' What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist?

What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist?

What is Aging in Place?

Residential modifications for the aging-in-place is the fastest-growing sector of the home remodeling industry. The Centers for Disease Control defines the concept of aging in place as living in one’s own home safely, comfortably and independently irrespective of age, ability level or income. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), around 23 million Americans are caring for elderly parents. With the baby boomer generation entering their retirement years, this figure is set to become higher. In the United States over the next 20 years, the number of people over the age of 65 is anticipated to double.

On December 8, 2011, the Public Policy Institute of the AARP sponsored a solutions forum where the AARP and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released a joint report on the topic of promoting aging in place. The discussion at this forum concentrated on transportation, state land use and housing policies that facilitate the aging population to live independently in their homes and communities.

The majority of adults of retirement age want to continue living in their own homes and communities for as long as is feasible. A survey conducted by AARP in 2010 revealed that almost 90 percent of individuals surveyed who were over the age of 65 indicated a preference to stay in their residences for as long as they could. However, realizing this desire can be hampered by lack of access to necessary services, unsupportive community design and inaccessible or unaffordable housing.

A lack of suitable housing leads to social isolation and force some aging adults into institutions when it is not medically necessary. This adds to already high healthcare costs and blocks communal living spaces for those who really need it. Lack of adequate public transportation can impair the mobility of people with disabilities or living in isolated, rural areas. Land use in the United States has typically revolved around the automobile. This is especially true in suburban areas. Many Americans over the age of 65, around 21 percent, do not drive, either because they are unable to drive, do not have a car or they do not hold a driver’s license. More than half of those who do not drive a car normally do not leave the house on most days.

What is a Certified Aging in Place SpecialistWhat is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)?

A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) is someone who understands the aging-in-place home remodeling market and the technology, tools and resources that are available for seniors to age in place. Individuals with the CAPS designation are trained in the needs of the aging population, common remodeling projects and expenditures, codes and standards, product ideas and resources. During their three-day training period, CAPS students learn techniques and strategies for establishing a sustainable, competitive remodeling business with the senior market in mind. Among other things, their training consists of case studies and interactive exercises.

Once qualified, a CAPS is required to undergo a total of 12 continuing education hours every three years. This is broken down into six hours from academic courses and six hours earned through industry activities and education. Credit may be earned by attending or presenting at regional trade shows or national meetings. A maximum of two hours may be earned by participating in suitable community service projects.

CAPS professionals are trained by the National Association of Home Builders. While many people who undergo the training for the CAPS designation are members of the building profession, other interested professionals, such as occupational therapists and other health care professionals, may also seek and obtain certification. Other types of professional who may be encouraged to seek CAPS certification are those individuals who are involved in planning and land use, in particular at the state level. Here, the skills and knowledge of a CAPS professional can really make a meaningful difference at the macroscopic level where they can influence changes that can remove the three major barriers to aging in place at the community level.

Why Choose a CAPS?

There are many good reasons why older adults prefer to remain in their own homes and communities. Proximity to family and friends, the comfort of familiar surroundings, privacy — all of these are important. A widowed senior may feel closer to his lost loved one by staying in the house they shared for several decades. While places like residential care homes and sheltered independent living communities are essential facilities to have available, an elder senior may become isolated if separated from neighbors, friends and other social amenities. The upheaval of learning new routines and finding new hairdressers, grocery stores, local shops, restaurants, etc., is daunting enough for most of us. To a slightly confused older individual, perhaps with a diminishing memory, this can be an absolute nightmare. Transferring medical care is not only distressing, it can be positively risky if the transfer of medical records does not proceed smoothly. Having to attend a different medical center, with the difficulties of having to get to know new health care professionals, can be a barrier to seeking help when it is really needed.

A CAPS professional can help you make your home “aging-ready.” Working with a certified aging in place specialist gives you the assurance that you are dealing with someone who has had training in crafting solutions that meet the independent housing needs of older adults. CAPS professionals utilize universal design principles to create a safer, more comfortable and more independent life in their own home, both now and in the future.

What is a CAPS?When Should I Contact a CAPS?

If you or your parents are nearing retirement age, now is a good time to plan for aging in place, before expensive modifications to the home are immediately necessary. This gives you and your family time to determine what changes are necessary without urgent pressures. It also gives you plenty of flexibility to make sure the necessary financial resources are in place.

How Can I Find a CAPS?

Finding a CAPS is easy. Just visit the NAHB website here, and complete the simple online form.

What Types of Home Alterations Can Help with Aging in Place?

Minimizing the risk of falls, making the home safe for someone with increasingly impaired vision and ease of basic maintenance are some of the main considerations when planning aging-in-place home alterations.

Home remodeling for aging in place can range from simple changes, like installing grab bars for tubs and toilets in bathrooms, placing sturdy handrails on both sides of stairways, replacing door knobs with lever door handles and applying nonslip tape on outdoor and indoor steps that are not carpeted, are quick and inexpensive to implement. Other simple changes include placing microwave ovens and other small appliances on countertops, fastening down rugs or runners and replacing standard light switches with toggle or rocker-type switches.

More extensive modifications are things like increasing the width of hallways and doorways where necessary (and possible), installing additional and/or better lighting, putting a more accessible vanity in the bathroom, replacing the dishwasher with one that is elevated or has drawers, and replacing cook tops with induction cook tops to reduce the chances of burns.

Granny Pods

Granny PodsThese prefabricated backyard cottages provide a safe, high-tech alternative to residential homes for the over-50s. The term, “granny pod,” is an affectionate nickname for the MEDCottage, a long-term portable housing option for seniors. The MEDCottage is the result of a collaboration between Pastor Ken Dupin and the health care firm, N2CARE. Pastor Ken had watched for years in frustration as his parishioners withered away in nursing homes. Channeling his emotions into action, he and N2CARE came up with the granny pod. This option keeps families closer while preserving the privacy of both households.
With a granny pod, water, electric and waste disposal systems are connected to household supplies. Each unit has its own kitchen, bathing and laundry facilities in addition to a bedroom, which can accommodate an overnight visit by a caregiver. There are three models of different sizes: 288 sq ft, 299 sq ft and 605 sq ft. A fully-equipped granny pod may have robotic technology that can monitor vital signs, communicate with the outside world and filter contaminants from the air. Computers provide medication reminders and sensors can alert the caregivers to possible problems. Webcams installed at knee level can alert the caregivers to a fall while preserving privacy for the occupant.

Summing up

Aging in place is a term for independent senior living. At the community level, the main barriers to aging in place are transportation, lack of suitable housing and unsupportive community design. At the individual residential level, the main considerations are prevention of falls, ease of maintenance and safety. At the personal level, the benefits of aging in place include independence, familiarity of people and surroundings comfort and privacy. CAPS professionals get involved at all three levels to promote aging in place.

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