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Are Retailers Ready For An Aging America?

A graying population is embracing  smart-home solutions to help them age in place.

Baby boomers have always had a large presence, much greater than any preceding or current generation.

Now between the ages of 51 and 69, boomers are aging with 10,000 individuals turning 65 each day. At this rate, the elderly are expected to account for roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2029 – quite a remarkable number, so it’s no surprise that many companies are beginning to offer products and services catered toward this generation.

Most recently, Best Buy announced the launch of its Assured Living program, a smart-home endeavor designed to help loved ones remotely check on the health and safety of older parents. E-commerce giant Amazon also capitalized on the trend by launching a separate store that catered specifically to mature adults and seniors, while Walgreens adjusted its mobile app to better serve adults over the age of 55.

The common denominator and emerging trend among these companies is clear: seniors want technology, products and equipment to help them “age in place” – to adapt the home to avoid having to relocate to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. According to a report from HomeAdvisor, adults are making renovations to the home fairly early in the aging process, including adding ramps to the home entrance, adding grab bars to necessary locations throughout the home and widening doorways, among other safety additions.

Best Buy, Amazon and Walgreens are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the potential of tapping into demand by boomers (and their children) for aging-in-place products and services, and many, many more companies will follow suit. In fact, it’s very likely we’ll see this trend gain momentum in the retail space, as these types of offerings will be seen nearly everywhere by 2020, when the population is largely dominated by older adults. To properly serve this demographic, businesses must think outside the box. Here are some categories to consider:

Home Automation: Home automation, or smart home, has grown more and more popular. Seniors can benefit greatly from smart-home products, which is precisely why Best Buy rolled out Assured Living. All-in-one remotes, controllable apps and connected products like Nest thermostats and compatible lighting make life more comfortable, especially for seniors. Indoor security cameras and sensors with corresponding apps are also an easy way for loved ones to keep an eye on seniors, while allowing them to live independently in the comfort of their own homes.

Accessibility: It’s no secret that seniors have limited mobility, making it difficult to complete simple tasks like shopping and refilling prescriptions. Companies specializing in the home medical equipment market must take this into consideration when developing their business strategies, and find ways to help seniors gain access to the equipment they need but maybe can’t afford amid looming Medicare cuts.

Technology: It’s often assumed that seniors aren’t up to speed on the latest technology, but it’s actually quite the opposite – roughly 4 in 10 seniors now own smartphones, a figure that has more than doubled since 2013. Grandchildren are communicating more with their grandparents and are sharing photos on Facebook, so retailers should not shy away from online platforms as a way to effectively communicate with seniors.

These are just a few trends that have emerged among baby boomers, though there’s room for retailers and manufacturers to expand far and wide when catering to seniors. As Medicare grows increasingly frustrating for many, aging adults are looking for solutions, products and services that can help them age where they are most comfortable – at home.

Aaron Cavano is president of Care Motion, an online retailer accredited by the Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA) that’s focused on providing the easiest and most cost-effective way to purchase home medical equipment online.