The average life expectancy for a woman is 79 and expected to rise in the next 20 years, accord­ing to the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. With statistics like these, it's no wonder that women in their 50s and 60s are more energetic and youthful than ever before — they're barely into their middle age!

Women this age may be Hearing re­tirement and have more time on their hands — often may have more time to visit the salon. They're also redefining outdated concepts of old-age beauty, and, as a result, salons are responding with modern, new services. To tap into this booming market, you need to specifically target older women in your advertising and promotions to get them in the door in the first place. And once you have them as clients, you need to learn how to communicate with them, what services to offer them, and what techniques to use.

It's important that you understand the outlook, needs, desires, and expectations of this large and growing segment of salon clientele. This means understand­ing the physical and emotional changes they may be experiencing, their beauty and wellness needs, and what they expect from their nail technician.

Theresa Valenzuela of Nails on Wheels, Valencia, Calif., has been ser­vicing older clients for more than 13 years. She says the key to working with an older clientele is to have patience.

"A lot of times they come to yon and it starts out that you're someone they can talk to, but we as nail technicians also need to be educated so we can give them the proper care," she says.

Why It's So Easy

Women born in the 1930s and 1940s grew up in an era when keeping them­selves groomed from head to toe each day was the norm. Many older women won't even leave the house without every hair in place and properly dressed.

"Research has discovered that the older women get, the more time, ener­gy, and funds they devote to beauty services," says Mark D. Foley, author of The Motivated Salon. "The baby boomers have money to spend. That generation enjoyed a period of un­precedented economic growth and the highest incomes in history."

When it comes to expanding your clientele, you'll want to directly target the senior market. An advantage to hav­ing an older clientele is that they can easily fill your daytime appointment void, whereas most career clients can only come into your salon in the evenings and weekends.

So, how do you do this? Larry Oskin, president of Marketing Solu­tions, Fairfax, Va., says a way to get se­niors into your salon is to offer spe­cials during midday hours,

"Seniors want those daytime appoint­ments, when you are slow. You can offer specials from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday," says Oskin. "This special can be a basic discount on mani­cures and pedicures or it can be a small discount on all nail care services."

The key to developing this market po­tential is to make the older crowd aware of your services. You'll need to let them know you are there for them, able and willing to provide something they need.

"I have a senior day once a week where 1 book all of my senior clients on that day," says Valenzuela. "Sometimes I'll give a few of them complimentary manicures because they're on a limited budget. It's not so much about the money but about giving them what they need."

Tony Cuccio, president of Star Nail International, recommends marketing your services as something they deserve rather than something they need.

"At a certain point in a woman's life, she's going to want to be pampered, especially after a life of working, being a mom, and catering to other people. Ob­viously a 70-year-old woman isn't going to want six-inch nails so you'll want to offer her services that are relevant to her lifestyle," says Cuccio.

Direct mail can be a very powerful tool for you to use in promoting to se­niors. Places to put up flyers or to send other promotional materials are church­es, retirement centers, senior activity, centers, hospitals, community centers, senior women's clubs, and the local chamber of commerce are just a few possibilities for leads. Be sure to leave specially created promotional and sea­sonal fliers with the appropriate people at area senior homes. There are also more "retirement communities" of peo­ple over 55 that are good sources. Offer to do free manicure or acrylic demon­strations at their clubhouse or in your salon if they register at least 10 women. Include door prizes and introductory service discounts.

"I advertise through senior centers and apartments and if I do one person from there, before 1 know it I have a slew of them coming in," says Valenzuela.

Oskin suggests working with nearby senior living apartments and homes that have bus services. "A good number of sa­lons have it worked out whereby the homes provide a free bus drop off and pick-up on weekdays, in exchange for the salon offering a special senior discount."

To promote repeat business, profes­sionally print special Senior Nail Club Cards. Clients can earn two free bottles of polish after every tenth manicure, or be creative and offer alternative free gifts or services.

Oskin also recommends donating gift certificates to senior events and charitable programs. "Always donate in the form of a free manicure or any half-price service," says Oskin. "If someone asks for a donation or door prize, give them 10, not just one."

Another way to get the word out to seniors is to have a "makeover" day. If you're a full-service salon, have a hair or makeup service included with their nail service.

Also, don't overlook the "social hour" element of the salon — if you can get her into the habit of coming in for a weekly booking, her standing appoint­ment at the salon can become a social ritual she'll look forward to all week.

"Recruit seniors with 'buy one ser­vice, get one free' and they'll bring a friend and then tell others," recom­mends Cuccio.

Terri Turner, owner of Nail Safari, Wilmington, N.C., says her older clientele are not only loyal, but punc­tual as well. "My older clientele all have standing appointments and it's because they have a more predictable schedule," she says. "They understand that we are also on a schedule and they are much more likely to call to let us know if they can't make it or are running late."

Service and Sensitivity

As women age, so do their hands. In the fight to keep all parts of the body looking youthful, women will want services that can slow down the aging process, as well as make the process more comfortable.

To keep clients' hands looking youth­ful, offer them add-on services to your basics, such as age defying treatments. You can incorporate simple procedures like exfoliation, age spot treatments, paraffin dips, "hand lifts," and skin lightening to your offerings.

Older clients actually need more, not less, personalized attention when it comes to their hand and nail care, insists Turner.

"My clients respond well to warm elec­tric mitt treatments, hot lotion, and aro­matherapy treatments," she says.

