Friday, June 18, 2010

Technology for the Aging

The following article by Matt Michel was published in Southern PHC Magazine...

The number of senior citizens will double over the next 25 years, which means opportunities for the contractors who cater to their needs. Here are ten products you should add to your portfolio.

1. Grab Bars

While it’s the lowest of technology, it’s an essential aid as people age. Every senior should have grab bars inside showers and on walls above tubs.

2. Bathtub Safety Handles

Safety handles fit over the side of a tub to provide something secure to grab when entering or leaving a tub. Typically, these are clamped to the tub wall and not permanently installed.

3. Walk-In Tubs

If the senior is unsure about stepping over the side of the tub, even with a safety handle, a walk-in tub may represent a good solution.

4. Mixing Valves

Seniors and small children are the most susceptible to scalding from hot water. Installing a mixing valve at the water heater is the optimum solution to reducing the risk of scalding by holding the temperature of hot water delivered to the taps at 120 degrees.

5. Hand-Held Shower Spray

Many seniors sit to shower, making hand-held shower sprays much better than standard showers.

6. Elevated Toilet Seats

Seniors can have a difficult time getting up from a toilet. Elevated seats are small risers that raise the sitting height. Many include arms for seniors to grab on to when standing from a sitting position. There are also platforms that can be placed under the toilet, raising it several inches. Some consider these unobtrusive platforms more aesthetically pleasing.

7. Toilet Hand Rails

If no problems are present with the seat height seniors may still need hand rails. These are typically attached under the toilet seat.

8. Large Screen, Simple Digital Thermostats

As people age, vision declines. Backlit digital thermostats with large readouts and simple operation are easier for seniors to operate.

9. Air Cleaners

Not only can seniors benefit from the better filtration of electronic air cleaners or pleated media filters, but the reduced frequency of cleaning and/or replacement give seniors one less thing to bother with. This is especially important for attic and crawlspace installations.

10. Carbon Monoxide Detectors

As with scalding, seniors are more sensitive to carbon monoxide than the general population. This makes the presence of carbon monoxide detectors critical.

Selling to Seniors

Most seniors will be reluctant to admit they might need the aid of disability products. Ironically, they will be quick to suggest these are the exact products needed by friends of theirs. Don’t even hint to a senior that he needs a grab bar even if it’s obvious he does. Instead, suggest that he might want one installed for his wife. Or say that while he might not need it yet, it would probably give his children peace of mind to know he’s taking precautions. Often, seniors take action out of concern for a spouse or children.

Marketing to Seniors

Put together one to two page flyers displaying the products (and remember, use large print). Mail these to seniors you’ve identified in your database and distribute them on service calls. Pass them out at home and garden shows. Talk about home safety at service clubs and networking groups. Mail the flyer to your entire database before the holidays, noting that these can be the perfect gifts for the parent who is impossible to buy for.

As people age, they begin to recognize everyday tasks are more difficult. Yet, they tend to be unaware of the many solutions available to help. Merely making them aware will result in more sales. Sometimes the simplest technology can be the most profitable.

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