Boomers Promise to be a Boon to Contractors and Remodelers
Whether you call them ‘boomers’ or the ‘silver tsunami,’ the growing number of adults 65 years of age or older represents one thing to contractors and remodelers: opportunity.
WORK TO BE HAD
According to Mark Hager, CEO of Booming Your Bottom Line, “In terms of scale of opportunity in their lifetime, business owners are never going to have another one like this again.”
Given that 20% of the population will be over 65 by the year 2030 and that nine out of 10 seniors want to grow older in their home, it’s hard to argue with him.
Hager breaks down the projected number of seniors (72 million by 2030) to a local opportunity scale this way: “If 10,000–12,000 people in your area reach age 65 by 2030, every one of them is going to need something. It could be a slight remodel, it could be major, but there will be work and plenty of it.”
MORE THAN GRAB BARS
Deborah Pierce, a founding partner and project architect at Pierce Lamb Architects in West Newton, MA, and the author of The Accessible Home: Designing for All Ages and Abilities (The Taunton Press), urges pros to educate themselves on the needs of aging adults and the options that exist.
“In the past, an age-in-place remodel was a matter of grab bars and maybe a ramp,” she says. “But today, there are a number of ways to address needs that are not only far more functional, but are also more aesthetically pleasing.”
As she notes, “Knowing the requirements for accessibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act and state building codes is a must. But really, they only address minimal and maximal conditions, not optimal conditions. Plus, they’re largely geared toward people in wheelchairs. That’s not all that helpful for people with other challenges such as arthritis in their hands, or vision and hearing loss.”
She encourages pros to go to building materials and plumbing shows to see what’s new in the way of accessibility. “This is a great way to expose yourself to what’s available,” she says. “Then, when you make a suggestion such as a paddle-handled faucet that doesn’t require a strong grip, you gain the trust of the customer.”
Pierce is also a big advocate of the National Association of Home Builders’ Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) program.
“Getting CAPS certification not only adds to your credibility, it expands your understanding and knowledge tremendously,” says Pierce. She describes the three-day training as a ‘consciousness-raising course’ that provides an in-depth look at demographic trends, insight into how to find prospective customers, and tips for dealing with both caregivers and seniors.
ESTABLISH YOURSELF AS THE EXPERT
Hager agrees that education is essential—not only to the contractor, but to the customer, too.
“In our coaching program for contractors looking to tap this market, we put a huge amount of emphasis on educating customers in every interaction,” he says. “If you can share helpful information every time you have contact, you establish yourself as an authority, and people won’t feel like you’re just trying to sell them something they don’t need.”
Hager adds, “This age group does not like to talk about getting old. You have to speak to them in a way that resonates with their goals, be it independence or health and wellness.” Pierce adds, “Pros need to appreciate that when you’re talking age-in-place, you’re really talking about preventive accessibility,” she says. “The goal is to make a home safer to live in so falls are less likely and, should a fall occur, the house will be ready if a person finds themselves disabled either short or long term.”