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With the Census Bureau estimating that the 60+ population will grow to 73 million by the end of the decade and NAHB predicting that the aging-in-place remodeling market will be between $20 billion and $25 billion, panelists of the recent webinar, “Build Profit and Possibilities With Home Health Technology,” discussed how builders and remodelers can get traction in the market through the application of universal design principles and assistive home health care technologies.
“As builders, we are all looking for an edge or a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” said Tony Crasi of The Crasi Company, a design/build firm based in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
Rather than cut profits to stay competitive as a builder, Crasi diversified into the aging-in place market, particularly since an overwhelming majority of seniors — as many as 89% according to some surveys — indicated they want to remain in their homes as they age.
“What we are trying to do is meet the challenging needs facing people as they grow older and apply building principles such as accessible design, good planning and the assistive technologies associated with in-home health and wellness,” he said
Crasi admitted that he ventured into the market of home and assistive technologies “kicking and screaming” because he was unfamiliar with the technologies. “Now, I’m using the technology to gain an edge on the market and stay in business.”
Crasi recommended that builders and remodelers work with electronic systems contractors (ESCs), who will help them address the market’s needs. “An experienced ESC will, no doubt, showcase where the opportunities are. ESCs are like any other expert contractor, but a one-on-one partnership is key.”
Ric Johnson of Right at Home Technologies, an ESC based in Waynesfield, Ohio, who provides home automation, energy management, entertainment, security and health and wellness services, said assistive technologies — such as remote monitoring, cognitive exercises for brain stimulation, prescription and medicine reminders — can help residents stay in their homes much longer.
“Meet with all parties involved — the mother, father, son, caregivers, medical staff and others — so that both the builder and ESC can create a comprehensive plan together and build based on the customer’s specific needs,” Johnson said.
“Go over their medical needs,” he said. “Talk about their exercise habits, if it’s applicable. You want to create spaces and install technology that add value to the routine in their daily lives and make it easier.”
Crasi said that builders, remodelers and ESCs should discuss more than the home owner’s needs when reviewing options with families and caregivers.
“Talk about lifestyle and hobbies — and be sensitive to the individuals involved during the interview process,” he said. “It’s very important to be sensitive to the older person when meeting with a group. It’s easy to forget that, regardless of where their level of comprehension lies, they need to be included and welcomed into the discussion.”
Comprehensive discussions are needed, Crasi said, because “we are not medical professionals. If there are some issues that are beyond our scope of knowledge, we need to be made aware of them.”
He cited the example of the need for more suitable flooring for a client who uses a walker or shuffles when he walks. “These types of details need to be established,” Crasi said.
“Everything should remain familiar and comfortable for owners of the home,” Crasi said.
Building and Remodeling Opportunities
Johnson said clients generally have two possibilities — they can downsize by building a new home, or they can remodel their existing home so it better meets their needs as they age.
He said he worked with a builder using universal design concepts “such as a no-step entry, everything on one level, wider entry ways and more lighting.”
With such a home, Johnson said, “there is no need to modify the house as the owner ages. It can be prepared in advance.”
He said the technology infrastructure can be pre-wired in the home and, when the need arises, the home owner can add appropriate technologies, such as “a telephone system that works independently without a handset so, in an emergency situation, there is no need for the home owner to try to get to the phone or find it.”
Johnson said that the second option of remodeling the home for aging-in-place enables home owners to “keep their memories of living in their house as they age, but they maintain their health as well.”
Options for the home owner, he said, can include opening up the home for more natural light options and having all the necessities on the main level and leaving the second level for guests. Home automation systems can be added to control the lighting or send temperature information to smart HVAC systems.
Also, providing elderly home owners or their adult children with peace of mind are security systems that monitor for any intruder who might come into the home and also safeguard against the occupant wandering away.
Remodeling a home for aging-in-place and including assistive technology help the home owners on several levels, Crasi said.
Both panelists said adult children can also remodel their homes with aging-in-place features to accommodate an elderly parent moving in with them.
An aging parent can help defray the cost of the renovation, and the improvements to the home can be considered cost-effective if they are less expnsive than nursing home care or they increase the value of the property.
The panelists also pointed out that assistive technology features can be installed at manageable cost. Crasi and Johnson said they worked together on an affordable home project where they provided lighting control, HVAC and security for roughly $1,500.
“In the aging-in-place market where there is a great deal of technology associated with care, the builder creates a custom living space, and the ECS provides solutions to aging-in-place realities,” Johnson said.
Webinar Replay Available