May is Older Americans Month, celebrating people age 65 and older. Small business owners and entrepreneurs should celebrate seniors all year long, because there are so many businesses you can start to serve them.
Here are some facts and tips on how to create a business for seniors:
There are some 44.7 million people 65 and older in the United States, accounting for 14.1 percent of the total population. In less than 20 years (by 2033), however, the population 65 and older is projected to outnumber people younger than 18 for the first time. By 2060, the number of seniors is projected to more than double, with people 65 and over accounting for nearly one-fourth of the population.
A big part of that senior population is the baby boomer generation, currently between 52 and 70 years old. These influential Americans continue to make their mark as consumers: It’s estimated they’ll control some 70 percent of U.S. disposable income by 2017, according to a report by Nielsen.
Baby boomers occupy a unique consumer position: Not only are some of them seniors themselves, but because Americans are living longer, many of them are also buying products and services for their parents.
What are some growth industries related to seniors?
- Senior care consultant: These professionals help find the best living arrangements for seniors, whether that is at home, daycare or a senior living facility. You'll work with community services and local government agencies that help seniors to get client referrals.
- Home retrofitting/remodeling: Seniors who want to stay in their homes as long as possible are getting their homes retrofitted with things like wider doorways, shower grab bars and other changes to make their homes safer and more accessible.
- Travel company: Active seniors are eager to travel, and a travel business focused on senior or family travel can be a big hit. These days, many seniors are planning multi-generation vacations, “girlfriend getaways” or vacations with grandchildren.
- Home services: Nearly three-fourths of seniors own their own homes, but as they get older, they may prefer to have others handle the maintenance. Home-related services, such as housecleaning, lawn care and handyman services aren't just for seniors, but targeting this clientele can help you build a thriving business. Earn the trust of seniors and their adult children, and you'll have more referrals than you can handle.
- Nutrition/exercise consultant: You can work with physical therapists, geriatric physicians, fitness centers and other organizations targeting seniors to provide fitness and nutrition programs for their patients and/or customers. You can also market your services to individuals. Yoga, Pilates, dance and swimming are popular exercise programs among seniors.
- Non-medical in-home care: Adult children often worry about aging parents living at home alone. Your service can ease their worries by helping senior clients with tasks of daily life, such as getting to and from appointments, shopping, cleaning and cooking, so they're able to stay in their homes longer. You'll need to market the service to adult children, since few seniors will admit they need this type of care.
- Medical claims assistance: If you're familiar with health insurance, Medicare and the healthcare industry, you can start a business to help seniors and their families manage medical bills. You'll review bills and medical records to make sure seniors aren’t paying too much and are getting all of the benefits they’re entitled to. Market your services to senior centers, medical offices and financial professionals that can refer you to potential clients.
To successfully market to seniors, keep these tips in mind:
- Seniors — especially baby boomers — don't think of themselves as “old.” No matter what you’re selling, your marketing should speak to healthy, active customers. Focus on how your product or service enables customers to stay independent, enjoy life and keep fit.
- Trust matters—especially if you're selling a service that involves coming into seniors’ homes. You will need to be licensed, insured and bonded (if relevant to your industry). Since seniors are most likely to trust companies they hear about from friends and relatives, strong word-of-mouth is essential to attract new customers.
- Diversify your marketing. While traditional marketing tactics such as direct mail and print advertising will attract senior customers, the vast majority of seniors are also online. And since adult children buying for their parents are also a key target market, an integrated marketing campaign incorporating both traditional and digital media ensures you cover all the bases.
Need more help launching or marketing your senior-related business? The experts at SCORE are there for you 24/7. Visit www.score.org to find out more.