Aging in Style with Lori Williams
Aging in Style with Lori Williams

Episode · 1 year ago

033. Joe & Bella: a platform to simplify the caregiver's life


e all know by now that COVID-19 has changed the way we approach senior living and care.
One example of a business confronting these changes is Joe & Bella, Inc., a platform launched to help you find “everything you need to make life a little better for older adults.” It offers adaptive clothing, toiletries, and gift boxes for seniors - items that are either necessary or helpful to have, especially considering many caregivers can’t physically visit their seniors right now.

Founder Jimmy Zollo shares how this company was born from a love for his grandparents and their friends in senior living named Joe and Bella - the inspiration for the company name. He also discusses the items many seniors need, whether they’re in memory care or independent living.

Topics discussed:
- Gifts for seniors
- Helping seniors during COVID-19
- Moving to senior living
- Joe & Bella, Inc.
- Help for caregivers
- Memory care and independent living gifts

Takeaways from this episode:

- Joe & Bella offers a range of products from comfy clothes, to toiletries, gifts, and everything in between, to make life easier for seniors and to remind that they’re loved.

- Products featured on Joe & Bella are reviewed and approved by an advisory board of caregivers, including executive directors of care communities, gerontologists and independent caregivers.

- With lockdowns in effect, it’s hard to care for a loved one and ensure they have everything they need in their senior living residence. These giftboxes help check off common items seniors need to be restocked.

- In general the technology investment community is reaching for more senior-focused products, such as Joy For All™ robotic therapy pets and Grandpad®, a senior-friendly tablet.

Learn more about Joe and Bella (use exclusive code STYLE for 10% discount):

Connect with Jimmy Zolo:

To suggest a topic, be a guest or to support the podcast please email
For more senior resources and to sign up to the newsletter please visit:

Welcome to aging in style with me, Laurie Williams. I'm an optimist by nature and I believe you can follow your dreams at any age. My grandmother's journey with dementia ignited a passion and need to work with seniors. I've spent the past thirteen years learning about seniors and aging. In my mid S, I followed my own dream and founded my company, where I use my expertise to help seniors locate housing and resources. On this podcast we cover all aspects of aging. Joanna's each week to meet senior living experts and inspirational seniors who are following their dreams. The fact is, we're all aging, so why not do it in style? Hey, everyone, welcome back to another episode of aging in style with Laurie Williams. Today my guest is Jimmy's all Oh, and he's the cofounder of a company, Joe and Bella, and this is like a really unique idea. I think it's, you know, it's brilliant what they came up with. Their meeting and need for seniors. That really I don't know of anyone who has reached out and, you know, created something to help our seniors with the solution and he's going to tell us all about it. So I think you're really going to be amazed and really like it. So let me tell you a little bit about Jimmy. He, like I said, he's the cofounder and CEO of Joe and Bella. He also co founded COLLABORATA, and that's a market research organization that launches innovative large scale projects. They bring brands together to share insights and the cost and he also developed his passion and enthusiasm for innovation while driving initial growth at grub hub, one of Chicago's most successful tech startups. I know I've ordered from GRUB hub myself. He helped develop Grub hubs industry leading restaurant network by launching new markets and growing existing one. So welcome Jimmy. You Alright, thanks for having me. It's so excited to talk to you. I'm so glad that you agreed to talk to me. So that's gonna be fun. So why don't we just kind of jump in and it's your grandparents are who inspired you. So tell tell us about your grandparents and what was going on and how this all came about. Yeah, absolutely so. So I always had a really close relationship with my grandparents. We were really fortunate that we live just a neighborhood away. But back in two thousand and twelve they were both struggling physically. So my grandfather was suffering from Parkinson's and dementia and my grandmother had her second hip surgery and at that point in her life just didn't really take to physical therapy. She kind of as much as we tried, she just didn't want to do physical therapy anymore and lost most of promobility she which she was in a wheelchair. So they had an inhome caregiver, but even with that, my grandmother was still falling and we were opping hours. We're coming up with tech solutions to try and prevent it, but it got to the point where it just wasn't safe anymore for for her to be living at home. So we had to make the last minute decision, and I say last minute it was a decision we had been mowing over for for a year, but finally there was one fall that not not to do a point, but what was really the tipping point that made us a are we have to go and we have to go now. At that point, though, we were fortunate that we had already gone to all the assistant care communities in the neighborhood. We had picked one out, we had reserved a bed already and it was Christmas eave of two thousand and twelve. So that shows you how last minute it was that that we decided to move first her in and then my grandfather followed about two weeks later. So that wasn't my first sort of time getting to know and work with care communities and understanding what that experience is like and I'm forever grateful and our families ever forever grateful and indebted to those care communities. They were they weren't three over the next eight years, and so we are really indebted to the caregivers there the just amazing work and care...

