Professional Organizing for the Senior Market: NAPO-WDC


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February 7 Presentation by Sue Thomas of RetireEd for NAPO-WDC

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  • First of all, I want to say thank you for inviting us to be here tonight!I am going to talk to you about not only Capturing Your Share of the Booming Senior Marketplace but also how to stay competitive in that marketplace. The senior industry is exciting … Your passion will definitely be rewarded and your success magnified!! Let me start off with a question………January was GET ORGANIZED month. As professional organizers, how many of you have organized your own business strategies for 2011? How many of you are currently working in the senior marketplace? How many of you have considered it?
  • My name is Sue Thomas and I’d like to tell you a brief history of my journey into this incredible marketplace. My number 1 passion has always been to help people. No matter what job I have ever had, it has always been working to help people in one aspect or another. My #2 passion is to make people feel comfortable in their own space, which as professional organizers is a shared passion. I accomplished this through interior decorating. My specialty quickly became “Redesign…that is decorating, usingwhat people already have”. In the beginning of 2006, I saw the endless opportunities of working in what I knew would be a very hot niche market and developed my redesign business model into a very profitable venture focusing on the senior marketplace. Redesign and Retirement Living! It was perfect!! All these people moving into the endless communities being built …they all had to downsize from large homes into small apartments. What they kept were truly their treasured belongings. I Knew I could help them make a new home by applying design principles and using all of their treasures! My business soared. As I solidified the process, I founded and trademarked Redesign for Retirement Living. What I discovered through my business model was the need for service providers like me to find the resources they needed to complete and expand their service offerings, which was the genesis of The Retirement Living Resource Directory. I partnered with Melissa Kuzma on this project, we formed a new company, Rica enterprises, and we launched the directory in 2008. Let me introduce Melissa…... As my work with Redesign for Retirement Living progressed, word got out in the design/decorating world about this new concept I had created and we quickly found that there was a strong demand from decorating/staging/senior move management/professional organizers, home health care provider associations nationwide to learn exactly how I worked with seniors, so I authored the class entitled the same REDESIGN FOR RETIREMENT LIVING to teach about the senior market, how to consult with a senior, how to communicate and build trust and forged a system I named Redesign Redefined… 18 step system that tells you how to “build” a space for a senior client, incorporating design/decorating principles with the physical and mental needs of the aging. I spoke at the annual NAPO conference in 2009 about the opportunities for professional organizers in the senior market. Melissa and I were shocked at the number of attendees that signed up for my session………369….that was more than half of the total number of conference attendees. So much has happened in the senior marketplace in the two years since….but it’s not too late to consider this a place for your business. In fact, this year, 2011, is the beginning of boomers turning 65 - all 78 million!
  • Let’s talk about the senior marketplace……….your new generation of opportunity!!
  • Take a look at these statistics! The first wave of the “Silver Tsunami” has begun. Baby Boomers have already begun to reach 65, and once every 7.4 seconds another boomer retires. By 2020, one in four people in the United States will be over the age of 65. The elderly population is increasing at nearly twice the rate of the general population. The 85 plus segment of our population will balloon to more than 33 percent by 2010. The evolving needs of older generations are already having a major influence on resources and driving market trends. Both government and business are beginning to prepare for the social and economic impact of the senior boom. This is a GREAT time to establish a business in the senior market. The number of Americans aged 55 & older will almost double by 2030, from 60 million in 2000 to 107 million (That’s about 1.73 million per year for the next 20 years)80% of older adults are homeowners. Of those homeowners, 60% have paid their mortgages in full and 60% live in homes that are more than 20 years old.
  • Most adults age 65+ live in traditional communities. As of 2006, 4.5% of those adults were residing in housing with services. Only 2.5% were living in long-term care settings.As the largest number of baby boomers are entering their retirement ages, consider this: People aged 50+ account for 33% of the total US net worth. They are responsible for 50% of all discretionary spending and own 77% of all financial assets. “Sandwich Generation” is a term used to represent a growing subset of baby boomers who find themselves responsible for both children and aging parents.
