If you haven't yet evaluated your local market's potential to support "aging in place" design/build or remodeling services, now may be the time to do so.

Design for "aging in place" allows homeowners to remain in their homes safely, maintaining independence and comfort as their physical capabilities and needs change. Seventy-eight million American Baby Boomers are nearing or entering their retirement years and making decisions about how and where they will spend the rest of their lives, and according to a recent survey conducted by AARP, 89 percent of the 50-and-older population like their current homes and intend to remain in them for as long as possible. While Americans are living longer, perfect health and mobility are not necessarily part of the equation. Most live in homes that aren't equipped to allow them to age in place comfortably, says Amy Levner, manager of housing and mobility options for AARP.

A Growing Market

As the 50-plus crowd continues to age and faces the reality of changing housing needs—whether due to their own physical limitations or to elderly parents moving in with them—the market for new homes and renovations that accommodate those needs will continue to grow. In a recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers' Council, 74 percent of remodelers surveyed reported an increase in requests for universal design solutions so homeowners can age in place. Remodelers also indicated that the majority of jobs for aging-in-place modifications were generated by clients aged 55 or older.

Custom home builders and remodelers are uniquely positioned to meet the needs of aging-in-place clients, provided they fully understand the design solutions and products that make living in a home easier. "These two building segments have more direct consumer contact, [so] specific needs, wants, and desires are more easily conveyed and understood," says Rebecca Stahr, ASID, a certified aging-in-place specialist (CAPS) who serves as president and CEO of LifeSpring Environs, an Atlanta-based aging-in-place consultancy.

Stan Voelker, president of Manor, Texas-based Voelker Custom Homes, earned his CAPS designation just last year. But he's already seeing the benefits in business volume. "It's been a great [add-on] for our custom home business, and we want to try to capitalize on that," he reports. "When we're not busy building custom homes, we can fill in with aging-in-place remodels."

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