Independence. Familiarity. Community. These are just a few of the reasons senior citizens cite for preferring to stay in their homes as they age rather than move into an assisted living or independent living community, a movement also known as “Aging in Place.” As this trend continues, the landscaping and lawn maintenance sector is adapting to this niche group of homeowners, and it’s giving rise to new business opportunities within the green industry.
With rising life expectancies, the number of senior adults has changed dramatically in the span of a generation. Demographers predict that the number of people 65 and over will grow by 36% over the next decade and nearly double by 2030, resulting in 72.1 million senior Americans.
According to the AARP, at least 80% of older adults report that they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Rather than move to a new community, even one that might be more physically suited to their needs, the vast majority of older adults prefer to “age in place.”
As homeowners lose mobility over time, lawn maintenance become increasingly difficult. This generally results in two courses of action. First, seniors begin to hire contractors for tasks that they previously did themselves, including mowing, trimming, snow removal, and holiday lighting.
Second, seniors need to make adjustments to their homes to prepare for the special needs of age. In the landscaping industry, homeowners may consider reducing their green space with hardscape or re-doing their landscape with something that is easier to maintain with reduced mobility.
As this demographic becomes a larger part of the market, it’s important to consider how your business will cater to them. For instance, certain services such as holiday lighting and snow removal will be more appealing to seniors. Consider launching a campaign specifically targeted at them.
Tips for Working with Elderly Customers
- Build Relationships. As seniors become less mobile, they have less and less in-person contact, so your service is a valuable personal interaction for them. Take the time to ask them how their day is going.
- Who is the Customer? It’s common for adult children to be involved with or take charge of major decisions for seniors, including home
- upgrades and contracting. Make sure that you are clear on who is the ultimate decision-maker, but involve all parties in the process—let both parents and children know what to expect.
- Hardscapes. When planning a hardscape for elderly customers, be mindful of mobility issues. Make sure that a pathway is wide enough for a wheelchair, and consult specifically about the use of stairs.
- Correspondence. When sending marketing materials or invoices, be mindful that elderly customers cannot read small print well, and are still uncomfortable with the majority of digital technology. Prepare your customers if they are to receive invoices or special offers by email, and provide a print copy when possible.
- Take Time for the Little Things. Taking the garbage out can be a major undertaking to a senior citizen, but only takes a moment for a young employee. Train your personnel to look for small services they can provide to make the customer experience more memorable and retain customers.
- Be Respectful. The “Greatest Generation” values manners and respect and has been taught to be wary of dishonest contractors. Your team’s uniforms, demeanor, and branding will make a big difference to this demographic. Even if you have to explain something slowly or multiple times, be patient and treat the customer with respect they deserve.