And don't be fooled into thinking that the older the woman, the less fash­ionable she is. Older clients may be quite willing to try out new nail art designs or an airbrushed French manicure.

"About 40% of our clientele are se­niors and of that, about 15% will try acrylics or alternative services," says Turner. "An advantage to having an older clientele is that they get themselves groomed all year, whereas younger peo­ple tend to come in mostly during the summer months."

Technical Tips

In most cases, older clients truly need professional care for her hands and feet. The risk of infection is greater for an older person, so a poor manicure done at home could actually compromise her health.

Consider working in tandem with at least one medical expert. Then, when you recognize a condition that requires medical attention, such as thick toenails or heavy calluses, you can suggest that your client make an appointment with either your medical specialist or her family doctor.

To really tap into this market, work closely with a local podiatrist who can recommend your services to older patients. According to Turner, even those who believe that the only way to get their toenails cut or feet treated is by a podiatrist can become converts after one visit to her salon. "Although insur­ance doesn't cover our services, they get so much more pampering when they come to us that it justifies the cost," she says.

If you have business cards on hand from a podiatrist and a dermatologist, you make it easy for a client to follow through with getting the medical at­tention she needs.

Besides working in a salon, Valenzuela also works with seniors in their homes. She began doing this when one of her clients learned she had cancer and could no longer make it to her salon.

"Now I go into convalescent homes and hospices," says Valenzuela. "A lot of times I'll give them a massage for circulation in the hand, or if they're starting to get arthritis, I'll give them a paraffin dip. They should not be de­nied the right to have services just be­cause they're immobile."

Always begin with a consultation on older clients. Make notes on any med­ical conditions such as arthritis, varicose veins, or medications they're taking — anything that could affect: the treatment you're providing in the salon.  

The Aging Foot

At home maintenance is important for all clients, but when it comes to services for older clients and foot care, good at home foot care is critical. Lack of proper regular maintenance - even as simple as callus removal and toenail clipping – can result in conditions that can only be helped by a physician or a podiatrist. We recommend that you research proper foot care if you intend to specialize in treating elderly clients. Be aware of health conditions that are dangerous to work on and know when to turn a client away and refer her to a doctor

"Maintaining good foot health can in­crease your lifespan," so says Podiatry Management magazine. "Awkward, painful walk­ing can add years to your appearance. An individual's gait is often one of the first things you notice. Your footsteps identify you. Are you making a youthful impression?"

Foot problems are much more common in the elderly than in the general population, Bad feet do not develop overnight. Condi­tions such as bunions, hammertoes, corns, arthritis, and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can take years to develop and they tend to get worse with time. The older you are, the greater your chances of developing a foot problem including the fol­lowing common ailments (material con­densed and paraphrased from Foot Talk, Po­diatry Management's online foot care reference book for consumers.

Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis result­ing from the chronic wear of bones and joints, which naturally wear out because of a life­time of supporting the weight of the body

A bunion is characterized by a large ac­cumulation of extra bone behind the big toe on the inside border of the foot The end product is a painful, ugly-looking foot which will not fit comfortably into conven­tional shoes and may need to be correct­ed surgically.

A hammertoe results from the "buck­ling up" of the small joints of the toes. A thickening of these joints often results at the knuckles and can actually help cause corns to form. As the top of the toe rubs against the top of the shoe, it irritates the side and stimulates the growth of a corn. Soaking the feet in warm water and epsom salts is a very effective method of loosen­ing up the joints and alleviating the discom­fort of all of these ailments.

Circulatory Disorders

The blood vessels supplying the feet are the farthest away from the heart. They are also the smallest and thus the first to react to any disease which affects the circulation. Arterial disorders such as arteriosclerosis and diabetes often produce their first symptoms or signs in the feet. These dis­eases include varicose veins and grossly swollen ankles, and can be an early indica­tor of other, more serious illnesses such as congestive heart failure, kidney or liver dis­ease. If ankles are swollen, the client should see a doctor

Arterial Disease

Cold feet? To the young, this means a re­luctance to get married. To the elderly, it's literally cold feet! This can be a signal --along with lost hair from the legs, thickened nails, cramping in the legs -......of vascular dis­ease, which means decreased blood flow. Healthy feet have a pinkish hue regardless of position. Feet with poor circulation may look normal in the lying down position, but if you dangle them for a few minutes they will assume a reddish or bluish tint. Encour­age clients with poor circulation to raise their feet after long periods of being upright (you might even consider doing pedicures for these individuals so that they are in a re­clining position). Snug-fitting, elastic stock­ings are useful in both the prevention and treatment of venous disorders. Do not use heating pads or whirlpools.

Aging Skin

As we age, oil-producing glands slow down production, causing skin to become dry. The skin of the feet is particularly vul­nerable to dryness, Not only does dry skin make the feet look older, it increases the chances of developing a foot infection, also has less strength than moist skin, so it runs an increased risk of cracking. Bacteria are always present on the outside of your skin and can enter your body through cracked skin. Keeping the feet supple re­quires regular care. Clients should get into the habit of applying a good moisturizing agent to their feet every day (recommend a rich cream for them!).

Thickened Nails

Unlike skin, the nails thicken with age. This could be due to fungal infection, decreased circulation, or accumulated trauma to the nails. Thickened nails are unattractive and may cause a shoe fitting problem. Pain may result when the thickened nail presses against the top of the shoes. Although some older clients may have to have their toenails professionally maintained with a drill, regular visits to the salon can ensure that the con­dition does not develop further.

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