The recent Silver Business microSummit demonstrated how to tap into the 55-and-over market in Boulder County and beyond.
Photos by NJK Photography
Article courtesy of Boulder County CareConnect
Boulder County is aging, and aging fast. The question for the overflow crowd attending the first Silver Business microSummit recently hosted by RE/MAX of Boulder and Boulder County CareConnect was how to meet this population’s needs. Attendees packed the venue at RE/MAX of Boulder to learn about emerging trends, challenges, and business possibilities in the 55-and-over market.
“The aging population is growing by over 6% per year — an important market,” Colorado State demographer Elizabeth Garner told the audience. “There are a ton of opportunities out there.”
“It’s a ripe time for us to be focusing on this amazing trend going on, and the opportunities that are part of our community.” —Bob Morehouse, Founder and CEO, Vermilion Design & Digital.
D.B. Wilson, managing broker for RE/MAX of Boulder, illustrated the housing crunch with his personal experience. When he started working at the real estate company in 1976, the average price of a house in Boulder was $51,000. In September 2016, the average was $1.63 million. Approaching retirement age, he and his wife decided the time was right to downsize, but their remodel of a much smaller property ended up costing 40% more than what they received for selling their home.
D.B. Wilson, Managing Broker of RE/MAX of Boulder (left) with RE/MAX of Boulder Realtors Mary Huffman (middle) and Andrea Farinacci (right)
“A lot of people our age are thinking, ‘I want to downsize,’” Wilson said, adding that they also want to spend less money and put equity in the bank. “That is virtually impossible in our present circumstance.”
Local respondents to the national standardized Community Assessment Survey for Older Adults (CASOA) also brought up housing challenges, according to Jacob Bielecki, business results manager for the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging. “One in 5 of our respondents had problems finding housing to suit their needs,” he said.
About a year ago, the Boulder-based online roommate matching and home-sharing service, Silvernest.com, launched to help older Americans continue living at home affordably and avoid isolation. Unlike Craigslist and other public classified ad sites, Silvernest.com does background and ID checks on potential renters. They also offer a customizable lease management system and automated rental payments. Participating homeowners receive $750 a month on average for rent, CFO Kelly Hickey said. So far the company has 5,700 sign-ups.
“This is a generation that does not want to age like their parents,” Hickey said.
The Boomer population isn’t going to retire like their parents did, either. Clif Harald, executive director of the Boulder Economic Council, pointed out that he’s seeing more residents over 60 stay in the workplace longer. “Employers are having to be more creative than ever about the talent they’re recruiting and how they’re retaining the talent they have,” he said.
“They like Uber. There are more Uber drivers over 50 than there are under 30.” —Kelly Hickey, CFO, Silvernest.com
Elizabeth Garner called Boomers cutting-edge. They’re not going to want a pillbox that looks like a pillbox, she said. “They’re going to want something that looks like an iPhone.”
Enlisting robot caretakers isn’t a big stretch, either. Frasier VP of health and support services Michelle McParland said that robots to perform small tasks and provide companionship are currently being tested. She also pointed to noninvasive technology that helps seniors stay at home safely, like floor sensors that can alert family to a potential health problem.
Google projects manager and BCCC board member Mike Allen highlighted additional futuristic technologies in development. He said Google is investing in companies that are researching the aging process. Google is working on self-driving cars and a contact lens that continuously monitors glucose levels for diabetics as well. “Let’s see where the technology takes us,” Allen said.
“Our Baby Boomer seniors are seeking a different kind of engagement than our 90-plus year-olds.” —Michelle McParland, VP of Health and Support Services, Frasier
In the past, marketers were taught to target younger customers, catching them early and for the duration, Seniors Blue Book Colorado publisher Nancy Fenimore explained. “You have to throw that out the window,” she said. Brand loyalty is serious business for Baby Boomers and the older Silent Generation. “Once you get them, they will stay with you for life and, what is even more important, they will pass that along to their friends.”
Jack Jostes, the president and CEO of the web marketing agency Ramblin Jackson, illustrated that point. Research for Denver-based client Firehaus Pilates revealed numerous online searches for seniors’ pilates classes in the area. Firehaus responded by creating a new line of classes and working with Ramblin Jackson to launch a custom landing page on their website. That page alone brought in more than $200,000 of revenue over the past three years, Jostes said.
For one-on-one engagement, Morningstar Senior Living executive director Tafairian Wake urged eye contact and personal attention. “I find that it’s most effective to talk to the individual who is going to be utilizing your services: your customer,” she said. “Keep in mind that potential customers and clients might feel lonely or isolated.”
“I think about community and I look around this room,” Boulder Chamber president and CEO John Tayer said during his closing remarks. “This is about bringing businesses together with nonprofits to address needs.”
A Vibrant Community
"It takes a community to make sure that we meet the needs of our elder population as we grow.” —John Tayer, President and CEO, Boulder Chamber (left) with Jack Jostes, Ramblin Jackson.
After the event, attendees said the speakers were interesting and informative. “What I liked about the event was that we were looking at issues for elders in many different areas,” said Norah Charles, an acupuncturist who specializes in treating seniors at Boulder Acupuncture and Herbs.
Silver Surfers Digital Media owner Diana DeBrohun said the microsummit gave her marketing ideas. “There is this recognition that being connected online is a great benefit to older adults,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Bob Nelson, a retired mechanical engineer and longtime resident, was also in the audience. “There’s a very vibrant community here in Boulder,” he said, describing his AquaFit class at the YMCA. Nelson said he planned to share the event highlights with his classmates. “I thought it was right on — a lot of excellent information.”