For Those Who Downsize Senior Residences, It's Personal Barbara Morris started her Smooth Transitions business in Louisville, KY, in 1995. In 2002 she co-founded the National Association of Senior Move Managers and hers was one of the first 22 member companies.
Now there are more than 600 members firms, and Morris has 52 licensees for her company, including three in Canada and one in New Zealand. And interest has never been higher.
Clearly, senior moves is a fast-growing facet of the mature market. Companies such as Morris' help aging clients downsize, by either consulting with the client or the adult children or by taking over the project from top to bottom.
Marketing the service, Morris tells Selling to Seniors, requires a deft touch. "This is a very personal business and many people want to know someone who knows you," she says.
Other companies in the field may use different marketing strategies, but Morris has found her best advertising is word-of-mouth.
"I rely on relationships with retirement communities, news articles about the business, speaking to community groups, developing relationships with attorneys, bankers and others who might make referrals."
Experience Pays Off
It's not an easy job downsizing a longtime residence filled with memories, as anyone knows who has ever attempted to dispose of a less-than-heirloom quality trinket with family sentimental value. But it gets easier -- or at least smoother, to quote Morris' firm's name -- with each assignment.
"I stared this business in 1995 after helping disperse the estate of a family friend and then my mother-in-law," Morris says. "As many people do, by the time you figure it out, you will never do it again." Her mother-in-law was lucky to have adult children to help, "then I realized that some people don't have children, or they're not nearby, or that aren't working 80 hours a week and taking care of their own families. Thus, a business was created."
Morris, who had recently left a 20-year career in healthcare, was ready for a new challenge. But little did she realize the potential of the business as contemporary society grows older and senior housing responds to market forces.
"Adult children don't always live in the same community where their parents are. It is hard for them to do all the things required for a move that they want and need to do," she says of what's driving the industry. "There weren't as many options for senior living a few years ago as there are now.
"People are realizing that they can live independent lives without worrying about the upkeep of a house, meals, transportation, house cleaning in addition to the socialization offered in a retirement community or assisted living place. As the Boomers age, the needs for senior move management services will only become greater."
'We Are Neutrals'
Over the years Morris has learned that the goal is simple: "Seniors and their adult children are looking for solutions to the obstacles of moving or dispersing an estate," she says. "We are neutrals and can follow the wishes of the family without the emotional involvement. And we have the resources and contacts for making the process efficient but with the compassion that is needed."
Ideally, she says, "we do all this with integrity and with the needs of the senior as the focus of the project."