How Knowing About “Aging in Place” and Universal Design Can Help Your Business
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
By Pattie Baker
I knew change was in the air a number of years ago when I was hired to write a brochure for an interior design firm that focused on two terms that were new to me at the time: Aging in Place, and Universal Design. This firm specialized in creating interiors that could accommodate the changing needs of aging homeowners so that they would not need to move as physical capabilities changed over time. “Aging in Place” attributes such as wide doors and pathways that can accommodate wheelchairs, easy-to-turn door handles; “master-on-main” bedroom accommodations so that climbing stairs is not necessary; and a walk-in, sit down shower in the bathroom can make or break a senior’s ability to stay in the home that they have grown to love.
Universal Design takes these principles even further by considering design solutions to accommodate persons with disabilities or allergies, children, pets, and the needs of varying life stages including “Aging in Place.” If you offer home building, renovations or interior design services and you are not already incorporating aspects such as these, you may want to consider pursuing training or certification from your industry in these issues. You will bring an additional level of expertise and credibility to clients increasingly concerned with creating a home environment that is comfortable and safe for their changing needs.
No matter what business you are in, there are ways to consider the varying abilities of your target customer base when you market your business. For instance, aging eyes have a little trouble reading things (and by aging, I’m talking mid-40s! That would be the prime target age for home services). Be careful about the fonts and colors you use on your brochures and website. Fonts without the little “hooks” on the bottom of straight letters (called sans-serif) are harder to read. Large blocks of white or light-colored copy are harder to read. Avoid these things in order to be sure more people can read your information easily.
If you have customers come to your showroom, consider putting a little children’s table in the corner with a couple toys and books. It’s not a big investment in money or space, but it will make your “mom” customers extremely appreciative as well as able to focus on your product and service choices. (It seems like as good a time as any to remind you that women make 80% of all household purchase decisions. Put the kids’ table in.)
On the other end of the spectrum, make sure you have comfortable seating in your retail location. I’ve been to a cell phone store where there wasn’t a seat in sight. Think seniors are going to linger long? Not a chance, and these folks are prime customers for purchasing cell phones as a safety aid.
Take a look at this Aging in Place website, specifically the wide variety of service providers who are making knowing about Aging in Place their business.