Saturday, June 3, 2017

"Focusing On Market Segments Rather Than Individuals May Not Be That Helpful"

One of the great aspects of aging in place design, renovations, and solutions is that they are done on a case-by-case, home-by-home situation for specific individuals. Sure there may be similarities in approach and execution. There may be some "go-to" remedies that we like to include in every job, but no two renovations or solutions are exactly the same in approach, design, or execution.

Aging in place solutions are based on meeting the individual needs of the client - based on the age and layout of the home, their physical requirements, and their budget.

We generally think of aging in place services as meeting the needs of the seniors, and for a large part this is true. However, there is nothing that limits us to serving just this demographic. After all, everyone is aging, and many people are interested in living in a safe, comfortable, accessible, and enjoyable home - even if they are renting.

Aging in place seems synonymous with the Baby Boomer generation, but this age group reaches back to those just turning 50 and extends to those age 71 or 72. This is an important generation to target, but there are many people much older, and several much younger than the Boomers.

One of the reasons that the Boomer market is likely targeted for aging in place renovations is because of their prominence. They comprise some one-quarter of the population and account for large portion of home ownership and wealth in the US as well. Many are still working, while some are retired. Many who have retired have begun new businesses, however. The Boomers are said to be redefining retirement.

Boomers as a group, if nothing else than because of their size, have been marketed to by retailers over the years, and that continues. Nevertheless, there are so many different needs among this very large cohort. Many are quite active and still pursue outdoor activities such as running, tennis, biking, and golf. Some are far less active. Some require the use of assistance to get around in their homes or in public. Therefore, there would not be a single aging in place solution to apply to all Boomers due to their tremendous diversity of interests and abilities. 

Taking a look at another generation - the Millennials - yields the same type of conclusion. Millennials were born in the last two decades of the twentieth century, and many generalizations have been made about the group concerning the way they communicate, make decisions, and choose to own real estate. Some of these statements are true, but some likely are not yet appropriate to make.

Millennials as a group, as a generation, have surpassed the Boomers as the largest generation. Still, the oldest from this generation is in their mid-thirties, and the youngest is still in high school. It's no wonder that some Millennials haven't bought a home or ventured out on their own since we are still talking about teenagers as part of this group.

There are some six generations that have been named and quantified in the US. The oldest people among us are a little over 100 (centenarians) and part of what is called (among other names) the G/I generation. They experienced World War I, the Great Depression, and all event since then. The so-called World War II generation has some members who were only a couple of years old at the time of the Great Depression and some who just being born at the end of the War.

Those people in their thirties and forties that we generally consider to be the prime working years are part of the Generation X. Many of them have completed raising their families and are seeing grandchildren or experiencing the empty nest.

The point is that there are many diverse needs among various age groups, and within them, regardless of their shared life experiences from major events that have occurred during their lifetimes. Aging in place solutions are still based on the needs of the individual, and attempting to create an approach to a particular market segment may not be that helpful in serving those needs. 

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Steve HoffackerCAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.