...that they provided to our grandparents. Yeah, and it's wonderful that you had done the research ahead of time because a lot of times people will reach out to me and they need assistant living like, like I have one right now that needs it. My Friday, which is tomorrow. It's so so then you're kind of like put yourself in a crisis mode when you wait till the last minute. But that's great that y'all had researched and and kind of had, you know, had a game plan in place, right and as you know, each community is not created equal. They all have their advantages and disadvantages and some can be the most beautiful looking place in the world, but that doesn't mean that they have the right type of care, in the right level of care for for what you're looking for. And because my grandmother and grandfather had really different needs, it was challenging to find the right place. So we must have we must have gone at least, I don't know, ten or twelve places around Chicago'll be found before we found the right one to go to, and we feel really fortunate that that they had a bet open when we need it at most. MMM Yeah, that definitely worked out. So once they moved in and got settled in, and when you move into assistant living, they do take care of, you know, meals or taken care of and housekeeping and all of that stuff, but you still need personal things. So that's when you discovered that there was a need. To tell us about that, right, you know, we discover that need the the first night there, where were probably ten o'clock Christmas Eve, were unpacking, my grandmother setting up her room, you know, putting up her picture frames, laying down her rug, making her bed, all of that sort of stuff to make it like her place. But even despite that, it was clear that we didn't have everything we needed and despite being at a phenomenal community, there were still other things that she was going to need. So we were making runs back and forth to to target to get everything. That night. I remember we needed a universal remote and we need a AAA batteries, and then there are new toiletries that that work just quite right that we needed. And then the temperature was a big thing where we knew right away that they kept it colder there than what she was used to, and my grandmother gets notoriously cold and even with a blanket on she was still freezing. So we had to order her some new clothes. And so, despite having this great place and despite having target right there, we just we just didn't have everything that we needed. And even as we went for the next eight years with her living in various communities, her needs would adapt, her needs would change, and also the great sort of products that would come out that would make her life a little bit easier changed to and so we needed a place to sort of tell us where to look and what to find them, what to use to just to make her life easier, to make the caregiver's lives a little bit easier. HMM. Absolutely, and you know, even I mean adult children. We you know, find a great place and you know she's getting the care like your grandmother is. But you know, the adult children are busy, or adult grandchildren are. You know, they busy living their lives, but they're still going to be needs, like there's going to be maybe depends or clothes or you run out of shampoo or whatever it may be, and you don't always have time to run out and buy those things. And then, of course, to complicate it, you have covid so I think what you what you've done is really has filled that niche that was really desperately needed. I think. Yeah, I appreciate that. That was the goal. So what we knew back then was that, hey, there just has to be an easier way. I remember two things specifically that happened. The first was we went into her room and typically when we go there, we go there almost every day, but maybe once a week. We would do a run through to make sure ay are her close stained. As you have enough toothpaste and we went in there and we saw that she was...

