Victoria Downing, president of the peer review group Remodelers Advantage and a regular contributor to REMODELING, believes that universal design/aging-in-place/better living design is the next frontier. Speaking to a group at the 2012 Remodeling Show, Downing outlined ideas for how to get leads in this area.

Language Counts

The terms “universal design” and “aging in place” are often used interchangeably. Though related, the concepts do differ slightly (and universal design is a bit vague). Yet, remodelers want to capture both audiences. “Better living design,” the term being promoted by AARP is more accurate and more sounds more positive. “So much of ‘aging in place’ is really good design principles in everything you do,” Downing said.

She stressed that in your marketing you should be using words such as: activity, active, balanced life and work, choices, connection, contribute, experienced, growth, health options, wellbeing. “Stay away from words like ‘old, elderly, handicapped, infirm, aging, senior,’” she advised.

Make It Visible

“People are aging, whether they like it or not,” Downing told the audience and offered the following tips on marketing methods:

  • Make everything easy to read with larger type. Don’t use reverse type (with white letters on a dark background).

  • On your website, put call-to-action front and center and make sure contact information is located where viewers can easily find it.

  • Keep messages simple.

  • Use better living design principles in your showroom or office design.

  • Brighten lighting in your showroom and office making it easier for visitors to see.

Share Your Expertise

Before you market anything, though, you have to be knowledgeable. Downing encouraged those seminar attendees to get certified through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (UDCP — Universal Design Professional Certification) or through the National Association of Home Builders (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist or CAPS) and to learn as much as possible by attending seminars, reading books, and networking. “Take the time to become an expert,” she said.

Once you have the designation, put it on all your cards and marketing materials and, Downing urged, “tell your circle of influence — everyone you know. Everybody you feel that can refer business to you.”

Spread the word — and build credibility — by writing a blog; contributing to community websites and being part of the conversation; presenting a seminar; recording a webinar; writing a “free report,” which, Downing said, is “a lead magnet.”

Finally, Downing spoke about making strategic alliances. “Who else is selling to this market? How can you work together?” She suggested connecting with sources such as AARP, Village-to-Village Network; the National Aging in Place Council; doctors, rehabilitation services; local chapters of disability groups; and government agencies.

“Continue to learn,” Downing said. “It's a never-ending journey, and those of us on the front lines will have it made.”

—Stacey Freed, senior editor, REMODELING.

More REMODELING articles about aging in place:

Lifelong Design: Universal design is not just a fad but is the future as baby boomers — and their children — age. Remodeling professionals talk about how to sell to hesitant clients, added costs, and more

Stay Right There: Universal design checklist

Design for All: Universal Design at the 2012 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show