As Canadian Baby Boomers reach the age of 65, a growing desire to age in place has cultivated franchise opportunities in the home and senior care industry. Here are five systems that help the aging population maintain their independence and live happier lives.
Amramp first patented its unique, modular wheelchair ramp system in 1998, and it quickly became its signature product. Over the years, the company has expanded its line to include stair lifts, grab bars, railings, and more. The company continues to grow, with 45 locations across the United States and Canada.
President and Founder Julian Gordon says ramps constitute approximately 70 per cent of the business, and 40 per cent of the supply is rented, a cost-effective option that the Amramp team encourages when a prognosis is indefinite. Should the ramp still be needed six months down the road, clients can put 75 per cent of the rental cost toward a purchase.
Often, clients request additional services, so the company stays at the forefront of innovation, with products like stairlifts, platform lifts, and a roll-in shower that can be connected to any water source. “The fastest-growing population is the senior market. Nursing homes are wonderful places, and they can be great, but seniors would prefer to be at home with loved ones, given the choice,” says Gordon. “The world is evolving, with more enhanced processes to give people that choice.”
The company began franchising in Canada five years ago, and continues to grow. “Franchisees have to be empathetic and connected to people. It can’t just be all about the money in this business. There are enough folks around who can demonstrate they are caring and they are good at it. I find that if you carry that component with you in this business, it’s an advantage.”
A home-based model, franchisees rent small warehouses to store ramp material and other inventory and stage their sales. Owners manage everything from quotes to proposals, layouts, and installation teams. Gordon says Amramp considers its franchisees to be partners in the nationwide network, and provides all of the training and support they need to run a successful business. The corporate support includes ongoing operational support, national marketing programs, national accounts in place, and support from the corporate engineering team for customized layouts.
Gordon’s advice: “Franchisees have to be empathetic. All the criteria of a business is important, but mom and dad can see right through you if you’re just trying to sell them something. If you can convince them you care about their situation and that you’re going to do something in their best interests, that’s what’s key here.”
Betterthan50.com was born when Geoff Davidson and his team realized it was difficult for the mature demographic to get the information they were looking for with traditional search methods like Google. With the onslaught of online purchases, businesses were becoming more disconnected from local consumers.
Betterthan50.com addressed the need by building a comprehensive directory for subscribers with search results that highlight local information whenever possible.
The advertisement-driven website allows advertisers to step to the forefront and become more visible to the demographic they choose to serve. To help support this, Betterthan50.com also hosts The MidLife Show, where local exhibitors can directly target the over 50 market. Popular exhibits include a flight school, zip lining, kayaking and paddle boarding, and an RV Group.
“Historically, the over 50 group are technology reluctant. They will look for technologies that work for them. Convenience is important. One of our key differences is that we have a single portal, so if we are connecting you to something that is online, you do that through a single portal. We have spent the time engineering the most robust user front-end that there is in the marketplace. We’re quite proud about that.”
Davidson says the increased demand for privacy, security, and safety is also an area where they’ve focused to ensure data collected is as secure as possible.
Franchisees run their business virtually. The infrastructure is provided by the franchise, from the portals to the hardware and the applications needed to enable a sales force and journalists. From there, franchisees manage their advertising and content locally.
“We want someone who lives in the area and is committed to where they are from. They are committed to getting out there and making connections.”
With one franchisee in operation and another set to launch in Ontario, Davidson projects adding three to four more franchisees in the next year. “Our objective is to be successful and effective with each franchise, and dedicate the resources and attention to each that is necessary.”
Created by Gail Shields and Karen Shinn, Downsizing Diva helps older adults manage their move with grace, dignity, and of course, fun! With 10 locations, and more on the horizon, the Divas first began franchising in 2009.
“The Canadian demographic tells us that 1,000 Canadians are turning 65 every day. It’s an ever-increasing market, and it’s a very exciting area to be working in, particularly if you like working with seniors,” says Shinn.
