May is Older Americans month. In case you’re wondering who is considered “older” in this case, I get the impression that if you’re old enough to apply for an AARP card, you qualify.

In a recent release by the General Services Administration, “more than 9 million American seniors (ages 65 and older) are veterans of the armed forces and approximately 16 percent are in the labor force. According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, about one in three volunteers is 55 years or older.”

So, first off, I’d like to express my gratitude for all that older Americans have done and continue to do for this country.

Thinking about older Americans and HVACR, I can’t help but think about all of the contractors and techs who are in this industry and might not be very far from retiring. Some of the work, such as going into crawlspaces, climbing ladders, and lifting heavy objects is easier for those who are in their 20s and 30s, but where are those who are in their 20s and 30s to fill the void of those close the retirement. Yes there are some, but as the whole industry and many other trades have discussed at length, there aren’t enough techs coming in the field no matter what their age is.

Another thing a company loses when a person retires, besides the actual person, is all the knowledge the person has acquired on the job. Keeping electronic track of maintenance can help, but if the customer is a new one, and nobody at the company has any experience with that old boiler in the basement or mechanical room, it may take longer to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

I couldn’t help but also think about the older customer. Do you and your techs take age, the customer’s medical condition, and so forth into account when completing work for them? If they’ve changed their formal dining room into a bedroom, it may be because they no longer want to have to walk up and down stairs on a daily basis. It may be appropriate to talk to them about zoning so that not as much heating and cooling is going to that part of the house on the same schedule as the first floor for those times when the grandchildren aren’t visiting.

There are some easy-to-use thermostats that have been around awhile, but if their eyesight is not great, they might be interested in replacing that simple-to-operate t-stat with one that is easier to read. But don’t equate failing eyesight with a failing or simple mind and only talk to them about the most basic of today’s thermostats. Mechanical engineers who are still sharp mentally retire too, and may appreciate extra features on a newer model, perhaps even more so than some young whippersnappers do.