With the stock market in turmoil and housing in a slump, appliance manufacturers are taking the long view and retooling their offerings for aging baby boomers.
In the kitchen, General Electric Co. is designing ovens with easier-to-open doors and automatic shut-off burners. A joint venture of Germany’s Bosch and Siemens AG has introduced a glass cook top for its premium Thermador brand designed to prevent boil-overs. In the bathroom, Moen is trumpeting new grab bars that can support a 350-pound person, and Kohler is devising easier-to-handle faucet levers. Minnesota-based Truth Hardware reports booming sales for its remote-controlled window motors.
The offerings are largely geared for the roughly 76 million baby boomers — born between 1946 and 1964 — who control the biggest share of purchasing power for the roughly $25 billion U.S. appliance market. And many of these people are demanding appliances that help them cope with the aches, pains and other infirmities they confront as they grow older. In addition, more than half of Americans are expected to have elder-care responsibilities within 10 years, and many will likely want their homes to be senior-friendly.