By 2017, U.S. shoppers could buy a mattress at more places than they could get a Big Mac. That’s when, according to IBISWorld, there were 15,255 U.S. mattress stores to McDonald’s 14,079 Golden Arches.

The sleep industry was urging consumers to flip for a new bed every eight years.

A furniture store could count on mattresses being its highest-profit sale.

Specialty stores selling high-ticket Tempur-Pedics and Sleep Number beds proliferated.

Then the compressed bed-in-a-box—like Leesa and Casper—began undercutting the traditional mattress model by offering easy online ordering and free returns months later. Recently, their manufacturers have opened storefronts to accommodate shoppers who still prefer to bounce before they buy.

Something had to give.

Mattress stores throughout the area began closing their doors. Top U.S. mattress retailer Mattress Firm filed for Chapter 11 and indicated it could close as many as 700 stores.

You could see the pillow top of overexpansion deflating right before your eyes.

But a separate trend is allowing different specialty firms to leverage all that market disruption, especially in Southwest Florida: Local residents aren’t getting any younger, and that demographic is more determined than ever to age in place.

Despite a dizzying variety of mattresses, the older generation finds that it has more trouble getting comfortable on them. They can’t easily get in or out, and end up sleeping in their recliners.

Brooke Lighton’s 90-year-old father, determined to continue living at home in Winter Park, is one of them.

Though he’s survived stroke, heart attack, diabetes and prostate cancer, nothing threatened his independence like mobility issues — namely, getting in and out of bed at night to go to the bathroom.

Adjustable bases are some help, but they pose two problems. They result in pieces of furniture that look as institutional as gurneys, and they remain hard for aging consumers to get in and out of.

Targeting Florida’s aging, active, affluent market — a whole new market niche that can only expand as the population ages — North Carolina-based Parks Health Products entered the therapeutic bedding market in 2017. Parks is the brainchild of 75-year-old furniture leader Hickory Springs Manufacturing (HSM), which got its start in bedsprings but now makes more sophisticated products.

Since launching, said Parks CMO Ryan Gordon, “we’ve seen significant growth in Florida.”

In addition to a full line of adjustable beds and therapeutic mattresses, Parks launched an innovation that addresses both comfort and mobility—their newest product, the Kalmia Perfect Height Adjustable Bed.

Lighton said, “My sister-in-law, who was looking for a bed for her mom, told me, ‘We found this bed that goes up and down. And it doesn’t look like a hospital bed!’”

It was a Kalmia Perfect Height Adjustable.

Kalmia beds look like high-end pieces of furniture, not hospital beds. They raise the head to stop snoring. They lift the feet to help circulation, very important to Lighton’s diabetic father. Their mattresses dissipate heat and moisture away from the body, to cool and comfort. They can give you a massage. And their high-low feature raises and lowers a full 10 inches.

“The remote is very easy for Dad to use,” Lighton added. “And he has a little dachshund named Maude. He lowers the bed for Maude, she jumps on, then he raises the bed again.”

These beds even have under-bed lighting, a built-in nightlight to help prevent falls. For couples sleeping in a king bed, the two sides are separately adjustable.

Parks, which sells only through brick-and-mortar retailers, not online, is carried locally only by Medical Department Store’s five outlets in Sarasota, Venice, Fort Myers, Naples and Port Charlotte. The largest such presence in Southwest Florida, Medical Department Store has made extra space for the Kalmia line of adjustable therapeutic beds and mattresses. That’s where Lighton’s family found theirs.

Medical Department Store owner Kevin McCord said, “There’s been a major shift in buying behavior since I entered the industry 18 years ago. It used to be that seniors and their families would take whatever Medicare paid for — the basic hospital bed, wheelchair or walker. Now that Medicare doesn’t reimburse as readily, we find that people are willing to pay for nicer, more colorful, more comfortable products.

“They don’t want something that looks like a hospital bed anymore. They want a quality piece of furniture, and Kalmia is the Cadillac of adjustable beds.”

“It’s been a Godsend,” concluded Lighton.

Venice’s Medical Department Store, 1180 Jacaranda Boulevard, in Venice Pines Plaza, is open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday to 3 p.m.

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