...out of mouthwash and we we asked a caregiver I how long as she been out of mouthwash for, and they had no idea. And that's not the caregivers phone, by by the way, because they had sixty plus residents and are working double shifts and have just an incredibly hard job. So of course something like that's going to fall through the cracks from time to time. It's it's inevitable, despite where where you were. So so that that was sort of our first light bull that hey wanted to be great if there was a service that for anything that is consumable, whether that be toilet, trees or in continents, that there is just an easy way to automatically have those items re ordered so you never have to worry about your loved one running out of what they need, because you just don't ever want to be in that position, particularly now drink covid absolutely. The second big light bulb was brass. My My my dad went on in there and into the community one day in the caregiver said Hey, hey, your mom needs new pairs of brass and he said okay, Great, I'm gonna go run a target. He went to target, he immediately got flustered, immediately realized he was well in over his sad and I think he picked. He said, you know, I'm I'm just going to get a bunch of things and one of these is going to be correct. So he I think he bought five or six options. He came back and the caregivers were laughing at him and they said no, certain none of these are correct, none of these work for someone in a wheelchair. This is this is not remotely accurate, and I think it was that moment where he was kind of pushed over the ledge worries. We're of course he's not going to know what to get. Of course he's not. And they of course, even if he's going to guess every option, the one option he doesn't guess is going to be the one that would have been most helpful. So that part of money also offer on Joe and Bellatt. Yeah, so part of what we also offer on Joe and Bella are our undergarments to really just great adaptive clothing. So whether or not at you're in a wheelchair and it makes life of the caregiver easier. So you don't have to be fully lifted up for shoes and pants and other types of items. So we're working with some really great adaptive clothing partners like Krea zips and smart adaptive clothing or just phenomenal. Yeah, that's amazing and I'm sure a lot of people don't even know that adaptive clothing is a thing. So I think it's a it's a great way. Go through your website they can find these things that they had no idea even existed. There are just some really smart designs out there. And, of course, for for for my grandfather, all you ever wanted was a Hoodie. That that's that's all that mattered. He want to wear anything else. So adaptive clothes want at work for him, but not for my grandmother. On the other hand, it was, it was, it was a really great alternative option. That's great. So, okay, tell us about the name Joe and Bella and how that came about, because at first I thought maybe it was the names of your grandparents, but that's not the case. Yea. So we met Joe and Bella Christmas Eve two thousand and twelve, the night we moved to my grandmother, and they were two residents of the care community we had moved on in. They were both in their late s at the time and they were Holocaust survivors who found each other later in life. So they were both widowed at the time and and sort of became attached at the community. And the first night we met them we're walking around kind of getting a tour of the place and and we notice they are kind of lagging behind us and and then started kind of took over the tour, and Bella in particular has about the biggest personality I've ever met and we like to say it's always Bella's show, and and Bella put on a show at night. But then at the end they actually invited us over to do a prayer with them because it was the first night of Hanaka. It was just really meaningful. And then from that day on, every single meal my grandparents had in the community they sat and ate with...

