Awesome at Any Age

No one wants to admit they are getting older—especially baby boomers. I know this because I am one of them. I don’t like to admit I need to think about concerns that could affect the next five, 10 or 20 years of my life, and neither do our baby-boomer clients.

I also know that when the years creep up, I want to stay in my home as long as possible. My kids won’t want me living with them, and I’m not about to admit myself to a nursing home. (I’ve still got at least 30 years, right?) This is exactly why I suggest universal design options to at least 80 percent of my clientele. Our target demographic is the baby-boomer generation and, to age in place, you have to prepare. But how do you market being proactive and prepared when baby boomers are denying the inevitable? You have to get creative.

Today, more than 35 million Americans are age 65 or above—a tenfold increase in the 65-and-over population since 1900. With a bit more research, we learned that 48 percent of all homes in the U.S. are currently owned by baby boomers. Sea Pointe Construction knew we could provide an invaluable service by helping clients remain in their homes as they age.

In the past few months, I have had multiple clients come to me to incorporate aging-in-place concepts into their remodels because they witnessed their parents struggling with disabilities. Some examples we commonly see are hallways and doorways too narrow for a wheelchair or walker; showers that require a large step to get into, increasing the chances for an accident; and doorknobs that are hard for hands with arthritis to open. Because of this, we tailored our aging-in-place marketing efforts toward the baby-boomer population but honed in on helping them take care of their elderly parents while stressing the benefits for the baby boomers themselves in the future. We market aging-in-place in the remodeling design workshops we organize once a month in different locations within our service area. Our website’s homepage also features aging-in-place services, and we have included supporting material throughout other sections of the website.

Our goal for marketing the aging-in-place concept is to provide clients with value-added services while creating a separate sales tool to attract new customers. The knowledge and credentials we have obtained have been instrumental in promoting our aging-in-place services. We are able to suggest simple elements, which can increase accessibility and functionality and can accommodate unexpected occurrences in coming years. By retrofitting homes to help clients continue to live in a comfortable and safe environment, they know we have their best interests in mind.

Since Sea Pointe Construction began marketing our aging-in-place services, we have seen a 50 percent increase in business related to universal design. Our target client demographic for design/build projects is between ages 40 to 65, which is the same demographic that should be preparing and incorporating some aspect of universal design. Planning is key. For example, Sea Pointe Construction is adding grab-bar backings in almost every bathroom we construct, which preps the area for the future. Five, 10 or 15 years down the road, we can install a grab bar for our client without having to rip out the shower tile. By making modifications during a remodel, we won’t have to accommodate changes years later.

We want to be the go-to remodeling contractor in Orange County, Calif., for aging-in-place services. First and foremost, we are a residential design/build firm, but now we have another marketable expertise in universal design. With targeted marketing, we have had a surge of leads and design workshop attendees looking for some form of aging-in-place, such as widened doorways and walk-in tubs. Having several NAHB Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) team members on staff, including design consultants, project managers and myself, we have seen our added expertise pay off when confidently presenting aging-in-place designs to clients. In 2011, we did more than $1.2 million in sales that involved aging-in-place; we’re looking to double that this year.

I may be sensitive to the word “old,” but I’m coming to terms that I’m a baby boomer, and there are millions in my generation who will need universal design to continue living in their homes. I want to be the company they turn to when they begin planning for the future and proactive in grabbing our share of the market.