Posted in on May 3, 2018

55+ and Senior Living: Embrace Aging in Place with Universal Design

As a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) and through my 10 years of working in the 55+ and Senior Living space, I’m constantly working with clients who are searching for the best way to aid the aging population. More and more older adults want to find ways to make their next move their last — which makes an impact on the marketability of both active adult and senior living communities. What exactly does universal design and aging in place mean? And how can builders and providers adapt to this growing trend among mature consumers?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, aging in place is “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level.” For builders out there, this is also known as universal design.

Facts About Consumers, Aging in Place and Universal Design

According to a recent AARP survey, 90% of those 65 and over would prefer to remain in their own homes as they get older. And, per Home Advisor:
• As of 2035, 1 in 5 people will be 65 years old.
• Only 43% of survey participants know what aging in place means, but many are completing “future-thinking home projects” without connecting it to the purpose of aging in place.
• 50% of homeowners 75 and over will be renovating their homes so they can get around easier.

Icons: Consumers are using universal design to age in place

Why Is Aging in Place Awareness Important?

Let’s face it, from the minute we are born we begin to age in place (whether we want to admit it or not). Per the National Association of Home Builders, two-thirds of homes in the U.S. were built before 1980 — before ADA standards were established. And older homes mean stairs, narrow doorways, hallways and more, which all present possible challenges that can make navigating the home difficult as we age. For homebuilders, the opportunity lies in building a new home to address the evolution of needs or modify the existing. For Senior Living, this opens the door for a potential At Home prospect who would benefit from the home changes as well as wellness needs that may exist.

Marketing Aging in Place for 55+ Active Adult Communities

Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist seal

As a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist and long-time marketer to mature consumers, I’ve learned that while aging-in-place accessibility features will no doubt be beneficial to homeowners as they age, they aren’t features that drive sales (or even desire) among prospects.

Why? This is a stage where the individual desires a lifestyle where they can have it all and do what they want. These desires include traveling, exploring second careers or new hobbies and making the most of their time — their way. It doesn’t include thinking about how they would remain in their dream home if they had an injury or medical issue that would require them to adapt what they do and how they live.

From a builder standpoint, we’re seeing many universal design elements becoming more and more commonplace within 55+ communities: walk-in showers, smart home technology, wider doors and hallways, wall reinforcement (blocking) to allow for future grab bar installation or stacking closets in case an elevator is required later.

Because this cohort has no immediate need for features associated with aging in place, the approach to marketing is markedly different:
• Highlight value for others: e.g., wider hallways are perfect for grandkids in strollers.
• Position the design and construction modifications in terms of making the home more inviting for entertaining (open floorplans, more room within kitchen around island and so on).
• Focus on everyday uses and conveniences regardless of age or ability: cabinet pullouts in the kitchen make it easier for anyone to access items.

Per a Professional Builder article:
“While UD in a 55+ community is still about age (and less about the universality of the design), the hope is that the children of those Boomers will visit, see how easy it is to live in the homes, and start to demand the same elements.”

Marketing Aging in Place for Senior Living Communities

As opposed to Boomers, seniors acknowledge their needs, but are often in homes that don’t always allow for ease of transition. Older prospects are not only more open to embracing the changing health needs that may arise, but they’re also typically already living it or have friends who are experiencing challenges that they want to avoid. The message to reach your target market is a simple one: These services and products are THE solution to help you navigate and address any issues or concerns you may have now or in the future.

For many senior living communities offering an at home solution, the home is just one part of the prospect need to address. While communities are uniquely qualified to speak to the socialization and wellness needs of at home participants, it’s incredibly important to partner with trusted professionals (OTs, financial specialists, rehab facilities, etc.) who are best suited to advise and help address how to best adapt the home. Then, bring in a CAPS-certified remodeler to help make the needed changes a reality. This knowledge can also help existing communities looking to enhance their independent living options within the community, as many are older and need to address some basic elements to make their options more livable and allow residents to remain independent longer. CAPS designees can also be an important member of your construction team when approaching an expansion or renovation.

Aging in Place Is Ageless

Regardless of whether you’re targeting boomers or seniors, aging in place really is ageless. The key is anticipating not only what will appeal to consumers now, but also what will help them live their best lives possible for years to come. Each day, new advancements are made for technology and construction adaptions that make life easier. My hope (and the hope of my CAPS counterparts) is that people of all ages see the benefits.

Join Us for a Webinar!

On Wednesday, May 30, at 2 p.m. Eastern, Creating Results is teaming up with industry experts from both 55+ and senior living for Beyond Aging in Place: How to Position Universal Design to 55+ vs. Senior Living Prospects. Don’t miss it!

Register Now



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