Ralph and I spent Valentine's weekend doing two of our favorite things: attending a home and garden show and looking at new houses in a mountain-top subdivision in north Georgia. It may not seem like the most romantic way to spend the Hallmark Holiday, but we've been married 28 years and our idea of celebrating love is to spend time together doing something we both really enjoy. Staying on top of housing trends and gadgets falls into that category.
Several times a year we walk through new houses being built (even when we're on vacation) and there are few shows on HGTV we haven't seen (and watched regularly). Stir in the fact that our custom-built home is now 15 years old, we're empty nesters, and it's time to do some major updating. So, we attended the home and garden show looking for ideas for our own remodeling project.
I was looking specifically for exibitors showing off a CAPS designation. CAPS stands for Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist and is a cooperative effort of AARP and the National Association of Home Builders. Those who achieve the designation are qualified to help homeowners understand various options they have when building or renovating a home that make it possible to live there as long as possible. In case you haven't been to a home show lately, let me warn you that the language of the exhibitors is peppered with "universal design" and "transgenerational products."
There were many interesting products and ideas to consider, such as:
> When recarpeting, consider using low pile versus the trendier new shag or high pile. Why? Because it's easier for wheelchairs and roller-walkers to navigate this type of flooring. I also hadn't considered this: carpet with patterns can be challenging to aging eyes, to the point it can make some people feel they're losing their balance.
> Replace round door knobs, which can be hard for arthritic hands to turn, with a lever that can be easily pushed down, even with your elbow.
> Forget reaching high into kitchen cabinets by stepping up on a stool - too dangerous. Instead, use cabinets that can actually be lowered automatically to make reaching dishes and other items easily.
> Even adding a platform underneath a front-load washer and dryer can be a quick fix for people who have trouble bending over to load and unload laundry.
There were many more great ideas and products and a couple of the exhibitors directed me to the CAPS site at the National Association of Home Builders site. And I was especially delighted when one mentioned I should visit the Arthritis Foundation's site that lists products that have been designated as easy to use by people with arthritis. (Full discloser: the AF is an Edelman client.)
The one thing that did disappoint me at the home show is that not a single exhibitor proactively pointed out aging-in-place products. All waited until I asked about them. Perhaps this is because I don't look like I need special accommodations. Still, it seems to me if a 50-something asks about new flooring ideas, for example, it just makes sense to bring up the issue of aging in place. After all, we boomers should be the prime target for aging-in-place products. We're highly likely to renovate our current homes and stay in them as long as we can.
Marketers - if your company makes products that meet universal design or transgenerational design standards, don't be shy about promoting them to boomers as much or more than seniors. Most people seem to think we're youth-obsessed, but the truth is we're obsessed about independence and products that help us maintain that have tremendous potential to be embraced by us.