Special Section: Senior Mobility

Preparing for the Boomers

Q&A with Jerry Keiderling, AHIA

A seating & mobility system only truly works if it integrates well into the consumer’s lifestyle and environment. Accessibility, therefore, remains a key factor in determining how ultimately successful the assistive technology will be.

Jerry Keiderling is president of The VGM Group’s Accessible Home Improvement of America (AHIA), a network of providers serving consumers with disabilities and consumers who want to age in place. We asked Keiderling about the changing consumer demographic for home accessibility and how feasible it is for a “hard-core” complex rehab technology provider to expand into the home accessibility market.

Mobility Management: In the home accessibility field, which is currently the larger customer demographic — seniors or people with disabilities?

Jerry Keiderling: In looking simply at the data, the larger “potential” customer demographic is the senior market, sometimes referred to as those over 50 or the more trendy term — boomers.

Within the current market, though, there is a major portion of accessibility business being done to accommodate the needs of those living with a disability: active individuals who are capable of living much more independently with some or a few changes within their home surroundings.

MM: Do you expect the demographics and percentages to shift as more baby boomers reach retirement age?

JK: Yes, it’s inevitable. The nation’s population is growing older and at a faster rate than ever before. Although the traditional mobility-impaired or complex rehab clientele will still represent a significant amount of business, the concepts of aging in place and independent living will become more relevant as each year passes. Much of the growth in this sector will come from a dual-awareness scenario, whereas:

1. Providers will be increasing their marketing efforts to highlight their new service/product offerings to referral sources and consumers.

2. Consumers will become much more aware of what products/services are available to them that will assist in meeting their needs for a more comfortable and safer lifestyle within their own homes. This factor will be a major influence on the amount of business available to those providers.

MM: Is it possible for a complex rehab technology provider — one who specializes in customized assistive technology — to expand into home accessibility, which is a retail business?

JK: Most definitely. Some complex rehab providers have been doing a given amount of accessibility business for years, but never really promoted and marketed that aspect of their offerings. Others are just now expanding their product offerings, while even others are forming new companies or LLCs to capture that market in their areas.

It’s a natural progression for any business that provides products and services to assist those with mobility impairments. Accessibility may be largely retail in nature, but several payor sources still exist, such as Veterans Affairs, Medicaid Waiver Programs, disease state organizations (MS, MD, ALS, etc.).

These funding sources are usually well recognized by the traditional DME/rehab provider, thereby helping to make that transition easier.

MM: What factors can a rehab provider use to assess his business to determine if expanding into home accessibility is feasible?

JK: Just like with any other business venture, one would look at the population base in their market area, any competitive businesses, the longevity of residence, and their current list of clientele for prospective business.

Some other factors would be the size of showroom space available, the type of delivery/service vehicles currently being used, and the availability of a ready-to-hire/contract labor force for some of the larger jobs.

All in all, accessibility is such a broad category that it touches a much wider scope of the population — mainly because a good portion of the business is determined as “injury prevention” rather than solutions for an injury or ailment. This allows for marketing to an additional and larger segment within the same population base.

MM: AHIA administers the Certified Environmental Access Consultant (CEAC) credential, and there’s also the Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) credential from the National Association of Home Builders. Typically, do people with a CEAC credential also work in the DME/rehab part of the business? Or do they specialize in home accessibility to the exclusion of everything else?

JK: Typically, they either still work in the DME/rehab industry or have had some good-quality past experience in the field. The reason being that formulating a real solution to meet the independent living needs of any client takes a real understanding of their past, present and future situations and prognosis. Those most capable of doing that have had or do have real-world experience in DME/rehab.

Helping to solve accessibility issues and devise independent living solutions for their clients is already a part of the goals that DME/rehab providers strive for. It becomes a natural progression to expand their off erings to enhance that quality of an independent lifestyle for their clients. I believe that the two go together very well.

But sometimes, companies are better off creating another company or even an LLC to manage the mix of business. Both DME/rehab and accessibility can be complicated on their own, and trying to manage both under one roof can be difficult for some.

MM: Are there advantages for a provider in having the CEAC credential in addition to an ATP credential, for instance, or is it better for a provider to have a dedicated home accessibility specialist?

JK: Either way works just fine. Both credentials propose solutions that produce same/similar goals and prospective outcomes for the individual clients. Both have similar learning objectives, and both are well respected and recognized in their fields.

The addition of the CEAC credential to an already-certified ATP can be a valuable marketing tool when dealing with existing and prospective referral and payor sources. Both credentials combined represent a well-rounded knowledge base for determining what’s best for the client and all parties involved.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue of Mobility Management.

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