As Certified Senior Move Managers, the full service Diva team can help with almost anything, from decluttering and organizing to packing and moving. Once in a new home, they assist with tasks like unpacking and installing or assembling items. They also clear estates for executors. “There’s so many different wonderful variables to the business. We really do want to do it best for our clients.”
Each regional franchisee is initially involved in the day-to-day projects, packing boxes and facilitating all the aspects of a move. Training includes both traditional classroom time, as well as field training. “In the classroom, we talk about the theoretical side of things, like packing and organizing 101. We believe In order to get started, you need to experience what you’ll expect your staff to do down the road.”
Shinn also says a good franchisee is able to figure things out as they go along. “No book covers every situation, so they really have to be problem solvers and logical thinkers, someone who can see the bigger picture and distill down the components of it.”
In addition to an interest in working with seniors, prospective franchisees have energy and enthusiasm, and enjoy talking to people. “They have compassion and understanding. They get it. A lot of people who work with us have already had an experience with a parent, a relative or a friend. They have an insight of what the job will be, and know the value of it.”
Founded in Alberta in 2002, Driving Miss Daisy provides non-medical senior services, offering assistance and transportation for seniors and those with disabilities or special needs. “When you hire Driving Miss Daisy, you hire a caregiver that comes with a car,” says Bob Doornenbal, Director of Franchise Sales & Marketing.
“Our growth is mostly organic in nature. The type of people that come to us come as natural caregivers, and the care really comes first. We are that ‘through the door’ service. We may spend an hour with our clients, but only 20 minutes will be in the car.” Drivers often help collect lists, put on shoes, and in some cases, sit in on appointments to provide feedback to family members and caregivers. “We always ensure clients are through the door safely on both ends.”
“People are trying to stay in their homes as long as they can, and sometimes the perception is that if they lose their driver’s licence, they lose their independence. As a smaller company, they get to know us, and we get to know them. The focus on transportation is way down on the list.”
With more than 50 locations in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, successful franchisees are those that can build relationships with their clients and the community. “Anyone can get someone from point A to point B. We really uphold our brand to the highest state as caregivers. Anyone with a ‘taxi-for-seniors’ mentality is not a fit.”
Training includes an in-car ride-along so that franchisees can experience a day on the road first hand. Once on board, the corporate team guides partners with everything from selecting vehicles with features that adhere to company standards to connecting with preferred insurance companies.
“We’re more than just a taxi for seniors. We get to listen to them and hear their stories, and see the sparkle in their eye.” As with Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy in the movie Driving Miss Daisy, the relationship often becomes about more than the ride.
More than just a lunch or dinner, Heart to Home Meals prepares and delivers meals to seniors, allowing them to remain independent in their homes as they age.
With 10 franchises throughout Ontario and Calgary, the company’s owner-operator model awards territories to partners who then manage the local marketing, sales, and customer service. “Franchisees build on their local territories by doing things like networking with care workers or placing ads in the newspaper,” says Nigel Richards, President.
All food is prepared and frozen in a federal facility and delivered to franchisees as needed. Owners manage their local facilities equipped with walk-in freezers and a climate-controlled delivery van. “They interact with customers, often delivering food right to the kitchen and stacking it in the freezer for them. It’s a high level of customer service.”
Not just an investment, Heart to Home Meals looks for partners with empathy. “Franchisees that come to us often want a business that feels personally rewarding. It’s not just selling a product to seniors, but helping them stay home where they want to be, enhancing their meal time, and providing the right nutrition that helps them feel healthy and fit. It’s highly personal and interactive.”
With home delivery options quickly becoming the norm, the franchise enjoys consistent business year round. “It’s a relatively simple model, and we have the growing demographic of the senior population on our side. According to Statistics Canada, it will be on the upswing for years to come.”
Richards’ advice: Promote the business, and secure new customers week in and week out, retaining them with great customer service. “It is a business investment, and they will succeed, but they need to work hard.”
By Gina Makkar