Maria Botham, a Hancock Park resident, was in the midst of expanding her highly successful business, Hair Fairies, a salon dedicated to head lice removal (extraordinarily helpful to parents of school age children – I speak from experience here!) when the pandemic forced her to stop everything. As she started to transition Hair Fairies to a virtual world, she shared her staff training strategies with her good friend Margot Merrick, a senior health care entrepreneur who started Good Company Senior Care in 2002 and was also struggling to find new ways to care for her clients.
A self-described serial entrepreneur, Botham told the Buzz that the pandemic forced her to think differently, like so many business owners.
“Why not find a way to take care of seniors online?” explained Botham. “We know anyone of any age can suffer from isolation, but we also have a growing population of seniors who we know will benefit from being connected to a community, even if they are living with family or have caregivers. Our clients are still very active and want to be part of a community, so we have created a simple to use digital platform that offers companionship and interesting activities.”
Botham and Merrick started Loop Village in 2020, offering three components: live virtual companionship, classes and events, and the Loop Cafe, where seniors come together with their fellow village buddies for a meal. Loop is the result of their shared desire to address the isolation that often comes with aging, exacerbated by the pandemic. They chose the name “Loop” to reflect the concept of circular connection.
Larchmont Village resident Susan Kneafsey, a longtime friend of Botham’s and whose own long resume of community work includes senior casework as a congressional aide, is part of the core team of seven staffers. Kneafsey, who also cared for her aging mother and mother-in-law, leads game activities for Loop as well as serves as an online companion, available to clients by text or video when they want to visit or do an activity.
“It’s really fun, I get texts from seniors who want to tell me how well they did on Wordle!” said Kneafsey. “We have so much to offer, we can keep clients busy everyday.”
“We have over 30 events a week to engage our members, like chair yoga, Tai Chi, animal tales with live animals, poetry, movement, games,” explained Botham. “Each class is lead by an instructor who is a professional. We have interesting classes and events that keep clients engaged, like one instructor who take us on virtual tours of his neighborhood in Paris using a video he straps on his head. We have gone olive hunting and tasting in Croatia and toured Ireland!”
“We are building a trusted, consistent, online community slowing by word of mouth adding expertise as we go,” she added, explaining how Loop has partnered with professionals in geriatrics and psychology to develop thoughtful and stimulating programming.
Many clients are signed up by their families who want a safe online space that can offer stimulation and community to otherwise isolated seniors. Some family members join the classes as well. For some, Loop offers a respite for caregivers to recharge.
According to Botham, the technology isn’t a hurdle for most seniors because they are already shopping online and using Zoom and FaceTime. The platform is designed to work on a computer, tablet or cellphone. Eventually, Botham sees a future where “Village Buddies,” as she calls them, can also meet for in person events as well.
Seniors can join Loop for $49 a month. Connecting with a companion is $65 per hour and the fee to participate in the cafe is $5. to There’s a 60-day free trial period that includes two free companion session so newcomers can check it out first and see if it’s a good fit.
Inspiring confidence and trust in the platform is important to Botham who, along with her other staff members, wears a uniform polo so clients can always recognize the instructor. She told the Buzz that customer service is a growing part of the company. She said she’s also developing a list of recommended providers to help seniors and their families find resources for excellent care. Loop Village recently earned its credentials to provide therapy for isolation covered under Medicare. Loop is in many ways an extension of Merrick’s 20-year practice of providing senior care. And the online platform allows it to offer a community to seniors anywhere.
“Social interaction is essential. It’s like food and water for the soul,” said Botham. “We want to be a big company so we can change the world and help senior age successfully.”
About Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the co-editor and publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.
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One thought on “Loop Village: A New Online Platform for Seniors, Born in Hancock Park”
The Loop for $49. per month? Crazy over priced.