Working in Senior Time

By Louis Tenenbaum, CAPS, Independent Living Specialist and member of the ASID Aging-in-Place Council

One of the critical success factors when working with older clients is a willingness to adapt to their way of doing business.  The timing of projects is a case in point.  Senior remodeling clients have basically two speeds: hurry up and wait. Recognizing the speed at which a particular client is operating will greatly influence how you handle the sales process.

Hurry Up:  This segment of the niche consists of those returning home from an accident or illness, or those recognizing the onset of limitations. They are in a hurry because they cannot care for themselves or be safely cared for at home any longer. Without home modifications, they will be forced to move immediately. This factor is magnified by a number of issues, including:

  • Health professionals who don't understand the time it takes to get remodeling work designed, organized and executed
  • Clients who do not know how well they will recover or how useful the modifications will be
  • Design and selection discussions that might take place in a senior’s residence or medical facility and be inefficient because of health or emotional conditions

Wait:  This segment is the same population pursued by the active-adult, new home market. Sales professionals in the active-adult market recognize that a one, two- or even three-year lag between initial lead and completed sale is not uncommon. Few are set up to follow leads for that length of time. The lifestyle of the retiree is totally different from that of the dual-income family with children.

Design/build firms typically promote their timesaving processes when marketing to busy clients, but this is not an advantage to those without time constraints. It is hard to make design progress with retirees. Interruptions for travel and little interest in regularly scheduled meetings make the client a trial for design personnel. In sales lingo, there is no urgency.

Another word for clients with no sense of urgency is planners. Planning could eliminate the "hurry up" issues outlined above. But the conditions and timing that create the "hurry up" scenario are not known in advance and not very exciting to consider. Few of us plan for bad or worst-case scenarios. Planning for them is never a high priority. The effects of aging creep up so slowly, we hardly witness them. Most people don't like to admit they are getting older or the corollary, that their abilities are diminishing. In short, planning is almost the definition of no urgency¾a tough and frustrating sale.

Thorough preparation, with an eyes-wide-open approach to the differences that define the seniors market will serve you well, knowing what to expect makes the plunge safer.

Louis Tenenbaum is an independent living specialist.  To find out more about his work, visit or