The Argument for Aging-in-Place
The Center for Disease Control defines aging in place as “the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently, and comfortably, regardless of age, income, or ability level.” There are many reasons to offer that option:
- 78 percent of adults between the ages of 50 and 64 prefer to stay in their current residence as they age.
- One-third of American households are home to one or more residents 60 years of age or older.
- Those unable to age in place become drains on the healthcare system.
- Those who are institutionalized strain Medicare and Medicaid.
There are three major categories of aging-in-place.
1. Aging in place without urgent needs: Individuals who want to stay in their current home, are not experiencing immediate health/mobility issues, and prefer aging in place.
2. Aging in place with progressive condition-based needs: Those with chronic or progressive conditions that will eventually require special modifications for aging in place. Many have chronic conditions such as diabetes and lung/heart disease.
3. Aging in place with traumatic change needs: Those who experienced an abrupt or immediate change that demands adjustments in the living environment for aging in place such as home modifications or universal design.
Home Modifications to Avoid Falls
There are many risks for injury to older adults in the common household which impede their ability to successfully age in place. Among the greatest threats is falling. According to the CDC, falls are the leading cause of injurious death among older adults. Therefore, engagement in fall prevention is crucial to one’s ability to age in place.
Universal Design, which makes everything in the home accessible to all people with or without functional limitations, is a key component of aging-in-place renovations. In most cases, modifications can be simple and cost-effective. Some examples include:
- Increased lighting
- Accessible switches at both ends of the stairs
- Additional railings, grab bars
- Non-skid flooring
- Hand-held, flexible shower head
- Ramps for accessible entry and exit
- Walk-in shower
- Sliding shelves
- Installation of a private elevator
- Adjusting counter top heights
- Constructing new first floor master suites.
Many older people and their adult children are not aware that there is help available for them to make their homes livable for when they become older and have special needs.
If you are interested in or have experience in home renovation, construction, real estate, or geriatric care management consider becoming a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS understand the technical and business management aspects as well as the service skills required for home modification.
The CAPS Training Program was created by the Remodelers™ Council of the National Association of Home Builders, together with the NAHB Research Center, Seniors Housing Council and the Association of the Aging and Retired People. The training teaches:
- The needs of older people
- Specific home modifications that support independent living
- The most common types of remodeling required
- The most common obstacles and their solutions
Students also learn how to make the remodeling aesthetically pleasing as well as obstacle-free for a safe living environment.
Training for CAPS
The 3-day program addresses the technical needs for the aging in place demographic as well as the communication skills needed to give the best possible service as well as how to market aging in place. Go to the NAHB.org website to find CAPS online training programs.
After the training program is completed, participants must complete the graduation application and submit it to the NAHB University of Housing. CAPS graduates are not merely home remodelers. They offer a service to the public and take a pledge to uphold a code of ethics. They may retain their certificate only by joining continuing educational programs and participating in community service.