Eighty-five percent of older people want to continue living where they are - at home. And remember, the phrase "Older American" increasingly includes the 76 million people born between 1946 and 1964, known as the Baby Boomers. Whether one is 60 or 80, the idea of "aging in place" in one's own home is very attractive.
Toward this goal, the National Association of Home Builders and AARP developed the Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist program to help people who want to make their homes a home for a lifetime, regardless of their age, income or abilities. An AARP study called Fixing to Stay showed, not only that Americans prefer to remain in their homes, but that they want a reliable means of identifying professionals they can trust to remodel their homes. The CAPS program was officially launched in 2002, offering the CAPS designation to those who have graduated the national program.
The CAPS program trains remodeling contractors, architects, designers, occupational therapists and other health professionals in home modifications that can help people continue living independently in their homes longer; the unique needs of older people; common remodeling projects; solutions to common barriers. Grab bars in the bathroom, better lighting in the staircase, a no-step entrance to the dwelling are examples of important changes that can be made to the home so that it is more livable and less likely to be an accident waiting to happen. CAPS graduates pledge to uphold a code of ethics and are required to maintain their designation by attending continuing education programs and participating in community service.
Bob Tamone is a recently Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist who lives in Juneau. Having worked in the building trades most of his life, he developed an interest in home modification when his mom fell, broke a hip, and lay unattended for a couple of days. "If the phone was closer to the floor she might have been able to help herself," he explains. As his mom went through rehab, he realized the challenges of getting around at home and considered how he could have improved her home, maybe even preventing the fall.
Tamone took the classes offered through the National Association of Home Builders, receiving the certificate in 2007, and now has his general contractor's license. He recently made some changes to a woman's home, including grab bars, a comfort height toilet, and continuous grab rails from the top of the stairs to the bottom. "Even simple changes can make a real difference, helping you move safely through the home."
"We don't like to think we're getting older," Tamone said, "but it is wise to take preventive measures before you need them."
As a CAPS, Tamone has a special interest in evaluating people's homes, doing assessments for people of all incomes, ages, and abilities. As he considers the home environment, he looks for potential trip hazards and the need for better lighting, acoustics, even lever door handles to make life easier for those experiencing arthritis. He encourages people to make some adjustments "for yourself or your parent."
"There are a lot of resources out there to get you started," Tamone explained.
He cited the NAHB and the AARP Web sites as two great sources of information. Persons wanting a home assessment or who have specific questions about home modifications should e-mail Tamone at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marianne Mills is the program director of Southeast Senior Services, which offers home- and community-based services for older Alaskans throughout the region. SESS is a part of Catholic Community Service and assists all persons regardless of their faith.