-term residential care.
A big challenge has been how to monetize the site. So far, Age Space relies on third-party funding, but the aim is that the site must pay for itself, and of course, it would also be nice if the founders could earn a salary at some point. (In addition to building Age Space, both women have day jobs in the third sector).
The OWL will check in with Age Space later this year.
The report ‘Keeping Mum’ can be accessed via the website free of charge
Image of Annabel James courtesy of Age Space