I recently went through a new home search with my mom, who was then in her late 60s. As we walked through model after model, I remember listening to her ooh and ahh about the levered door handles, pull-out shelves in the kitchen cabinets, and the no-threshold showers in the bathrooms of some of her favorite homes.
Of course, working in the housing industry, I knew that these were all valuable elements of universal design there to help make life easier for her as she aged and, hopefully, help her stay in her home longer. But what amazed me was that she didn’t see it that way. To her, these were all “upgrades”: Things better builders did to deliver a higher-quality product without necessarily jumping to a higher-priced home.
Research shows that 90% of older adults say they want to stay at home as they age but we also know that few people want to think about getting older, losing some of their mobility, or needing a little help to get in and out of the shower, even if it’s just by using a grab bar. So, how can you best highlight the universal design elements in your products to show the benefits that allow home buyers to stay home longer, without repeatedly reminding them that they are aging?
As experts in connecting with 55+ homebuyers, my teammates and I offer some of the following suggestions:
- Consider talking about your universal design features as “safety” or “convenience” features, instead of “aging” or “mobility” features. People of all ages slip in the shower. Lifting a heavy mixer off a shelf that slides out of the cabinet, rather than having to drag it out from the back, is easier for everyone. You might even include a list of these universal design features, camouflaged as safety or convenience features, in your collateral.
- If your sales team includes people over 50, chances are pretty good they may be starting to experience some of the same issues with arthritis, degenerating eyesight, or back pain that your prospective buyer has. Encourage your staff to subtly demonstrate how levered handles, first-floor masters, and smaller, under the counter dishwashers help them (or their parents if they don’t have symptoms themselves). This subtle approach aligns the salesperson with the prospect’s needs, without pushing their age in their face.
- During the tour, make a point to show the prospect each of the universal design features, without emphasizing them as such. Then, at the end of the tour, share the fact that most people want to stay at home as they age and all those features you pointed out will help them do that.
Of course, don’t forget that some people may specifically be looking for the accessibility features you are providing so don’t be afraid to talk about them if they ask:
- Include information about universal design on your website. You can include words like “accessibility” in page content and titles. You might also include the phrase “universal design” in the content to help with organic search rankings in case your prospect is familiar with universal design topics. For those leads looking for accessible homes, you want to appear as close to the top of the organic rankings as possible.
- You might even specifically target audiences with arthritis, degenerative disks, poor eye-sight, etc. and highlight that you have thought ahead to provide for their needs (hopefully, unlike your competitors).
Remember, few people want to think about getting old and losing mobility; instead focus on the “upgrades” you have provided that add convenience to everyone’s lives and help them maintain their vitality and independence regardless of age.
Personally, I appreciate every builder who includes these features in their homes because, not only will they help my mom remain in her home longer, but someday, I’m going to need them too.