Joan Mella and for us, because Joe and Bella's families didn't live very close, they really became adopted grandparents to us. They came over from others day and Falls Day and every other holiday and Thanksgiving and they just became a really, really big part of our wives and to us being able to honor them with this name is really meaningful. For the take it joe probably would like it. Bella gets to be a superstar. So she was associate. She gets to show off a little bit about having her name for a company which which we love and we're just we're just really happy to honor them. That's wonderful and it's such a cute name too. And Yeah, thank you. You're welcome. So tell us about some of the products, and I know you do a lot of things, like you say, the adaptive clothing, you have toilet trees and then you also have gift boxes. So maybe tell us about some and then we'll talk about some of the most popular items. Yeah, absolutely. So it's a range from comfy clothes to tech to toiletry to two gifts and kind of everything in between. A few of the things that we do also to make life easier, because right now the biggest challenge for caring for a loved one is that I see, you can't go and see them on a lot of cases, a lot of these communities, particularly I know where we're at in Chicago, where snowing outside right now, or anywhere else that's completely cold. These communities are are on full lockdown. So I know people that haven't been able to see their their loved one in a care community for for a year and it's just, it just really sad and the horrible and from a caregiving perspective that also means that you don't get to be able to go in their closet, you don't get to go into the bathroom and you don't you don't have your eyes on what they need and if you're caring for a loved one with memory issues, that makes that challenge even more difficult in your kind of fully reliant on the care community themselves to guide you. So one of our solutions for that is by bundling things together, that we have packages. If you want a box of clothing instead of just socks and sweat pants and sweatshirts, you can get a bundle to sort of refresh the closet because you haven't been in there ear. Things might be staying, they might be torn. They I just need a little bit refreshing getting a box. He's a nice way to save a little bit of money but also make sure that everything is checked off all at once. So we do that for clothing, but we also do that for toiletry. So you can get a box that includes toothpaste and toothbrush and mouthwash and everything else you need to stay clean and stay fresh and and you can customize it for whatever your favorite brands are. That's great and I think it's so sweet also that you do the gift boxes. And I mean, who doesn't love getting something in the mail? You know someone's think just that you can beat someone's thinking of you or, you know, something for their birthday or for Easter whatever, anything for the holidays. And I know you recently had one sent to me so I could do an unboxing on air and I did a video and it is just so, so cool. It was all kinds of things that would be appropriate for a lady, and I mean it was, you know, coloring book, it was nail Polish and socks. It was all just all those things that any any grandma would love to receive and I think what a special way, especially with covid or if you live out of state and you haven't been able to see your grandparents or your parents, what a wonderful special way to let them know that you're thinking of them. Absolutely so, if you all haven't seen Laurie's video on her facebook or Instagram, she does a really phenomenal unboxing and one of our gift box which is which is really fun to see it. But yeah, I know personally my weakness is getting gifts. I I just I just can't do it. And for my for my grandmother, I was able to at least default to crossword puzzles because even as she aged and as she had dementia later on, she still could do a...

...crossword puzzle in a pain and get it totally right. So getting some crossword puzzle books for her was always easy. But it would have been nice to have an option or there was a gift box that in fooded that among other things, and it was sort of professionally done and we early on that was one of the things that we wanted to find for. So we found three individuals in particular, three these three super talented women from we're on ex see and we're selling custom gift boxes on act see and that there they made some custom gift boxes for Joe and Bella. And the fun thing that we're going to be doing when it comes to holidays or the change of the seasons we're going to have new one. So come mother's Day and father's day we're in to have custom gift boxes that are going to be available that are just going to look great and make you look like a superstar make your loved one really happy. That's great because I know a lot of times we don't know what to send our grandparents or, you know, we're thinking, I don't know what they're going to like, and I think they just nailed it with the gift box. You sent me everything in there down to just like the little package of Clean X. was exactly what my grandmother would have loved. And Talk C's right. Yeah, it was funder. Is that kind of like the chocolate? Exactly, unless you're just crazy right. Yeah, and I know you do some of the tech items. To tell us about some of those items? Yeah, we it's been really interesting and I'm sure I think you've had some other tech founders on before and I'm sure you can have more to come. I think the focus from the venture community and the investment community in tech for this demographic is finally being focused. I think there's a lot of really great new products out there, a lot of things that are built to make the lives of individuals who are aging, who are maybe an assistic care or memory care that that just didn't exist a couple years ago and I'm excited about where that's all going to go. So for a few things that we have. My personal favorite it is a company called joy for all. I'm not sure if you're familiar, but they were actually spun out of Hasbro. So if you has bro Executives made essentially smart stuffed animals, so they look like little dogs and little cats. They started with a golden retriever and a yellow cat and now they've got a bunch of different options. But for someone who has Alzheimer's or who has dementia, it gets the same emotional response that that an actual dog or cat would get, and so it's this phenomenal sort of therapy stuffed animal and it's it's electric, so it makes the sounds, it makes the the breathing motion, it's it's pretty, really cool. They're kind of freaky. I've seen them. Mean, yeah, looks so real. It looks so real and now I just love love of them. We have a few videos on the site of people getting to see them for the first time and people just start crying. It's like someone getting puppy for the first time. It's really emotional to say and it's so wonderful because a lot of times when they go into Demento, you know, memory care, you can't have your pad. You can have your pet if you're an independent living or assistant living, but if you if you can't take your pet and you're just so attached as what a wonderful way that they feel they still have. They feel like they have this animal that they love and it's breathing, because it is. It makes the motion like it's breathing, or if it's a cat purring, is it is very amazing, it really is. I know the community that my grandparents were after a little bit actually had a bunch of animals. So they had two dogs, they had several animals where they had sort of a policy that, based upon a number of residents they had, they wanted one pet that I think it was one pet per five rescents, which was pretty cool. But the dogs ended up getting a really, really overweight because they're eating so much of this perhaps and everyone wanted to spoil them. But there they were happy dogs at least. Yeah, they were happy, Chubby dogs. That's okay. We write. One of the other...

