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Housing for the Aging Population

The future of housing is evolving with aging in place and universal design styles next up on buyers’ wish lists

By Heather Brooks

The United States is on the brink of a significant demographic shift, yet most businesses are not gearing up to address the increasing demand for “aging in place” solutions. By 2034, individuals aged 65 and above will surpass those under 18, marking a historic turning point. This transformation presents an opportunity for businesses to position themselves as leaders in this untapped market. 

The housing sector will play a crucial role in the transformation as it faces its own set of challenges associated with aging. According to the 2021 American Community Survey (ACS), the typical age of homes in the U.S. is 40 years with many much older than that. Housing organizations like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HousingWire and the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies highlight an even more significant issue – less than 5% of our nation’s housing units are designed to accommodate people with mobility challenges. This means that if a loved one were to use a wheelchair or walker, home modifications would be necessary for them to live there safely. 

Both the population and our homes are aging, providing a crucial insight into the remodeling market. These statistics unveil a significant market opportunity and have the potential to set you and your business apart from others in your community. The older generation may be getting older, but they’re still mighty powerful – Nearly 40% of those aged 65 or older are free and clear of mortgage debt. This positions businesses, particularly those exploring this emerging field, to strategically market themselves and tap into the spending power and homeownership of this influential demographic. 

The attractiveness of universal design (UD) aesthetics combined with tech integration goes beyond promoting inclusivity – it can prove to be a savvy financial decision for homeowners possibly yielding them 3-5% higher resale value when executed right. Universal design is about making products and spaces usable for everyone, without needing special changes. So, whether you’re young or old, you can enjoy the same home, adapting to your changing needs. 

In the U.S., the market for accessible homes is projected to hit $729 billion by 2025, showcasing a growing demand for homes that suit people of all ages and abilities.”

In the U.S., the market for accessible homes is projected to hit $729 billion by 2025, showcasing a growing demand for homes that suit people of all ages and abilities. Embracing universal design concepts not only enables aging in place but also aligns with the market’s increasing needs. Whether you’re designing a new home or providing a remodel that includes these strategies to accommodate changing abilities, it can give your business a marketing advantage. 

This demographic shift offers a distinct opportunity to address the sandwich generation’s unique challenges – balancing the care of aging parents while raising their own families and embracing multigenerational living. By incorporating UD, you can seamlessly blend styles with accessibility. 

This can include features like AgeTech technology or thoughtful designs such as zero-step entry, multi-level countertops, task lighting, lever handles, touchless faucets and curbless showers, making it user-friendly even for the little ones to use. You can provide a lifestyle that resonates with the sandwich generation’s needs. This marks a new avenue in marketing where expertise shines in helping several generations at once. 

In the strategic puzzle of housing, the older demographics emerge as a pivotal player in our future. Actively involving them in universal design conversations addresses their unique housing needs and is a long-term investment. The looming question is whether businesses, particularly those engaged at the International Builders Show (IBS), are prepared to embrace numerous sales opportunities and delve into the limitless potential of new products within the aging-in-place solutions realm. There is huge potential for upselling innovative products and integrating AgeTech technology while creating universal design solutions. Some of you may even make a significant impact in the market by inventing or designing a needed product. 

As the evidence shows, the trajectory we are on is only heading upward, highlighting the future of aging as the key focal point where your businesses can establish a strong presence in the community. If you’re interested in exploring this lucrative market and learning about the ins and outs of universal design, aging in place and working with the aging demographics, join us at IBS. I’ll be sharing insights on how to effectively market to the senior demographics and what strategies to use to boost revenue.

Heather Brooks is founding chapter chair for the National Aging in Place Council’s Southeast Florida Chapter and co-creator of Step Up Housing.