Years ago, the Harvard Business Review printed the article, "Creating New Market Space."

The authors, Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, detail how innovative companies break free from the competitive pack by staking out fundamentally new market space "… by creating products or services for which there are no direct competitors." With the number of older aged Americans on the rise and in need of specialized services, is there market space for senior specialty services for expansion-minded builders?

According to seniorresource.com, the term "aging in place" is in reference to living where you have called "home" for many years. Called a Naturally Occurring Retirement Community, or NORC, residents age in place by staying in their current homes where neighborhoods typically evolve into senior communities. Residents, or their loved ones, actively seek and acquire the necessary services and products to live comfortably. NORCs are for seniors who choose not to relocate.

For builders thinking about ancillary services and creating market space, another form of senior lifestyle choice may create more opportunities for growth. The Continuing Care Retirement Communities or CCRCs provide a community of like-minded seniors with the necessary services and products to age in place. The big difference is the senior must start their age in place process by relocating into a home within a CCRC. In a CCRC, older aged persons relocate to a CCRC mainly because of the services and products available to them.

A recently announced collaboration between two of the largest industry-related associations is a sign senior specialty services represents the potential for acquiring market share. It also will lay the knowledge base for getting the strategic planning process moving forward. The new program from the AARP and the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB) is the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation for builders and remodelers. To earn it, residential contractors must complete elements in a three-class program that teaches them to design, build and market barrier-free living environments for the elderly.

"The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) designation program teaches the technical, business management, and customer service skills essential to competing in the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry: home modifications for the aging-in-place’" states the NAHB on its website at nahb.com.

The CAPS process involves completing three courses: 1) Working with and Marketing to Older Adults 2) Home Modifications 3) Introduction to Business Management. Once a person receives the certification he or she must take continuing education courses.

Further proof of the potential for market space in senior specialty services can be found in the results of the most recent NAHB RMI (a quarterly survey of professional remodelers). In the "special questions" section this quarter (asked at the end of the survey to help pinpoint market trends), the RMI focused on aging-in-place remodeling work. Seventy-two percent of respondents said that their company is involved in home modification work relating to aging-in-place -- up from 60 percent in 2006.

According to the survey, respondents indicated that some of the most popular types of aging-in-place remodeling projects included installing grab bars (90 percent), higher toilets (75 percent) and curbless showers (63 percent), and widening doorways (56 percent). More than 75 percent of respondents noted an increase in the number of requests for aging-in-place features over the past five years. Respondents reported that the top reasons for their customers to undertake aging-in-place work included planning for future needs (78 percent), living with older parents (54 percent) and acute age-related disabilities.

As Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne note in "Creating New Market Space," Home Depot looked across the substitutes serving home improvement needs, and Intuit looked across the substitutes available to individuals managing their personal finances. In both cases, powerful insights were derived from looking at familiar data from a new perspective. Perhaps builders can derive similar insights by looking at seniors, and the homes they live in, in a whole new light.

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