With Mother’s Day in the recent past and Father’s Day soon to arrive, many people are being reminded of how difficult it is for elderly people to maintain a healthy and active daily routine. In the past, many senior citizens had to be placed in nursing homes simply because their residences didn’t adequately allow them the mobility needed for independent living.

This frequently applied to numerous disabled individuals as well. For centuries, most buildings, including residential ones, were designed with healthy, active young people in mind. Even today, despite increased social awareness and technological advances, most buildings are still designed without any consideration given to the needs of the elderly and disabled.

Countless offices, stores, and other places of business, including medical centers, still don’t provide easy access to the disabled or feeble elderly citizens. There’s nothing so frustrating to someone in a wheelchair/electric scooter than to arrive at a heavy door that swings outwardly, after fighting all the sharp turns of a poorly planned ramp. It’s just as frustrating for those who use a walker or crutches, after they have struggled to climb a full flight of steps.

Fortunately, the trend nowadays is to use what is known as a universal design when building or modifying homes. This design is meant to allow people to live comfortably in the same home throughout the various stages of their lives without having to constantly remodel their homes. As the ‘Baby boomer” generation turns 55+ years old, more emphasis is being placed on making home modifications that allow aging-in-place living.

Both, young and older homeowners want a lifetime home that provides safety, independence, and comfort no matter what age, income, or disability they may have. This trend has created one of the fastest growing segments of the home remodeling industry. With many war veterans currently returning home wounded or disabled, this demand for modified homes increases even more rapidly. Not to mention all the people who’ll need home modifications due to becoming disabled through various accidents and illnesses that occur on a daily basis.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Association of Retired Persons (AARP) are now urging professionals in the home remodeling and home building industries to become Certified Aging-in-Place Specialists (CAPS) in order to meet the rising demands. In order to become CAPS, individuals must complete a three-day CAPS program provided by the NAHB through state and local building associations. The course is also offered through various trade shows, such as NAHB’s International Builders’ Show and the Remodeler’s Show. The program teaches marketing strategies and techniques, designing and constructing aesthetic barrier-free living environments, and business management specific to building a competitive, sustainable remodeling business.

However, anyone who already has a certified designation with a business component is exempt from taking the third day’s training, which is Business Management for Building Professionals. This exemption applies to those with the designation of CGR, GMR, CGA, CGB, CGP, GMB, CGA, CR, CKD, CBD, AIA, ASID, GRI, or CCIM. Anyone with a Masters of Business Administration degree that has been attained from an accredited university within ten years of the CAPS application submission date may also be exempted. The NAHB highly recommends everyone to take the management course even if they are eligible for exemption.

Once the course has been completed, the candidate must submit a graduation application to the NAHB
Education board and pay certain fees. The fees are set by the Home Builders Association, and are currently set as follows:

  • National course fees: $220 for NAHB members, $270 for non-members
  • Graduation fees: $145 for NAHB members, $245 for non-members
  • Annual renewal fees: $55 for NAHB members, $80 for non-members

A continuing education requirement of 12 hours every three years from a building industry related educational activity must also be fulfilled. However, a maximum of two hours can be earned through participation in community services that includes projects done for the public good without compensation.

Whether completed as a certified professional, or as a do-it-yourself remodeler, every home should undergo universal design modifications. This design is beneficial to all adults and children, no matter what their physical limitations may be. Basically, when creating a universal living space, the major emphasis is on integrating products that will aid balance, dexterity, mobility, and stability. The design should help maintain safety, and add beauty, as well as increase comfort for people of all ages and physical abilities.

For instance, all doors should be at least 36” wide, with zero thresholds. The shower should have a zero threshold; grab bars, and a shower bench. All rooms, especially the kitchen and bathrooms, should easily accommodate usage of a wheel chair, electric scooter, and walker. All furniture, countertops, and appliances should also be readily accommodating to people of all ages and physical abilities.

Sources: American Association of Retired Persons, National Association of Home Builders, Qualified Remodeler, WOAI News 4


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