By Lara O’Reilly
Major corporations could soon allow their employees to bring their elderly parents to work into an office-based daycare system.
That prediction came from Thomas DeRosa, CEO of Welltower, the publicly listed real estate investment trust with a market cap of around $23.9 billion that invests in housing and assisted-living properties for senior citizens.
And surprisingly, he said he got the idea from a relatively young company: Google.
DeRosa thinks that just as Google has a policy where employees are allowed to bring their pets to work and leave them in the hands of “caregivers,” companies should be looking into offering on-site daycare for employees whose parents have cognitive or other physical frailties but can’t afford the thousands of dollars a month cost for private senior care.
(DeRosa may be mistaken about this. Google certainly has a bring your dog to work policy your dog can sit by your desk and you’re required to clean up after it and ensure it’s not disruptive and the company has even enshrined its love for dogs on its investor relations site. But a company spokesperson didn’t know anything about a pet-care facility, and this is the first we’ve heard about it.)
DeRosa was speaking on a fascinating panel session at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos on Wednesday entitled “What If You Are Still Alive in 2100?” DeRosa was joined by London Business School professor of management practice Lynda Gratton, Salk Institute for Biological Studies president (and co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine) Elizabeth Blackburn, and Vitality global chief health officer Derek Yach.
The discussion ranged from whether the retirement age should be raised, what genetic and sociological factors make a person more likely to live longer, whether governments are prepared for an aging population, whether cities are well-equipped for more older people, and what skillsets older people have that younger people are lacking.
But DeRosa’s “big idea” really stood out. We caught up with him after the session to see whether it was plausible.
He told Business Insider: “If you think about a business where most the employees are my age and think about the people who are faced with: ‘I can’t afford $8,000 a month, my mother has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and I’m the eldest son or daughter who lives within proximity,’ you have to leave your job. That’s a 24/7 job.”
DeRosa said he only came up with the idea today, and he hasn’t worked through the economics of such a scheme but he thinks it has the potential to create a more sustainable workforce.
“Think about the productivity improvement of not losing these skilled employees [by preventing them from having to leave the workplace to become full-time carers to their parents,]” he said.
It could also help reduce stigma
Dementia is still a stigmatized subject. The panelists noted that people are far more likely to talk about their children misbehaving than their parents. It is sad to see someone, sometimes suddenly, lose their cognitive ability especially a person who devoted their life to raising you. Could a parent-daycare option have the potential to be demeaning?
DeRosa says it doesn’t have to be and thinks the more we elevate discussions around dementia and mental illness, the more solutions will come into play.
He also revealed that Welltower is also considering building a “state of the art Alzheimer’s and dementia care center” on its 160-acre campus HQ in Ohio. The idea is that Welltower’s employees could take shifts within the center to understand the company is ultimately working for.
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