Silvers Summit- The Chats

by Louis on January 22, 2012

Reflecting on the conversations I had at the Silvers Summit I realize I had the same three conversations quite a few times. These are not new points, the topics are review for folks I converse with all the time. (I may even have written about them in this space) I am going to share the gist of them here. They stand out because they are the meeting of what is on my mind and what is of interest to other folks on Aging in Place issues.

The three conversations are (1) How I got into this topic (2) demographics v. market, (3) steering wheels v. cars

(1) How I Got here

I am a carpenter and former design/build contractor. In 1988 I was asked to remodel a bathroom for a family whose 12 year old was about to return from spinal cord injury rehabilitation. I asked what they needed a contractor for, the mother said, “I didn’t help him in the bathroom before he was injured…I want him to be independent when he comes home.” I had no idea what to do, and I found no sources of information. (Pre internet!) What I did was helpful, he was independent in the bathroom, although it is not what I would do today.

I was totally turned on by the real, significant value I was able to provide to this family with my tools and skills. A few years later I read an article on the age wave and in the early 1990’s decided to focus my business on remodeling for older folks. I had two goals. (a) do more feel good work with real purpose, (b) differentiate my small design build remodeling firm from other companies in the DC metro area.

I began attending senior service provider networking events. People were very interested. They thought my service was a great idea. By the second half of the decade I was teaching classes on the topic for home builders, health and social service providers, under grants from the Administration on Aging and local communities.  Pretty exciting, but there was a persistent question:  “If everyone thinks this is such a great idea, why did the phone rarely ring?”

This question lead me to study aging issues, government silos, social/marketing, resulting in the White Paper, Aging in Place 2.0: Rethinking Solutions to the Home Care Challenge, published by the MetLife Mature Marketing Institute last year. Though my services still include work with individual families, companies and communities I am also working to find solutions to the question raised in Aip2.0.

(2) Demographics v Market

People looking into boomer and senior business opportunities talk about the sheer numbers…78 million boomers, 30 million older people…as well as savings, spending power, etc.. They refer to this as the senior or boomer markets. They too often confuse demographics with market. Demographics are statistical population data. Markets are the commerce resulting from buyers and sellers meeting to exchange good and services for dollars. They are not the same. The demographics are real but so far converting those demographics to a market based on the fact that people are older is pretty illusive, unless health problems and crisis are the motivators. (see more about THE Master, the late David Wolfe)

(3) Steering Wheel v Car

Many (too many) entering this market place with (really) good ideas are selling steering wheels, or tires, or windshields or rear view mirrors or seat belts. NO ONE is selling a car.  No one buys just a piece, hoping it will fit together sooner or later, or when they need it.  And once they have a car they need roads to drive on, stops signs and traffic lights to maintain order and gas stations, repair shops, and parts stores to make the car valuable.

The system we need is not too hard to understand, but difficult to create. Entrepreneurs who think it will happen on its own, or is nearly there, or the government will do it, are mistaken. It is our job to create the Aging in Place industry to realize opportunities and serve older citizens. My idea on this subject. The Aging in Place Institute . Please let me know how you want to be involved.

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