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As demand for senior housing continues to outstrip supply and affordability of independent facilities remain a challenge, a home remodeling certification program provides a host of options for an aging population to remain in their homes for a longer term. It’s the Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) program, launched in the early 2000s by several divisions of the National Association of Home Builders in cooperation with the AARP. Contractors can earn CAPS certification from the NAHB, gathering information they can share with their clients during home remodeling or new construction projects. GT Karr, the owner of Sueppel’s Siding and Remodeling in Iowa City and president of the Greater Iowa City Area Homebuilders Association, is CAPS certified and said he discusses the program with nearly all his company’s remodeling clients. “A client may have an elderly parent moving in, or has someone that has had surgery or an issue like that,” Mr. Karr said. “So we see a lot with ramps and bathroom renovations.” Even if a client doesn’t mention the idea of aging in place as part of a remodeling project, Mr. Karr said he’ll bring it up proactively so projects don’t have to be modified later and at additional cost. “We consider it in 100% of our projects,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the client always does, or that it meets their needs. But in bathroom renovations, for example, we are always putting in blocking for future work. If there’s a way to widen a doorway, add adequate lighting, install slip-resistant surfaces for walking, those are always considerations for us, and we will bring those recommendations to the client. Aging is inevitable for all of us, and whether you’re 20 or 80, you can blow out a knee, so they’re going to appreciate some of those considerations very quickly.” Other types of modifications, Mr. Karr said, might include moving essential services, like washers and dryers, to the main living level of the home, so clients don’t have to regularly negotiate stairs, or add mobility aids such as grab bars and non-slip flooring surfaces. If possible, Mr. Karr said, it’s better to consider mobility-related modifications proactively, rather than waiting for an urgent need to arise. “We have one very good opportunity when we’re doing a renovation, at least in the area that we’re touching, to put in as many of those improvements as we can,” he said. “We might not put in a ramp or something like that right away, but let’s at least make sure we build a deck that may allow that to happen in the future, or put a wider doorway in, those types of things. It’s really specific to the client and specific to the project, because we’re not building new.” The NAHB’s web page for the CAPS program offers this program summary for both contractors and their clients. “The baby boom generation has many choices as this large population of potential clients for remodelers, builders, contractors and occupational therapists considers where to live — but overwhelmingly, seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes,” the page reads. “The CAPS designation offers your potential clients what they need most: reassurance that you’ll help them make the choices that will help them stay in their homes safely and securely. “In addition, the CAPS designation helps you make your clients’ homes more ‘visitable,’” the page adds. “Even if the homeowners don’t think they need additional task lighting, grab bars, and other home modifications for their own use, their family members and visitors might. CAPS helps you help your clients make the right choices, and it gives you more security in a remodeling market niche that’s continuing to grow in popularity.” Aging-in-place home modifications can also offer financial advantages, particularly compared to relocation to an assisted living or care facility, Mr. Karr noted. “We had a client where one of the parents took a nasty fall and had to go into a care facility, and with our training, we were able to pretty quickly respond,” he said. “I think she was only out of the home for a month, and while she was doing rehab, we were able to go in and (determine) what we could do to get the biggest bang for the dollar and minimize some of the safety concerns to make it easier for everyone. It’s a partnership with the caretaker, the client and the contractor. We put a ramp in, added grab bars in the hallway, moved the washer and dryer upstairs, and did a quick pass bathroom renovation. If we didn’t have the training and we were starting that conversation suddenly, I don’t think we would have been able to turn it around that quickly. I think it’s more in people’s minds now.” There’s yet another important factor to consider when making decisions regarding aging in place, Mr. Karr added, and it may be the most consequential of all – the notion of home itself and the associated emotional and mental comfort it represents. “We’re not going to be here forever, so we try to design an intelligent remodel that’s going to benefit everyone,” he said. “We’re all painfully aware of how much staying at home and having that independence helps with the mental health aspects, which then helps you recover from your physical issues. They’re very much intertwined. I haven’t met one person who’s said ‘I want to move to the care facility. Sign me up.’ So the longer we can keep people in their homes, I think it’s better for everybody.”