Increasingly, products are being introduced to the marketplace that we can use to create aging in place solutions. In some cases, our clients may be able to acquire and use some of them directly. Part of the reason for the heightened awareness and interest in aging in place and the new products that are being introduced is the sheer size of the aging in place market. It effectively includes every person. Few people are not interested in living in their current homes successfully, and the vast majority of those over 50 are planning on their current home being their last one.
The aging in place market can’t be defined by a certain age or geography because it applies to so many people – homeowners as well as renters, people with special needs and requirements and those without such needs. Some of the products we are seeing are intended to be installed in the home or apartment by a qualified remodeler, contractor, handyman, trade contractor, or technician, while others are just used by the consumer within their dwelling.
The new products are being introduced or talked about can be described as being gadgets, gimmicks, or gotchas. The gadgets are mechanical, physical, or electronic items (large or small but mostly compact) that really do make life easier, safer, and more comfortable. In this category are items like digital thermostats, lighting doorbells, water faucets that indicate the approximate temperature by the light they emit, corner base cabinet shelving that pivots into the room to bring the interior contents into full view and easy access to replace the traditional lazy susan and even the corner base drawer cabinets, solar powered lights in a variety of sizes, styles, and configurations that are motion or light activated, the entire range of LED lighting, compact appliances, wall fixtures (soap dishes and the like) that double as grab bars in the bath, and so much more. The list is extensive, and more companies are getting into the market.
Then there are the gimmicks – the “why didn’t I think of that?” item that we see online or in an infomercial that looks so enticing to have. We get it but then something else comes along to replace it in a few months, or we find that we don’t use it near as much as we thought we would, that it’s not as easy to use as described, or that it takes up too much floor space or counter area to use it. There are many items that could fit into this category, but rather than single out any product, just let it suffice that many of the products recommended, advertised, or promoted for aging in place use or just general comfort and step-saving ways in the home don’t have a long staying power and will fall into disuse sooner rather than later. It may beg the question as to why the purchase was made other than it seemed like a good idea at the time. Good marketing may factor into the initial level of interest.
The gotchas are items that underperform their design or the reason they were acquired. They just never live up to what was expected of them. They may have been acquired with the best of intentions to fill a specific need, but they never did anything close to what was expected of them. Sometimes they are just advertising hype with no performance at all – so time and money is invested, along with anticipation, but there is nothing to show for it. Often such products come along at the right time and demonstrate an appeal but are shallow in their ability to actually deliver what was promised.
Look for new products and solutions to continue being introduced at a fast rate. The market in hungry for them – especially the Baby Boomer market that is a major focus of aging in place. Boomers have enjoyed taking a chance on new products over the years, so marketers are counting on their senior years not being that different. We’ll see. Nevertheless, the number of people wanting to remain in their forever homes for the rest of their lifetimes is expanding. As professionals we need to evaluate products to determine which ones really are useful gadgets and which fall into the other two less-vital categories – with more of them coming along all the time.