...their tech products that I love it. It's a tool called grand care. So it is a smart tablet that allows you to do a few things. So for my grandmother specifically, once covid hit and we couldn't see her facetoface. We weren't allowed to go to the community. We wanted the ability to face time with her, but she she just couldn't do it. In order for us to actually facetime with her, it would have to be scheduled ahead of time with the community and it just wasn't sort of a perfect situation. The Nice thing about grand care is that you can pop into the tablet, as long as it's charging on and and talk right right then and there. So she would have it set up sort of on her table next to note where she would normally sit. We could call on into it and talk to you when I have to worry about standing up to answer or even clicking on anything and in your there. But it also has some really great tools around tracking medication and having your calendar up there and also games to music. It's it's really fun and phenomenal tool that that we love. Very good. Okay, so you. You also have products, I noticed, like walkers and things like that, so like mobility type products. Yeah, so we do have all of the basic health and medical device equipment that your loved one would need. So anything that you would get from one of the major health manufact sure we do have available, which which is phenomenal and in our goal is to sort of round that out and also make sure that we're not just showing thirty or forty different walker options, because it can be sort of overwhelming. We rather we have a team of caregivers who they're the real like an advisory board to US story and they they approve or disapprove of each product and so if we say we want three walkers on here, they'll they'll go through the list and help us narrow that down, because I know for us figuring out things like that, whether it be the medical devices was was always a really big challenge because there are so many different options and there are so many different brands and you can see, hey, this one's thirty more. Is it is it worth getting something that that's thirty more and not necessarily knowing that? So for all of these different medical devices that we've included, on top of having them improved by our advisory board of caregivers. We also have a caregiver tips to go along with it, so they'll say, Hey, this is why we specifically recommend this type of Walker or this type of kine or this type of wheelchair in give all of that detail. That's great. And yet we I didn't mention that earlier, that every product is the caregivers help you pick those out. Absolutely. So one of the things that we did at the beginning of this because we've been caring for our grandparents and for four years, but we aren't professionals. But but we've put together a really great team who who includes Executive Directors at care communities to independent caregivers to Gerontologists to kind of everything in between, and it's just a phenomenal board and we've got them all listed out on our side. If anyone wants to take a look, that's great. So what have been so far, like the most popular items? Yeah, so one of the most popular items so far. It is the women's clothing box has been by far the most popular item so far. So we sit on our home page and it comes most importantly with really sort of fluffy comfy socks, particularly right now. For those in cold, excuse me, climates it's especially helpful. But it also has basics. So it's got really great sweat pants and sort of like track sup pants that are great and a really nice comfy top that is warm and also a little bit fashionable, and then it that. Then the most boxes right now are also going to come with, I think, a three pack of masks, which is great. On the men's side, what's been really interesting is a cool shoe... called friendly shoes, and these shoes look like something an NBA player would wear, so they're super fashionable, really cool looking, but the heels zips out and so if you have swollen feed or if you're our thritic and it's tough to bend on over, it's easier to put those on yourself the normal shoes, or if you're getting dressed by the help of a caregiver. Makes the caregiver's life way easier to because if they're they don't have to sort of push and force your shoe into your foot into the shoe, which is sort of easy. Slip on, zip up and you're good to go. That's pretty cool. I don't think I've seen zip up shoes but I like it. Yeah, they're they're really cool and they're coming out with a bunch of new styles, I think next month, which were really excited about. They're supposed to have some sheet of print shoes for women and some really cool oir designs for men. So we're excited