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The Living in Place Opportunity

May 20, 2019
There is a lot of room for remodeling if it means moving to an assisted living facility can be delayed for a few years.

One of the greatest opportunities facing plumbing contractors today is retrofitting baths for people to live in place in their homes.  Here is what you should know.

The Baby Boomers Will Spur Greater Demand

In 2010, 13% of the U.S. population was age 65 or over, according to the Census Bureau.  By 2030, the percentage of Americans 65 and older will jump to 20%.  This is a massive increase, spurred by aging baby boomers (born 1945 to 1964).  Demand of senior friendly housing is going to shoot up.

The Cost of Assisted Living is Significant

In their 2018 Cost of Care Survey, long term insurance provider Genworth found that the average cost of an assisted living facility was $48,000.  By 2030, it is projected to reach $68,437.  While living at home is not free, it is not nearly as expensive as assisted living even when some outside help is required. This means there is a lot of room for remodeling if it means moving to an assisted living facility can be delayed for a few years.

Seniors Prefer to Stay in Their Homes

Research by the American Association of Retired Persons found that nine out of ten seniors prefer to live in their own homes.  Not only is staying in their own homes financially better, it is what people want.

Falls are the Biggest Risk

The Centers for Disease Control reported that senior deaths from falls increased 31% from 2007 to 2016.  According to the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, “It is estimated that 30% to 40% of community-dwelling elders aged 65 years and older fall each year. However, no specific data is available to confirm the number of unreported falls. Falls are the most common cause of injuries and hospital admissions for trauma in older adults (Lueckenotte & Conley, 2009).”

Plumbers Can Help

There are a number of things plumbers can do to help seniors live in place.  One of the easiest is applying non slip shower and bath floor stickers to prevent falls.  They are inexpensive enough to be used as a promotional item to open discussions about living in place.

Grab bars are the next easiest item.  However, few people want industrial looking grab bars in their homes.  Find attractive ones that come in different finishes and colors.  They can replace towel bars, which can be dangerous because seniors might grab them for support and pull them out of the wall.  Not only are people more likely to accept attractive grab bars, they can command higher prices and better margins.

Fold down toilet grab bars are another item to add to your living in place product portfolio.  Along with fold down toilet grab bars, tall toilets or toilet risers can make it easier for seniors to stand after using the bathroom. 

Seniors can have a hard time turning faucet handles.  Offer to change out the faucets and handles for a lever handled faucet.  Consider faucets with forward mounted handles that are easier for someone to use who is wheelchair bound.  Touchless faucets are another option.

Because scalding risk increases for seniors, offer pressure balanced thermostatic mixing valves.  The best solution is one located at the water heater to provide whole house protection.  Another option is to install them at every faucet or shower.

When a senior is wheelchair bound, wheelchair compatible sinks should be discussed.  These sinks are wall mounted so a wheelchair can slip under them.

Walk-in tubs get a lot of attention, but most are not attractive.  Yet, some are.  Find attractive ones and discuss additional work to increase the flow and drain rates.  Recommend tubs with heated seats to prevent chilling while the tub is draining.

Steps to Take

To develop your living in place program, the first challenge is to source the products.  Challenge your suppliers to help but do not be afraid to search online.  Some of the most attractive and function living in place products come from Europe so a manufacturer with a European presence is more likely to offer the products you seek.  Offering them will differentiate you from competitors.

Assemble manufacturer photographs into a catalog.  Once you begin providing your own installations, you can use photographs of your own work. 

Work up pricing for each product.  Some items, like grab bars, can be paid out of pocket.  For others are for a larger retrofit, you might need to arrange third party financing.  There are lots of companies that specialize in this.

Begin talking with home health care providers about your living in place offering.  It is in their interest to keep seniors in their homes as long as it is safe.  Still, consider spiffing them for leads.

Prepare a living in place section of your website.  Publish information about it on social media.  Start mailing and emailing information to your customers.

For more information on how to grow your plumbing business affordably, join the Service Roundtable.  For $50 a month you gain access to the Service Roundtable’s vast library of downloadable sales, marketing, and business operations tools.  You can also access the Plumbers Roundtable for peer support and you get a free membership in Roundtable Rewards, the trade’s largest contractor buying group.  Learn more at or call 877/262-3341.

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