The senior population in America – those over 65 years of age – has reached almost 50 million, and is forecast to continue growing rapidly for the next two decades. This “Silver Tsunami” as some are calling it, has been accompanied by increased need for senior service businesses to help all those seniors. One of the most unique new senior service businesses is a senior home safety business, which focuses on helping senior stay safe in their own homes as they age. Providing this service in your area is a perfect way to help others live safer lives and make a good income doing it.
Because this is a unique business, you may have a few questions to help you decide if it’s a business that might work for you. Here are some of the most common questions about home safety checkups:
1. What does a senior home safety business do?
As seniors age, they tend to be prone to in-home injuries, such as falls. In fact, one in three seniors over 65 falls each year, and many falls cause serious injuries, such as head trauma or broken bones. That can lead to huge medical bills and long recuperation times. For example, 40 percent of seniors hospitalized for hip fractures due to a fall are never able to live independently again!
The good news is that most in-home injuries can be prevented with simple, common sense modifications, so seniors can then live safely in their own homes for many years. A senior home safety advisor, using a 10 page, 120-item safety checklist, takes a close look at every room in a senior’s home, as well as outdoor areas such as porches and walkways. Using the checklist, they can identify risky area or items that need attention or modifications. The items may be as simple as adding plug-in night lights in halls used at night, or lever handle doorknobs for a better grip, or more complicated, such as adding an exterior ramp or grab bars in the shower or tub area.
When the safety survey is completed, the senior client is given a “Safety Survey Summary and Recommendations” that lists any needed changes or modifications. If the modifications require a contractor, the senior safety advisor can refer a reliable local person or business.
2. How much are senior home safety advisors paid?
The cost of a senior home safety survey ranges from $60 to $200, depending on the size of the home. In addition to the charge for a safety survey, most safety advisors partner with local contractors to earn a commission or referral fee when extensive modifications are required. This can often add several hundred dollars in supplemental income. It’s also common to find a home that needs non-slip pads installed under area rugs. If bought at wholesale, the markup is as much as 100%, and can add even more “add-on” income.
3. Who hires senior home safety advisors?
Most of the demand comes from the seniors themselves, but many senior care professionals, such as social workers and physical therapists can recommend that their clients have a safety survey done, as they know how costly a fall or other in-home accident can be. A surprisingly large number of requests for safety surveys come from the adult children of seniors, who care about their parent’s safety. A serious fall carries a huge emotional cost for both the seniors and their family, aside from the medical expenses. Just as an example, the current cost of medical care for a hip fracture, one of the most common senior fall injuries, can be over $35,000.
4. Why is this such a fast growing business opportunity?
Of course the growing number of elders over 65 plays a big part, but there are two other reasons. First, seniors are living independently longer that ever before, so their homes, which may have been safe when they were 50 and in better physical shape, need safety modifications now. Second, thanks to the era of prosperity during the last 30 years, more seniors have savings and the ability to pay for safety modifications to their own homes.
5. How long does it take to do a senior home safety check?
It all depends on the size of the home. A survey can take as little as one hour for a small home, to several hours for a larger home. Many seniors prefer to have the safety advisor return to do minor safety improvements, such as putting non-slip pads under area rugs or installing brighter LED bulbs or fixtures that are safer.
6. Is special insurance required?
Your insurance agent or broker can advise you on what will be required in your area, but the most common items will be liability insurance to protect both you and your clients, and adding coverage to your vehicle policy for business use.
7. How is a home safety checkup different from a conventional home inspection?
A safety checkup evaluates visible items and areas that need attention, such as slippery steps or lack of handrails. A conventional home inspection is an in-depth structural inspection that also evaluates home components, such as a furnace or air conditioner, attic insulation, siding and roofing condition, and so on. A safety checkup is not a home inspection, which is why the cost is so reasonable.
8. Is there really a lot of work in this field?
Everyone from the federal government to local social service agencies is encouraging any measures that can reduce medical expenses. There is universal agreement that fall prevention for seniors saves money in both immediate medical costs, and long-term costs, such as the cost of a nursing home for a senior whose hip fracture did not mend. It is a major factor in the growing awareness of senior home safety in keeping a lid on rising medical costs. This is why local safety advisors get so many referrals from senior care professionals, such as doctors, social workers and others.
9. Can I work part-time as a safety advisor?
Yes, you’re the boss, and can tailor your work schedule so you can work as little or as much as you want. That’s why this is such an ideal business for those with family responsibilities or even another part-time senior service business.
10. Is this an expensive business to start up?
Just the opposite! Most of the work involves just you and your clipboard/checklist when you’re doing the safety surveys. Of course I’m assuming you already have, as most of us do, a dependable vehicle and a cellphone. In the beginning you will need to print multiple copies of the safety checklist and summary forms, as well as business cards and a brochure or flyer. If your start-up budget is tiny, you can get started with just a few hundred dollars.
Be sure to make those dollars work harder by getting your printed marketing materials, such as business cards, brochures and flyers printed by one of the many online printers. I use, and like, vista print.com, but you should get pricing from others, as someone is always running a special. To get started, just do an internet search for “brochure printing.”
11. What if I’m not a handyman or construction pro?
If you can follow a simple checklist, you can perform a senior safety checkup. This does not require any knowledge of carpentry, wiring, or any construction experience. That said, many safety advisors who have those skills do tackle some of the modifications that may be required, like ramps or adding grab bars in a bathroom.
12. How do I find new customers?
You’ll find ten sources of free referrals for new customers listed in my book. The best one, of course, is word of mouth. Your customers will tell their friends, who call you “pre-sold” because their friend has told them what a wonderful job you did and how safe they feel at home now. Be sure to leave brochures or flyers at your local senior center, and run a simple free ad on Craigslist.org.
13. Do I need any special training or certification?
This is such as simple business that you can get started right away without any formal training. Be sure to do a few “practice” safety checks for friends and family to get familiar with the forms. Although formal training is not necessary, you do need common sense and patience in dealing with seniors. Anyone who is a people person should do well in this business.
14. My computer skills are not great. Is that important?
Although some day it may be possible to walk through a senior’s home using nothing but an iPad, the most complicated item you will use is a ballpoint pen and a clipboard. This makes it easy to share your survey results with a client right after you’ve completed the summary. Some safety advisors like to use a digital camera to “take notes” as they go, so they can do a “show and tell” with the client, and this can be a digital camera or a smartphone, but it’s totally optional.
15. What are the most common safety hazards found in a senior’s home?
The focus of a safety survey is mainly to identify and correct fall hazards, as those pose the highest medical risk. The most common fall hazards are area rugs with no non-slip pads underneath, inadequate lighting, unsafe stairways and slippery surfaces in bathrooms. Electrical hazards are also quite common, and usually simple to correct, such as missing or non-functioning smoke detectors or overloaded extension cords.
The opportunities are exceptional in the growing senior safety field, and so is the potential for a solid income. It is not uncommon to bring in over $100,00 a year from safety survey fees, commissions and add-on services. If you’ve been looking for a home-based business that is recession-proof and allows you to make a living helping seniors life safer, longer lives at home, this could be it. To learn how, read: How to Start Your Own Senior Home Safety Consulting Business.