Friday, June 12, 2009

Vetting Service Providers

When we were conducting focus groups among older people in Darien, CT, almost all of our participants said they needed handyman or other services. The respondents said that it was really difficult to find reliable contractors and wished there were a source of trustworthy people. That way, they'd feel more comfortable letting these workers onto their property and into their homes.

That's why virtually all Aging in Place organizations like Aging in Place in Darien and ones following the Beacon Hill Village model provide members with referrals from their list of vetted service providers. I was recently following an online group discussion among the organizations from all over the country as to what they do to vet their service providers. I loved the discussion because it showed that each group was reaching out to others to learn what the best practices are.

The vetting process seems to be quite thorough. The village-model and other senior-serving groups look for referrals from other members or board members, licenses, bonding, insurance and business history. They have standard forms for the businesses to fill out. In some instances, they check criminal backgrounds and driving records. Then, when a member calls for a contractor, most groups give out several names and are careful to tell people to do their own due diligence, such as checking references. The village-model organizations can't really be responsible for the acts of these independent contractors. All they can do is check the basics. But that's a lot more than what older people can get by looking in the Yellow Pages or searching online. (Yes, some older people do go online. I have three friends over 80 who use the Internet regularly.)

When seniors join the village-model or other aging in place groups, they gain a sort of peace of mind. Being able to have access to a source of vetted service providers adds to that peace.

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