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Remodelers Aim for Aging Boomers

Installing ramps and bathtub grab bars may keep contractors busy as boomers age.
Installing ramps and bathtub grab bars may keep contractors busy as boomers age.Photograph by LJM Photo/Corbis

As the oldest boomers turn 65 at a rate of about 10,000 a day, their homes can challenge stiff joints and waning eyesight. A Harvard University study suggests recovery in the remodeling market will be driven in part by contractors making improvements to help individuals go about their routines within their own homes. So-called age-in-place retrofits should provide a “particularly strong” source of business for the 650,000 remodelers in the U.S., two-thirds of which are one-person ventures, according to the report.

Of course, persuading homeowners to plan long term for aging isn’t easy. “Most people are hesitant to admit they need to be thinking in this way, so we definitely battle that,” says Bill Millholland, executive vice president of Case Design/Remodeling, a $28 million business with 175 employees in Washington, D.C., and 11  franchise locations nationwide. “Nobody wants their home to look like a hospital facility.” Although several staff members have received specialized training in the principles of age-appropriate remodeling, Millholland says it has not yet paid off. “I’m not sure our business has grown any, but it’s something we’ll continue to pursue, because one of these days it’s going to matter, and we want to make sure we’re there when it does,” he says.