The baby boomers are retiring, and they are retiring with money, longer projected lifespans than their parents, and a desire to remain in their homes as long as possible. This spells opportunity for you.
Here are 13 products you can offer mature Americans who want to age in place.
- Non-skid safety strips. Falls in the tub or shower are particularly dangerous for seniors. Simple adhesive strips with a tacky surface can reduce the potential for slipping. These are a relatively inexpensive, DIY-type item, so don’t sell them separately. Bundle them with other products as a bonus or offer them as a free gift when you make a safety assessment of the home.
- Grab bars. Grab bars should be the first addition for seniors. They do not need to look industrial. A wealth of attractive (and safe) designs are available today. Lacking grab bars, there’s a tendency to grasp at towel bars for support. Since most towel bars are scarcely load bearing, this can be worse that putting a hand against the wall. Upgrade the towel bars with attractive grab bars and add additional grab bars were needed.
- Elevated toilets and folding grab bars. Getting on and off the toilet can be a challenge for some seniors. Yet toilet booster seats are particularly unattractive. Wall-mounted, fold-down grab bars and an elevated toilet are not only safer but also much more attractive.
- Open toilet roll holder. Seniors with arthritis can struggle to change with the common spring-loaded spindles. A better alternative is an open toilet roll holder where the roll can be slid on and off.
- Cabinet pulls. Knobs for cabinet doors and drawers can similarly challenge arthritic customers. Offer to replace these with O-, D-, or T-type cabinet pulls. It may not be plumbing, per se, but it is in the kitchen and bath.
- Walk-in tub. Walk-in tubs may be an option for some seniors. Certainly it should be offered. However, you should be upfront about the downsides. They are expensive, the walk-in tub still has a lip, and the senior must wait in the tub for it to fill and drain.
- Roman shower. A roman shower, which is open at one end without a door, might be a better option than a walk-in tub. If built wide, it is also wheelchair-compatible.
- Fold-down shower seat. Movable shower chairs offer flexibility but can be knocked over. A fold-down shower seat fixed to a wall perpendicular to the shower spray, and located under the spray, represents a much better option.
- Wheelchair sinks. Using a sink from a wheelchair is a challenge. Fortunately, manufacturers offer a variety of attractive, wall-mounted sinks that are compatible with wheelchairs.
- Touchless faucets. Turning a faucet handle can be difficult for arthritic customers. A touchless faucet with a lever handle represents a great option.
- Lever handles. If a customer does not want the expense of a touchless faucet, then replacing knob type handles with lever handles should be considered at a minimum.
- Pot fillers. Depending on the location of the kitchen cooktop, mounting a pot filler that extends over the cooktop can make cooking easier.
- Anti-scald valves. Seniors are particularly sensitive to scalding. Offer a mixing valve at the water heater or tubs and shower anti-scald valves.
Preparing, promoting and presenting options
Meet with the manager of your favorite plumbing supply house and tell him you want to assemble an aging-in-place offering. Select the product lines you want to promote and ask the manager to stock them. Using manufacturer images, assemble a brochure of “Elegant, Safe, and Convenient Plumbing Options.” In the brochure, note the features and benefits of each product.
Call on occupational therapists who work with seniors to talk with them about the aging-in-place options. Give them brochures to leave with their customers.
Call local civic and service clubs. Tell them you would like to speak at a meeting about options for aging-in-place.
When your plumbers are called to a senior’s home, present the brochure at the start of the call. When the repair work is complete, the plumber should ask the homeowner if there are any questions he can answer about the products in the brochure. This is a discretionary purchase, so a soft sales approach works best.
Remember, many of these senior citizens have money and a desire to remain in their homes as long as possible. Moreover, the cost of assisted living is significant enough that a small remodeling investment in a senior’s home allowing her to remain an extra year or two easily pays for itself.