  • There is no longer just one senior market. There are now four generations of today’s older Americans.Americans are living longer, healthier lives. The age at which someone is considered an “Older American” begins at 62 and extends beyond 100 years of age. There are approximately 40 million Americans today that fit this description, and these seniors are a very diverse group. When thinking of “Seniors” or “Older Americans,” it’s best to segment them into four generally recognized groups: the Baby Boomers, the Post War Generation, the World War II Generation, and the Depression Era Generation. Each group is defined by age and the historical events that occurred during adolescence and early adulthood. They have different wants, needs and perspectives on life. They will respond differently to various types of marketing and they will have differing levels of participation when you work with them. Think of the people you know that fit into each of these categories. Visualize how different they are from one another. The typical stereotypes of hunched over grandmothers and crotchety old men applies to only a small segment of seniors. The reality is that a sizable majority of today’s older Americans of all ages lead active lifestyles. They want to remain independent, and contributing members of their communities for as long as possible.
  • Born between 1946 & 1964, the “Baby Boomer Generation” is comprised of two groups. People born from 1946 to 1954 are referred to as the “leading edge” boomers. “Trailing edge” boomers were born from 1955 to 1964. When the Boomers hit the scene, they were the healthiest and wealthiest generation to date. They often have high expectations and can be very self indulgent. Most Baby Boomers can not envision themselves as anything but young and active, refusing to acknowledge the aging process. Just look at all the anti-aging products and services on the market today that cater to this demographic! Many boomers also have aging parents that they are concerned with and caring for.Born from 1928 to 1945, the Post War Generation is also known as “The Silent Generation.” As a result of growing up during lean times, this generation developed a strong work ethic. Following World War 2, they experienced a period of remarkable economic expansion, the rise of the middle class and the great migration to the suburbs. They value financial rewards and security. A great majority are well-educated and many have amassed considerable savings.
  • Often called “The Greatest Generation,” this group was born between 1922 & 1927. Perhaps they were most shaped by growing up during the Great Depression. Over 14 million people from this generation served in World War 2. Even more contributed to the war effort on the home front. United in a common cause, this generation understands sacrifice for the greater good. Today’s oldest living Americans grew up in the aftermath of WWI and reached adulthood during the Great Depression. They grew up quickly, many having little or nothing. The need for financial security drives their actions. Members of the Depression Generation are slow to take risks and don’t want to be a burden to others and have a strong desire to remain in control.
  • Working with seniors has truly been the most rewarding business experience I have ever had. With this generation of people, you get what you give….honesty, respect, loyalty and appreciation. Getting older and facing physical and mental health issues is hard enough. Complicate those difficulties with the decision of how to accommodate your living arrangements and it becomes one of the biggest stressors of life. Now try handling that after the death of a spouse or children who can’t help because of distance, job or family issues and it becomes isolating and overwhelming. You all have chosen to be in a business where compassion for people is key. These are the people that WANT AND NEED your help and your expertise!
  • So Where ARE the Seniors?What is the decision seniors are making about their later life living accommodations? And what is the difference between later life living options?
  • Let’s first visit… Aging in place. Aging in place simply means securing the necessary support services to accommodate changing personal needs without having to move from the present residence.
  • 87% of Americans with Disabilities Age 50 & Older Want to Receive Services in Their Own Homes Most of These People Have not Made the Changes Required to Age in Place Americans of all ages value their ability to live independently. In the past, if someone had difficulty living by themselves, it was a signal that now was time to move in with family or go to a nursing home. But, for most people, that no longer is the case. Seniors are healthier now than people of the same age were 30 years ago. As human longevity increases, there is a keen desire to remain healthy and independent for as long as possible. Today, you can live on your own for many years, even as you grow older and start needing help with everyday tasks. However, if someone develops a chronic health condition, like diabetes or arthritis aging in place means more that just staying put. That person needs a place to live that is safe and fits with their abilities. In Washington DC, nearly 55% of the homes are more that 55 years old.  The design of homes built that many years ago is much different from today’s new homes. Rooms are smaller, closed in, and separated from each other. If you’ve ever lived in a house this old, you certainly remember how small the closets are!! Please professional organizer….help me with a smart system to store my belongings!!
  • The second scenario is that many older people are choosing to place their final roots in a retirement community in order to live near other retired people. They are interested in hanging out with people that share similar interest, living conditions and are the same age. Most retirees enjoy the close knit feeling of retirement community living because they like to look after each other and engage in the same activities.There are many places where a retirement community can be found and many types of communities.