they got they got some funky designs. That's pretty cool. I like it. And you can ship to anywhere in the US. Anywhere in the US. For now, depending on the specific item, where either shipping out of Illinois or Texas. Okay, very good. Good to know. So I like to ask everyone who comes on the podcast this question. Who is an inspirational senior in your life? Is there? I know there's probably several, but is there one that just really stands out? Yeah, I love that question. Are So there are a few. Obviously Joe and Bella have been tremendously inspirational to lost. That's there so much about why we're doing this and who we're doing this for. But for me it's my grandfather. So we were always close and but I didn't really realize until I was a little bit older that he was not entrepreneur to so I come from a family of entrepreneurs. This is this my second company, if I've started? My Dad has started about four or five different companies. But it all really stemmed from my grandfather burn and so he, after fighting in World War Two, and there's a whole long story about how he was in charge of a POW can't be actually wrote a book about a pretty crazy experience there. But after that he went to journalism school at northwestern and his roommate there was none other than hugh after so my yeah, so he and Hugh Hath Ner became best friends and together they started a magazine called Chicago and it was funded. Both of their DADS funded the first several additions, but it didn't quite make it. It for forever reason it didn't get yet get the type of traction they wanted. But then, I guess, one day Hugh came to my grandfather and he goes, Hey, I've got it. I know what the next big idea is and it was playboy. And he walk my grandfather through it all and the end of Hughes Pitch, my grandfather couldn't stop laughing. Say this is the worst idea anyone has ever come up with. It is absolutely not going to be a success. Hugh try ride several times to convince my grandfather, saying please, let's go fifty fifty on this, and which my grandfather said absolutely not. But since I'm your friend, I'll I'll write some articles for you. So those first several editions of playboy there are articles that my grandfather wrote for free for you. As as being a friend. However, my grandmother so hated the idea of having our family name at all associated with this magazine that he had a right everything under a pseudo yare so really funny story, and that was the piece of advice for my grandfather, was it. Don't, don't always trust your own business in stinks because pause they they might not be right. But also go and take some more risk. Yeah, that is hilarious. What a great story. And Yeah, I could, I could see your grandmother not wanting to... a part of that. She she had a point. Yeah, she did. Wow, that's incredible. Well, thanks for sharing that. Of course my grandmother would not be happy, I'm sure, in that story, but it's my grandfather would get a kick out of him. Yeah, I'm sure you what that's great. Well, thank you so much for being on the podcast today and sharing your passion for what you do and Joe and Bella. I'd like I said I just think it's I think it's a brilliant idea and it's something that I don't know anyone else. He's doing this. So I think it's just such a great idea and it's going to help so many families. Well, boy, thank you so much for having me on. We're really excited about what we're doing and how we can help and book we're just getting started. We're just figuring this out in our goal is to simply make the lives of caregivers and their loved ones a little bit easier. So to anyone who's listening, if you see something that you think we need, that would help, that would help somebody else in any way, definitely don't hesitate to reach on out, because that's that's what we're here to do. Yeah, wonderful. Will thank you so much and thank you all for listening today. If you would like to order something on Joe and Bella, I just want to share with you that we have a ten percent discount for you. You just when you go into order. You go to Joe and Bellacom and type in the Code Word Promo Code Style Style and you'll get ten percent off. So definitely check them out, go see the products and we'll have all the information below on how you can contact them as well. And if you do, you know, like Jimmy said, if you have an idea for a product that you think maybe they should be carrying, she does a message and you can always find information and will also have a link on the website to Joe and Bella, but just go to my website, which is Lori Williams senior Servicescom and, as always, thanks for listening and we'll talk to you next week.

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