Back to the Future Part 4 – Consumer Barriers to Aging in Place

Our previous blog post focused on housing as a solution to healthcare challenges. We touched on the stakeholders – insurance, long-term care stakeholders, policy leaders, health professionals, construction industry to name a few. Well it may go without saying but the actual consumers of these services, the aging population, should be invested if they aren’t already. Specifically at HomesRenewed, our target population for our policy proposal is homeowners. This blog post is from 2010, 11 years ago and we STILL need to talk about this issue: we KNOW most people prefer to live out their lives in their own homes – if that’s the case, why is it so hard to get people to buy-in to update their homes for prevention of injuries? What do we as advocates need to do to educate and encourage home modifications to increase the number of accessible homes? We tried to get the ball rolling in 2010, but maybe 2021 is the year!


Consumer Barriers to Aging in Place
by Louis Tenenbaum on January 8, 2010

We all see headlines like:

“Senior Citizen Population on Brink of Explosion in World and in United States: Census Bureau”

“Seniors may increase by 40% in five years, world senior age group to triple by 2050”

You would think this steady media barrage would provoke people to do some preparation. I don’t think much is happening. I started selling Aging in Place remodeling in the early 90’s. I thought it would be easy. Heck, there was no competition. Almost everyone gets the idea once you explain it. The problem is no one buys it.

Why is Aging in Place (remodeling) so hard to sell? Four client categories.

    1. Younger folks. Most younger folks just don’t want to think about the issues. They are busy with other things…raising children, dealing with their careers and often caring for their parents. Most of us do not project ourselves into a future with problems. Try to bring it up. the standard answer is, “I’ll deal with it then.” They aren’t buying.
    2. “Mature” consumers starting to plan their future. The most enlightened of these folks may have visited all types of ‘senior housing’ from active adults through continuing care communities. As any wise consumer who doesn’t find what they want, they stay out of the market. Many aren’t buying. What about Aging in Place remodeling? These same enlightened shoppers know how complex needs and services for aging can be. They have seen the list of services and amenities at a continuing care community. Or they learned from assisted living or nursing home experiences with family or friends. They know remodeling services are just a piece of the puzzle. I can’t assure them how to budget or how care resources will be managed. Frankly, without any idea how things may work out, they just aren’t buying.
    3. Okay. I have a lot of respect for older folks but there are some who seem to be in denial. Many have grown so slowly to their current condition that they are hardly aware how much they have slowed down and become sedentary. They can’t see or won’t act in their own self interest. They are not buying.
    4. When there are needs, results of a health change- stroke, amputation, severe heart attack, results of a fall, etc. it is most often too late. It is difficult to make significant decisions about remodeling when you are in a health crisis. It is difficult to make remodeling decisions when you are unsure of the prognosis – both the long and short term future needs as well as finances.

When someone is in rehab, unsure of when, how well or if they will recover, it is difficult for them or their family to consider and invest in remodeling. Too often when outcomes are clear the time is too short to get the work done. Remodeling- design, blueprints, permits, and construction take too much time. These folks are not buying.

So these are some of the consumer barriers to Aging in Place preparations as far as remodeling goes. The same factors are barriers to other preparations.

What can we do to change things? Incentives such as tax benefits for home mods like the current benefits for renewable energy installations are a good idea. A jobs program for home modifications is another good idea. Can stimulus funds be found for this good idea? How about insurance premium breaks for grab bars and other safety features? There is precedent in alarm systems.

How do we move this ball forward? Let’s do it in 2010!

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