  • This is a brief overview of the different types of communities available to seniors. Becoming familiar with the purpose of each community will increase your awareness of how your service could be helpful to the residents.Age Restricted Communities – more like neighborhoods built with single level homes, duplexes, or condos. Designed to be inhabited by completely independent seniors.Continuing Care Retirement Communities – or CCRC’s - these communities allow seniors to “age in place’, with flexible accommodations that are designed to meet their health and housing needs as these needs change over time. For example, the resident may begin in the independent living residences, move to assisted living as he or she needs help with activities of daily living, and eventually move to the nursing home as ongoing care becomes necessary. Residents entering CCRC’s sign a long term contract that provides for all of this, usually all in one location, enabling seniors to remain in a familiar setting as they grow older.Assisted Living Facilities – are for people needing assistance with the activities of daily life but wish to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. Assisted living bridges the gap between independent living and nursing homes. Residents in assisted living centers are not able to live completely by themselves but do not require constant care either. ALFs are often connected with independent living residences and nursing homes.Skilled Nursing Facilities, commonly referred to as “Nursing Homes” are designed to care for very frail people that are not able to care for themselves and have numerous health care requirements.
  • YOU have a skill that is much in demand in the senior market! ….. So how do you fit in??You can focus and apply this skill to the needs of the generation; those aging in place and those in retirement communities. You can focus on building your current organizing business to cater to the senior market, you could also add “downsizing” or “right sizing” to your service lists as a senior specialty.You are the experts here when it comes to professional organizing. I am not here to tell you how to do your job. I am here to help you see all of the opportunities available to you in this market.
  • Now, I’m sure you already have your own lists of how to help people simplify their lives in their homes. When working with seniors, a difference is the focus on how to communicate and build trust with seniors, health and space issues, and how to market to seniors. I have listed just a few services that you could market.File/paper management can be detailed more to fit a senior by a specific focus on locating, organizing, and storing their legal, financial, medical and other important information.
  • Retirement communities have been around for years now. In CCRC’s and assisted living facilities especially, people tend to start accumulating even though they’re in a smaller space. Market your services to the residents! This is an actual client of mine in a CCRC….she wanted me to redesign her space. She was an avid lover of books and her collection had grown out of hand. She also had all of her mothers furniture, which she didn’t want to part with, but left her with no space, especially when she was relegated to a wheel chair due to issues with diabetes. Before I could even think about a redesign, we had to “simplify” her belongings in order to accommodate her changing needs. I called my team mate in, a professional organizer, to help in the processes of simplifying, donations and shipping inherited furniture to nieces and nephews.
  • You can also market your skills to retirement communities by offering to help their residents in the downsizing process as they ready their home to sell. In most cases, the home needs to sell before they can afford to move to the CCRC. Why is your service invaluable? Number 1, the home may be too cluttered with years of belongings to show well to prospective buyers. Number 2, due to the amount of belongings a senior may have, the task of deciding what to bring to their new smaller residence is overwhelming. For my clients, this is when I would send in my professional organizer teammate, to offer a boutique, one on one service to help with those hard decisions. After the decisions were made about what to bring, I coordinated the rest of the move process. The communities were thrilled with my service…..bottom line……if the house didn’t get sold or the client lost interest in moving due to the stress of the work involved , the community looses an income generating resident. Ok… the resident is moved in…… about offering your service to organize them in their new apartment? New files have to be made…… and bathroom cabinets arranged keeping in mind health restrictions, …….the list goes on and on……..
  • The Competitive Senior Market - How much you know is going to determine how well you can serve your clients. Some of you may choose to keep your business small and just use your current skill set to help seniors. Others may want to take advantage of more opportunity. As with any occupation, the depth of your knowledge about your particular industry can help or handicap you. The more you know, the better your business decisions will be. But as this market grows, and more and more players enter the arena, what will make you stand out from the other players?
  • This industry is growing fast and changes EVERY DAY. You can distinguish your business from others and stay competitive by being aware of whose entering the market and how they are getting their market share, knowing what services they offer and how your businesses differ. Bottom line…..the seniors’ needs are going to continue to grow. You are going to want to continue to grow your business and serve more clients. This is the key…….your relationships with other businesses in this industry can mean the difference between being the best, being average or being left behind. Today, many companies with “average” service can prosper. However, in the coming market your network of people can help propel you from good to incredible.
