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Certified remodel planners help seniors age in place

Shannon Dauphin Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | September 6, 2013

When you purchase a home, you might have dreams of growing old within those walls. And when the time comes that you need to make some modifications so you can achieve your goal of living comfortably and safely in your home for as long as possible, a certified aging in place specialist can help you plan your remodel.

What certified aging in place specialists do

A certified aging in place specialist (also known as CAPS) has a highly-specialized skill set. "We assist clients to live in their home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income or ability level," explained Kerrie Kelly, ASID, CAPS of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab. "It means the pleasure of remaining in a familiar environment throughout one's maturing years, and the ability to enjoy the familiar daily rituals and the special events that enrich all our lives. It means the reassurance of being able to call a house a home for a lifetime."

Training to become a CAPS

The training to earn a CAPS designation is intensive. Aspiring specialists take a two-day class through the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), including courses in marketing and communication strategies, design and building solutions and business management. They must complete the courses, submit a graduation application and sign a code of ethics pledge. In addition, remodelers and contractors must provide proof of liability and worker's compensation insurance, as well as a business license if required by their state.

The training doesn't end there. The NAHB makes certain the CAPS graduates keep up with the latest trends and technology by requiring 12 hours of continued education on aging in place every three years.

Where to find a CAPS

When you're ready to find a specialist who can help you design an age-in-place solution, the NAHB can help. A search tool on the NAHB website offers the ability to find a CAPS by location, name, company or keyword. There is also an option to choose a classification, such as architect, remodeler or designer, that can help you narrow down the field even further.

Once you have searched for a certified aging in place specialist, you might have a list of options. How do you choose which one is best for your project? You can begin by checking them out online, with professional organizations and the Better Business Bureau. You can also verify their licenses and memberships. Finally, remember that reputation matters. Ask if you can speak to a few of their former customers to get a first-hand account of what kind of job they did.

The initial design consultation

That first consultation with the CAPS of your choice is very important, as that's where your vision can begin to come to life. The appointment typically takes 45 minutes and is free of charge. "We take photos and lots of notes through a casual interviewing process," Kelly explained. "Afterwards, our team reviews the information to understand the necessary work and hours involved to achieve the look. We then provide a scope and package price for client approval."

What can you do to help ensure that things go smoothly? Having an idea of both your needs and wants is a great start. "We find the most successful appointments are collaborative ones," Kelly pointed out. "If the client can be prepared with images from magazines or via Houzz.com or Pinterest, that assists in designing toward the client vision. Additionally, if they can provide us with a budget, that will allow us to design within the desired price range from the start."

Modification possibilities for aging in place

If you have a particular desire for your home, tell the certified aging in place specialist. "Projects for the aging-in-place remodeling segment may start with installation of bath and shower grab bars and adjustment of countertop heights, but can turn into creation of multi-functional first-floor master suites and the installation of private elevators," Kelly said. "We focus on function while also creating a beautifully livable interior."

If you're ready to hire a CAPS to modify your home, start by gathering your ideas. What do you really need? Begin with simple items like ramps and grab bars, then progress to more expensive additions or modifications, such as a walk-in tub or wider doorways. Look at photographs of homes that employ universal design, and choose the features that appeal most to you.

Whether you are starting with minor modifications or you're ready for a whole-house overhaul, a certified aging in place specialist can help make your space safe and secure while ensuring that it remains an attractive, comfortable home you can enjoy for many years to come.

About the Author

Shannon Lee is a freelance writer and occasional novelist who has spent over twenty years writing about home improvement, education, relationships and medical and health topics.