It’s no secret that the United States is aging.
According to the U.S. Census, in 2014, more than 46 million Americans were 65 or older. By 2030, this same population segment is expected to exceed 74 million. The changing demographic is changing many aspects of our culture, not the least of which is residential living options.
“Fixing to Stay,” a May 2000 study by the AARP Public Policy Institute, showed that more than 90% of people over 65 want to live in their homes and communities for as long as possible. This basic desire is the foundation for the goals and methodology behind the “Aging in Place” (AIP) movement. It’s also why there are Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS).
CAPS professionals use their unique skills, experience, and training to help aging adults live independently where they wish and most importantly, help make sure they are safe and secure while doing so.
What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist?
The Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist Program was developed by AARP and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in response to the AARP’s “Fixing to Stay” study. The idea is to assist consumers in making their homes usable for a lifetime—regardless of their age or functional ability.
CAPS professionals have been taught techniques and strategies for designing, modifying, and building barrier-free living environments that are also aesthetically pleasing. Yet the CAPS program is more than just code compliant design approaches, remodeling, and buildouts. CAPS professionals can help you and your loved ones develop comprehensive and practical AIP plans and solutions.
The CAPS Program
The CAPS designation program includes training in technical, business management, and “people” skills to help professionals be fully versed in age-related home modifications—the fastest growing segment of the residential remodeling industry.
CAPS professionals include contractors, interior designers, health care professionals, and community service providers. Once certified, they are prepared to offer personalized advice in many aspects of AIP realities, especially solutions to tackle common environmental barriers. Yet CAPS professionals are trained in understanding the changing needs of aging adults and talking about these new or emerging challenges in a respectful, empathetic, and thoughtful way.
All CAPS contractors are required to complete 12 continuing education hours every three years.
The certification process and continuing education requirement helps ensure all CAPS professionals have the skills and knowledge necessary to make a meaningful difference for aging adults. The ultimate goal is to help retirement-age homeowners remain independent for as long as possible by eliminating or mitigating the major barriers to aging in place.
There are several barriers to aging in place that CAPS professionals can help you overcome.
- Lack of preparation: AIP planning means actively preparing for diminishing capabilities. That’s not something most people like to consider, but it’s vital. With planning, necessary renovations may be added incrementally. The “Fixing to Stay” study showed many people are doing this:
- 70% of survey respondents said they have made at least one modification to make their homes more livable.
- 85% have made simple changes to their homes to promote accessibility.
- 67% of those making changes or modifications to their homes did so with the intention of living there longer.
- Structural housing barriers: AIP planning looks at all areas of the home, especially high-use potential trouble spots like kitchens and bathrooms. Since many Americans live in aging residences built long before the Americans with Disabilities Act or Universal Design concepts, these homes may not have some of today’s accessible amenities like wider doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs or touch-free faucets.
- General aging issues impacting daily life: As we age, many of the activities we take for granted may become difficult. Opening a jar or pill bottle may become next to impossible. Moving a pot of water from the sink to the stove can become a major chore. The risks of falls or serious injuries also increase. Planning for such issues before they occur will reduce their impact and have a positive influence on your overall quality of life.
By helping to overcome the barriers to aging in place, CAPS professionals actually help older adults stay in their homes and communities longer.
Numerous studies show the most common fear that retirement-age Americans share is the loss of independence. This makes sense on many levels: our homes offer privacy, connections to family and friends, and the peace of mind that comes with a familiar environment. With proper planning and preparation, seniors can greatly increase the amount of time they live at home independently.
When you add a CAPS contractor to the planning process, they will be aware of the major barriers you might face and will have an in-depth understanding of obstacles that occur outside the residence and are often overlooked, such as public transportation and community support.
CAPS professionals have the training and experience to make a positive impact on your quality of life. If you start actively planning with a CAPS as you or loved ones near the age of retirement, you can prepare your home for potential challenges. CAPS professionals are adept at incorporating universal design principles to produce a safer and more comfortable living environment that promotes a more independent life for aging adults.
When Should I Contact a CAPS?
The sooner you begin AIP planning for yourself or loved ones, the more effective it will be. The closer you get to retirement, the more essential the need for AIP becomes. With lead time, you can make necessary modifications to the home that align with your budget on your own schedule. A planned approach also enables you to work with a contractor you know and trust or take advantage of your CAPS professional’s many business and community relationships.
If your residential plans change, many AIP modifications become investments in your property and can increase your home’s value. It’s really never too early to start looking for a Certified Aging in Place Specialist.
Living independently for as long as possible may very well require hard planning, tough decisions, and substantial modifications to your residence, but when the time comes, you’ll be glad you invested the energy and resources.
Having a supportive team behind you is always better than moving forward alone. CAPS professionals can be true allies in the AIP journey.