  • This was how I formed my business model years ago…..teaming with other service providers who were experts in their own fields to expand my company service offerings. By doing that, in just two years, my business quadrupled, and my services offerings went from just one to eleven. I was getting paid $10,000 PLUS per client for my full set of services!!! You already have one skill set that can be offered……..that’s a great start!You can be the business that offers the ONE STOP SHOP to your customers.Take a close look at this list…………these are the professional industries that you can team with to grow your business. Ask a real estate stager if they would like to use your organizing skills to help ready the house for sell. Ask a senior move manager if they would like to outsource the downsizing task to an expert in that field. Auction or consignment houses…’s an out of the box idea…….offer to help them sort through the belongings or someone who has passed so they can be sold, donated or disposed. Quite a few children of a deceased parent cant or don’t want to take on the task. This is a whole other market. Advertise that specialty to retirement communities, auction houses, and surviving children.EVERYONE WINS. By teaming with other service providers, the service quality is expert, efficient, and a great revenue stream for all.
  • Here is a list of service offerings that you can include to offer not only to the seniors themselves, but to other service providers you are marketing to. Your service offerings and your areas of expertise is what makes you marketable and attractive. Anyone who wants to win and be successful wants the best on their team.
  • As I just mentioned when talking about who to market to, there is plenty of opportunity to get hired by the children of seniors to help their parents. As our parents age and you start to see what you may perceive as a diminished version of the vibrant people you once knew, our roles reverse. The children are now the caregivers and the nuturers. Put yourself in these shoes. Don’t we all want to know that are parents are getting the best? What if our parents live in a different city? How do you find the best help? It can be pretty confusing and overwhelming. So, how do you communicate with a baby boomer that you are honest and reputable? Let’s talk about working with the seniors themselves. If you don’t learn anything else from me today, please remember this. A senior is going to buy YOU FIRST, your service second. It doesn’t matter if you are the most talented expert in your field, their first interest is who you are as a person. So, with this in mind, one of the first things you need to do is to BUILD TRUST and LEARN HOW TO COMMUNICATE.
  • Look at these statistics…….I’m sure you’ve all heard that our senior citizens are targeted for crime…….but did you realize just how much?? I was actually surprised that the rates are so high. I can tell you, my protective and nuturing personality traits rage to life when I think of someone hurting my mom or any of my clients. I know with out a doubt that the people in my personal and business life deserve the best. I’m sure you feel the same. How do you make sure of that?
  • One of the best ways you can differentiate your business is to get SeniorChecked. Or look for businesses that are Senior Checked. This is the new standard of excellence in the Senior Market. Becoming SeniorChecked shows you’re committed to your senior clients and that you are there to do the best for them. Having the SeniorChecked seal prominently displayed on your website, business cards, brochures and other marketing collateral is a good sign for CLIENTS OF ANY AGE. People will feel secure knowing that if you’ve passed the test to work with seniors, a generation that some perceive as unprotected and frail, that you can certainly be trusted with them. Senior Checked runs background checks, criminal, civil and business to name a few. Becoming Senior Checked shows you and your business are reputable, honest, trustworthy and safe.RetireEd and SeniorChecked have teamed up to help you make your business a Stand Out, by offering you a 50% discount on the cost of becoming SeniorChecked. The Regular price is $699 for the Company and an officer. Additional employees are $49 each. The RetireEd Discounted Price $ is $349. Go to and use promo code RetireEd34 to get this incredible discount. And, if you opt to autorenew you’ll lock in this discounted rate for life.I feel very strongly that being Senior Checked will be known as the standard of excellence in every industry dealing with seniors within the next few years. I encourage all of you to take advantage of our affliation with Senior Checked, lock into these rates and spread the word that you are one of the first in your industry to have this mark of excellence.For questions::All SeniorChecked Businesses Have Completed These Checks:Clear Civil Records: All businesses are checked for significant judgments, liens and bankruptcies. Liability Insurance: All businesses require $1 million in liability insurance. Crime bond coverage is required for cleaning services. Licenses in Good Standing: All businesses licenses are verified for their respective trades, and there are no violations against their license. Industry Specific Credentials: Additional screening is conducted in certain fields like health care professionals, financial planners, and insurance agents to look for sanctions brought about by state and federal government agencies. Business Filings: Confirmation that the service provider is registered