Leading reverse mortgage lender American Advisors Group (AAG) has been adding to its repertoire of partnerships to support aging in place, including new accords in the home modification space, seeing an opportunity for reverse mortgages to provide assistance to borrowers who wish to customize their homes in order to accommodate the needs of staying put as they age.
Late last year the company announced a partnership with VGM Live at Home, a nationwide, collaborative membership community with services for independently owned and certified accessible home modification providers and contractors. Now, AAG has added several new home modification partnerships including with a manufacturer of bathing products called BestBath, which fashions products designed for people of all abilities.
The company has also added partnerships with accessibility and mobility services provider Next Day Access and in-home senior care provider Senior Helpers, further carving a niche in connecting reverse mortgages to these kinds of critical care services seniors need in order to age in place with additional longevity.
RMD sat down with AAG Advanced Retirement and Home Equity Strategist Ryan Ponsford to get additional perspective on what these kinds of partnerships mean for AAG and senior borrowers who may be seeking to finance in-home care services or home modification projects,
The need for bolstering the ability to age in place, reaching new seniors
Because the reverse mortgage industry serves seniors who are primarily interested in remaining in their own homes, the necessity is high to ensure that those homes are well-equipped to accommodate the needs that seniors have as they age, Ponsford explains. Facilitating partnerships to accomplish that goal for the cohort the company serves is a high priority.
“For seniors that want to age in the comfort of their own home, the residence often needs renovations to make it more functional and desirable,” he tells RMD. “Partnering with BestBath creates an impactful relationship that mutually serves our clients who are looking for to make improvements in one of the most common areas of need in the home, the bathroom. AAG’s comprehensive products open the door to broader conversations on how to improve overall retirement outcomes for seniors and that includes adjusting living situations.”
Providing additional options to borrowers is a key component of these partnerships, but realizing the challenges in front of the aging in place goal that are present in many homes needs to be addressed, and these partnerships are one way to do that, Ponsford explains.
“The number of seniors that prefer to live their later years at home as opposed to moving to a facility is increasing, especially after the pandemic,” he says. “However, staying in the home provides challenges, both as it relates to the functionality of the home, as well as financial implications that many are wrestling with.”
It is possible that by making these offerings available to seniors, it could open their eyes to the potential a reverse mortgage may provide for securing their retirement.
“There’s a sizable number of individuals and families that will seek out home renovations solutions first, creating an opportunity for introductions to our AAG team to assist in addressing the financial needs,” he says. “In other cases, families will first seek financing solutions, creating a path for AAG to make a connection through our BestBath relationship.”
Data driving partnerships
With access to a robust data-gathering apparatus, AAG is aware of certain issues that could impede aging in place because of homes which are not properly accommodating for older residents. This is one component that has led to these kinds of partnerships being pursued, Ponsford says.
“One of the major trends we see from financial professionals we work with, senior care specialists, and clients themselves, is the need for solutions surrounding in-home care,” he says. “For many it’s the greatest financial risk, as well as a tremendous emotional strain [it puts] on the entire family. Being able to meet our clients in this place, provide options, and give them the peace of mind that they will be okay is a very fulfilling way to serve.”
The number of reported incidents of injuries and falls in the home helps to serve as an indicator of the problems some seniors face when living in homes that are not adequately equipped to accommodate them, Ponsford says, but is not necessarily representative of the problem’s full scope.
“Our intent is to make these conversations more approachable, understandable and accessible,” he says.
Potential for new partnerships, what reverse mortgage professionals should keep in mind
These partnerships may not be the final ones made in the aging in place, home modification and in-home care realms, Ponsford says.
“Our team is always open to relationships that align with our client needs, our direction, and our values,” he says. “When a family begins the transition of needing to look in to care options – staying in the home, checking out facilities, considering modifications – there are many moving parts. The more ways we can simplify their experience, the better the outcomes. Speaking to VGM, that relationship is off to an excellent start. Their leadership team along with affiliate partners have been fantastic collaborators as we both seek ways to grow our businesses through service to families.”
In terms of what the broader reverse mortgage industry should be doing in order to pay adequate attention to the issues surrounding aging in place, Ponsford recommends keeping the people who could be helped in mind as a core focus of industry efforts.
“For the industry, I would just encourage everyone to continue to view our role through the lens of families we serve,” he says. “The ‘retirement’ phase of life, while intended to be the most meaningful time of life, is full of unknowns, changes and significant decisions. As we think through client needs, continue to seek out relationships with professionals that serve these same clients with a level of intellect and compassion that matches your own.”
In AAG’s case, the new partnerships it has cultivated serve as an example, he says.
“When we all ask the important questions, seek to understand what’s really going on, many times we’ll discover there are many more ways we can help that we would have otherwise uncovered,” he explains.