Selling ADAPTABLE for Future Aging-In-Place ACCESSIBLE

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I just read a very good article today touting the “how to” of selling Universal Design.  The first professional that was quoted was the highly recognized Mr. Louis Tenenbaum, author of MetLife Mature Market Institute paper “Aging In Place 2.0 – Rethinking Solutions to the Home Care Challenge”.  I had the great pleasure of sharing the stage with Louis, presenting along side him at this years 2013 American Society on Aging national conference in Chicago a few months ago.  He’s clearly a thought leader, just as we are striving to be, to help shape the industry and create solutions for our nation related to successful “Aging-in-Place” in our own homes and communities.  This is a “must solve” paradigm challenge and required shift in the way we think about and look at our residential housing and “age friendly” community planning for the decades ahead.

This article suggests that there are two types or categories of clients that we the professionals are addressing, reaching out to, and trying to sell our services to in the overlapping categories of Universal Design / Aging-In-Place design.  To share them in reverse order from the referenced article, the first group of potential clients are “people with issues”, meaning that they are the group that is already in the throws of dealing with some change in their personal life that requires (or should equate to, for success) a home modification for better use of their home after they have already had an incident such as a sickness, deterioration in health, or decrease in full mobility due to a chronic ailment or an acute occurrence such as a fall.

The challenge with this group in my mind is a “threefold” conundrum.  First, they need the home modifications NOW (or “yesterday”), and meeting that need can only be solved with band-aid solutions like a grab bar or a stair chair, which isn’t “big picture” thinking and is short sighted and short term.  Second, they (the client and family or caregiver) isn’t thinking ahead very well while they are in the midst of being overwhelmed with their new reality (as “overnight career change” to caregiver for someone) and the current medical issues at hand that need to be resolved, overcome, addressed, or healed from.  How can someone clearly think about a home remodel while dealing with hospitals, rehab facilities, and the emotional challenges facing a loved one.  And finally third, when dealing with the medical realities of a fall or illness financially, it’s challenging (if possible at all) to think financially that they can also address home modifications, or that they should, or that it would “pencil” fiscally to be “thinking ahead” when you are swimming in medical bills for a family member’s recent trip to the hospital, surgery, treatments, therapies, etc.

SO… Does that mean that I (or the collective “we), the business owner and licensed + certified design professional, who is passionate about helping our nation to “Successfully Age-in-Place” should be going after the younger, more able (physically and financially) sector of the population?  Should I let the local G.C. (General Contractor) address the panic band-aid solutions and makeshift short-term for those currently in the hospital, recovering from surgery, heading into rehab and occupational therapy, and coming back home in a matter of weeks?  Maybe the GC is going to get most of those clients and be best suited to help them in a tight timeline with limited funds.  There are some great CAPS certified G.C.’s out there too, and I know they can help with the equipment specific installation solutions that may best fit this client and situation.

But what about that OTHER sector of the clientele?  How do I find, engage, build trust and rapport, and eventually get the “planning” phone call from the 40+ year old child, thinking about how to help their folks?  How do we speak to the Baby Boomer that is still active and feels younger in their own self-perception than the calendar year of their age?  This is the client that can PLAN for SUCCESS and create a FOREVER HOME that can adapt for them and with them in the future, adding years to their life and their own checkbook by postponing the move to a CCRC facility like assisted living or a nursing home.  The challenge here is the “ostrich” paradigm, a way of thinking that has not yet shifted (and may never, psychologically) that has us all, as a society, saying to ourselves “I’ll never get old”, and “It’s happening to everyone else, but not me” and “I won’t become a statistic”.

At ADM Architecture, we address this client with the concept we have coined as the term “ADAPTABLE” home remodeling and planning.  As mentioned in the article I spoke of above, and using terms we also use in discussions with our own clients, they refer to “visit-ability” (which implies this is about making it easier for OTHERS getting up in age to reach and enter your home), a movement that is gaining great traction in Atlanta, GA.

Speaking “adaptable” language now, implies the best use of your clients’ money when you can spend a dime now and save a dollar later.  Putting blocking behind walls for “future” grab bars, framing walls for wider doors now, so they can put in a 2-6 (2′-6″ wide) door to the bathroom and bedroom if they want, but it will already (inside the wall) be designed for a 3-0 door later.  We can design the floor joists now under then standard tub/shower they still want in their “spec home” now, but when they are ready to accept a change in their needs later, we’ll already have the ability to slope the floor to drain with a zero-threshold roll-in shower later where the flooring of the bathroom is integral with the flooring material, and simply “breaks” from flat to the area sloping to the drain in the shower floor.  Upgrading the electrical panel or placing junction boxes and wiring while the walls and ceiling are open for other remodeling projects, to be prepared for future home monitoring systems and fall detection or medical monitoring systems, better future lighting additions, etc. are all ideas on how you can PLAN and ADAPTABLE home for your clients’ future success (and a repeat relationship in the future, when the time is right and the client is accepting of a changing situation in their own life).

This client is a “marathon relationship”, not a sprint to the finish line or the sale.  Sell ADAPTABLE now, and you’ll have spent the time with the client, gained the trust and rapport of the Baby Boomer and their family members during tactful and gentle conversations over time.  You will have shown you can add value, and value their financial decisions by helping make an “ADAPTABLE HOME” now, that is easily converted to an “ACCESSIBLE” one later – creating Successful Aging-in-Place and a FOREVER HOME for your clients.

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2 thoughts on “Selling ADAPTABLE for Future Aging-In-Place ACCESSIBLE
  • […] ourselves.  As a licensed architect and “Certified Aging in Place Specialist”, we can save you more than we even cost, in the long run.  More importantly, we can make your FUTURE BETTER, keep you safer, happier, healthier, and HOME […]

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