Few people can imagine their own old age – old age is always something that happens to parents, relatives and friends met at 30th reunions. Putting denial aside, with any luck, we all age. While we are told to plan for retirement, few of us prepare for the possibility that aging in our own home might become an‘extreme’ sport. According to AARP’s research, most older Americans choose to age-in-place, that is, to stay in the family home where they may have raised children and built a life. Hit hard by the economic downturn, even the fewer than 10 percent of boomers that may have chosen to ‘downsize,’ or move to another community, are choosing to stay in their current homes.
Preparing for older age where flexibility and strength may be diminished, chronic disease takes it toll, or limited mobility makes the logistics of homeownership difficult, is something that aging boomers should prepare for and business should view as a growing opportunity.
Insight & Innovations
Aging-in-place services are not new. But desires to freshen up the home in midlife can be translated into a chance to ‘age-proof’ a kitchen or bathroom. Insurers and financial planners may find greater client engagement with financial products that provide ‘life solutions’ around independent living not just retirement plans. Communications and utilities companies might leverage the busy boomers’ need for convenience today, as a platform to provide care services tomorrow. Services and solutions to support aging-in-place touch nearly every aspect of daily life – here are only a few:
Remodeling, Modification & Maintenance – Staying put – at least for now – has spurred new interest in remodeling particular among older consumers. Based upon 1.3 million service requests in 2009, ServiceMagic.com’s “Home Remodeling and Repair Index” reports that boomer consumers age 45 to 64 are leading the nation’s home services spending. While current trends are primarily focused on kitchen and bath upgrades, ServiceMagic’s data indicates a double-digit increase in disability services, additions, and other remodeling. Future home services for aging boomers, especially for the rapidly growing segment of boomers aging alone, might be the provision of routine home services, e.g., house cleaning and basic maintenance, such as changing light bulbs.
Innovative Financial Services Products – Property casualty insurers, life insurers and other financial services firms should consider developing financial products that produce income dedicated to home maintenance and modification. Financial services firms may find this both a platform to engage their otherwise distracted clients and an opportunity to develop cross-sell opportunities across products, e.g., property and casualty insurance with retirement planning products. Linking these income streams to a pre-approved list of trusted service providers to choose from may provide a turnkey home services solution for older adults or distant adult child caregivers. For example, an annuity product or homeowners policy that pays for aging-in-place community cooperatives, such as Beacon Hill Village, or private firms such as Service Master.
Home Convenience & Care Monitoring – Wireless providers, utilities, safety/security firms might develop a wider array of services that provide convenience today, e.g., home monitoring and diagnostics of HVAC operations, and care tomorrow. Home security and safety systems, such as personal emergency response services, have a less than dismal record of market success among older consumers when they are most in need. Marketing systems that provide similar capabilities, but sold as lifestyle choices to manage busy lives when younger, might ensure their presence (and acceptance) in the home years later.
Researchers at the MIT AgeLab are currently conducting work on the ‘age readiness’ of boomers and their homes to age-in-place as well as new technology-enabled services to provide both convenience and care from middle age to old age. To read a summary of selected AgeLab projects addressing housing and home services (click here). Findings from that research will be available later in 2010.
See story in US News & World Report on Future of Housing Demands: 4 Key Demographic Trends, February 1, 2010
For additional information on technology and the state of the aging-in-place industry visit Laurie Orlov’s authoritative and insightful Aging-in-Place Technology Watch.