We have many different types of retail stores from which we can purchase almost anything we require to live our lives comfortably and pleasantly in our homes and even our offices and businesses. We buy a range of groceries and snack foods, personal products, first aid and other sundry products, clothing, shoes, autos, appliances, TVs and computers, toys and games for the children. exercise and fitness equipment (including bicycles and skates), furniture and home accessories (including seating and bedding), wall coverings and paint, lumber and hardware for home maintenance and repairs, sporting goods and equipment, swimming pools and spas plus the equipment and chemicals for them. We purchase batteries, gasoline, oil, tires, and other supplies for our cars, and we purchase batteries and other energy supplies for our electronics and home systems that we have.
On top of this, we purchase services such as daycare, lawn care, pest control, pool maintenance, car detailing, and dry cleaning. We purchase coffee, pastries, bagels, sandwiches, salads, hot dogs, burgers, pretzels, dinners, desserts, ice cream, and other food and beverage items from convenience stores, coffee shops, fast food establishments, street vendors, and restaurants.
The point is that we are quite accustomed to driving, walking, or taking transportation to a store and finding what we want to satisfy any number of needs that we have – at various price points and budgetary considerations. We can go to the corner store, a large supermarket, a major chain discount store, a suburban strip shopping center, a regional shopping mall, or a downtown location.
More recently, many of us can find many of the items we need online. We can shop from the comfort of our home, car, or wherever we happen to be and use a computer, tablet, or smartphone to shop, compare, research, and purchase items – often with free delivery of a very modest delivery charge for what we are purchasing and have it delivered to our door within a day or two. Often we have return privileges as well.
The online component definitely has reshaped the retail industry and even caused many large big box stores to cease operations, consolidate locations, or merge with other companies.
As much as we like to shop, and as many opportunities as there are for us to purchase the things we use on a frequent basis, or the items we require to furnish our homes and offices, there generally is not a store for purchasing aging in place items. Oh, there are durable medical equipment supply storefronts (also called medical supplies, sickroom needs, hospital supplies, home health equipment, and other similar names) where we can purchase walkers, wheelchairs, grab bars, lift chairs, other assistive devices, and mobility aids, but a store that specializes in other items we might need to equip out homes to age in place in them typically do not exist as a separately branded entity.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, many of the items – switches, controls, faucets, toilets, handheld showers, fold-down shower seats, thermostats, thermostatic valves, door hardware, mirrors, countertops, cabinets, inserts for cabinets, interactive bluetooth video cameras, door locks, flooring, lighting, and so many other products that we would select for an aging in place design – depending on the needs of the client, the condition and age of their home, and their budget – are available, along with other items, in home improvement centers, electrical supply, flooring, plumbing, lighting, kitchen and bath showrooms, and other wholesale and retail settings.
The second reason is that because people are aging in place throughout their lifetimes, there is no one solution that works for everyone, no one time in life (age forty, fifty, or sixty-five, for instance) when a solution needs to be designed and implemented, and no determination of how much someone might need at any given stage in life. Therefore there is no way to stock a store or market its contents to appeal to an age group or other demographic since it is essentially appealing to everyone. This is true whether we are puchasing the products for them or they are attempting to find simple solutions for themselves.
The amount of product a store or online retailer would need to inventory and warehouse would be overwhelming. Truly, it’s not the specific products (although they are important) as much as it is the way we use them and include them in aging in place design solutions that make the difference for our clients. We can find products to include in a design in dozens of stores – not just one or two. We can also take a product that maybe is designed or suggested for a different type of use and place in our design quite effectively. We also can construct or fabricate something specific for satisfying a client’s needs.