By Marylin Johnson
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 06/12/07
Patrick Conboy shops the world for gadgets, from designer reading glasses to sleek treadmills, from a British shaver to a body massage chair.
And he does it with the over-50 crowd in mind. Texas-born Conboy is the founder of elderluxe.com, an online store headquartered in Chicago. It pampers affluent seniors with pricey toys and products that add to their quality of life and support their independent lifestyles.
Conboy knows there's plenty of money to be made from baby boomers. According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the estimated annual spending power of Americans born from 1946 to 1964 is $1.1 trillion.
"For this group, you need products that are functional and beautiful, with price not an object," said Conboy, 44, a former J.C. Penney marketing guru who started the company last year.
"There are lots of shops with products for the chronically ill," he said. "But there's another segment of the population who wants to age actively. After all, just because you turn 80 shouldn't mean you trade in your fancy sports car for a dreary aluminum cane, right? These persons want something with a little more style."
That's what attracted Janey Pillsbury of El Dorado, Ark., to the site. She went online to buy her 85-year-old mother a cane for Mother's Day and found a Soft Touch Derby cane in tones of brown on elderluxe.com. "It was sophisticated looking," said Pillsbury, "and so pretty with her dresses."
Pillsbury's mother is thrilled with the cane and even has her eye on another version: a sleek black number topped with a black rose handle studded with Swarovski crystals. "It's gorgeous," said Pillsbury, "and Mother wants it to match some of her outfits."
Many of the 500 products online are fashionable, fun, and above all, functional. Take a pair of chic black-and-white leather gardening gloves ($20). The washable mitts feature anatomic relief pads to reduce calluses and loss of hand power. And drinking glasses (set of two; $20) boast a thick neck that allows a powerful grip.
Even cooks get a break. The angled handle of the Shun Ken Onion Chef's Knife ($200) fits the hand perfectly and eliminates stress.
Bigger-ticket items amp up the function factor. For those who can no longer carry their clubs, the Stewart remote-control golf caddy ($1,995) follows hackers all over the course. Golf Magazine calls it the "fairway Ferrari," and golfers can propel it effortlessly down fairways and around greens.
Conboy came up with the idea for his elderluxe company early in life. As a pharmacist's assistant, he delivered prescriptions and medical equipment to shut-ins. "I sat on many a porch and visited with lots of lonely, dissatisfied seniors," he said. "Some were pessimists. Others looked forward to my visits and felt good about themselves.
"That's when I decided to devote a business to active adults."
Always on the lookout for unique items, Conboy does have one item on his wish list.
"I would like to find the Lexus of mobility scooters," he said, "in pink or turquoise. I know people who want to scoot around and look great at the same time."
Copyright © 2007 Atlanta Journal-Constitution