to do business in your area. The owner or principal of the business and select members of their staff have passed:Deep Criminal Background Check:Deep Criminal Background Check: SeniorChecked not only scans over 180 million criminal records but conducts in-person court house searches of county, municipal, federal and statewide court repositories for a comprehensive address history of the individuals being checked. Sex Offender Check:Individuals are screened against the Department of Justice's SMART Office (Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking) which contains sex offender registries for all 50 states. Civil Record Screening: Checks for significant judgments against the owner/principal of the business. Terrorist Watch List:Scans federal lists of known or suspected terrorists and money launderers. Identity Verification:A Social Security trace is conducted to ensure the person is who they say they are. Limitations of Background ChecksBackground Checks are a way to reduce the risk of selecting an unsafe service provider. However, you should always use diligence by thoroughly interviewing, comparing prices and checking references of service providers you are considering. Always be sure to ask for their SeniorChecked credentials. Here are some additional limitations of background checks: Criminal background checks flag individuals who have been found guilty, pled guilty, or were guilty in Absentia, and those awaiting disposition. Identifying criminal convictions more than 7 years old are limited due to some state and local regulations.
  • We’ve gone over quite a bit of information. Just by using your existing skills and incorporating them with the needs in the senior marketplace, you can have a very profitable organization with years worth of business coming. But where do you start? How do you put it all together?
  • To be successful, you will need to educate yourself on the following issues dealing with seniors.Remember,Seniors are going to buy YOU first, your service second. So, how good are you at selling yourself? The first thing that takes is confidence. Confidence in yourself and confidence in knowing you know how to work with the person in front of you.
  • Redesign for Retirement Living is a comprehensive introduction to working with a senior client. This online, self paced course hand holds you through understanding the senior client, how to conduct a successful senior consultation focusing on communication technique, color and lighting issues and how to redesign in a small space with an 18 step system. After completing the course, you will earn the title of Senior Redesign Professional.For a more in depth study of major senior issues, the CSA (Certified Senior Advisor) class might be for you. If your business focuses directly on seniors, or if you have aging parents that you are taking care of, this class will teach you a lot about senior finance, health, government programs, and more. The cost of the class is steep, around $1,600, but they do run specials and you do come out with a certification. Melissa is CSA certified so she can answer any questions you may have about that class.
  • These are two new classes that we have coming out this year….I’ll be happy to answer questions you have
  • Redesign for Retirement Living is a 3 hour online class. There are quizzes at the end of each module and a final exam to reinforce what you’ve learned. I am proud to say that it is viewed as the cornerstone standard to decorating for seniors. You will learn some of the principles of design, like what is a focal point in a room, how to place furniture taking into consideration the focal point and room shape, how to build a room, how to hang artwork, (yes, we answer the question of how high), how to accessorize, the differences in lighting and how to place lighting, convenient tools to use, as well as health and mental issues relevant to seniors, ADA compliance, connecting emotionally and how to communicate with a senior and much more. Go to, and click on the Redesign for Retirement Living course for a complete outline.
  • Should you decide to expand your service offerings, you need to FIND resources to fulfill your business model. Once your service “model” is ready, you need to BE FOUND by retirement communities and brokers, as well as to other service providers who need you. The internet is your key and the total wave of the future. Not many people use the yellow pages anymore so your business needs to be visible on the web.Everyday people use the internet to find companies just like yours. I Googled, “PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZERS” and got over 7 million 900 thousand results… It’s hard to stand out in a crowd of that size. Unless technology is your hobby, researching things like keywords, search engine optimization and metatags is probably not the way you want to spend your evenings. Trying to make heads or tails of the dizzying array of internet advertising options and terms like: Pay Per Click, Inclusion Advertising and Google AdWords… can be costly, time consuming and frustrating. Targeted internet directories that specifically focus on the senior market, like the Retirement Living Resource Directory, are a cost effective way to reach your intended audience. Listing on reputable internet directories will help boost your own site’s search engine rankings by providing much needed incoming links to your site and giving you a secondary web presence – another place your business can be found.
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