VOL. 115 | NO. 216 | Tuesday, December 18, 2001
By JENNIFER MURLEY
Builders tackle needs of aging homeowners
By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
The 2000 U.S. Census figures reflect 31 percent of Shelby County residents are 45 years of age or older. That translates into nearly one third of the local population, who either currently or in the near future will be forced to re-evaluate their current living accommodations or consider moving to an assisted-care facility.
In direct response to that huge wave of aging homeowners, namely baby boomers, the National Association of Homebuilders Remodelors Council is creating a new certification program, known as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, that will train remodelers, builders, architects and designers to retrofit existing homes to meets the progressive needs of aging residents.
According CAPS organizer and owner of Houston-based Legal Eagle Contractors, Dan Bawden, the certification program was based on the outcome of a recent study performed by AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.
"The result of that (study) showed people, an overwhelming number of Americans, over 85 percent, want to stay in their homes and age in place thats where the terminology comes from," Bawden said. "They dont want to go to a nursing home, so theres this big desire to stay in their homes that is matched nearly equally with a fear of being scammed by contractors."
Groups including the NAHB Research Center, the federal agency on aging, the National Endowment for the Arts and AARP as well as design specialists from across the nation have been collaborating for the past year to develop the certification program, which would serve as verification of a contractors legitimacy within the industry to cautious homeowners.
In the end, the NAHB Research Center will secure funding and devise the courses. The NAHB Remodelors Council will set up the programs administrative infrastructure. AARP will be the programs consumer partner, Bawden said. Also, a national oversight board will be appointed to track broader issues such as continuing education requirements, he said.
"Theres no doubt about it, this is needed," said Mary Stockley, president of AARPs Tennessee chapter. "As we age, we really are connected to our home. We support people staying at home as long as possible and people are just much happier there."
In addition to the sense of well being they get from remaining in their homes, seniors also value the comfort and decreased expense of staying at home, Stockley said.
"I can say this because Ill be 75 this month, all of us dont want to go into nursing homes," she said. "We recognize there is a time and place for nursing homes, but that is the last resort."
However, the determining component in whether seniors would consider hiring a CAPS certified remodeler or builder to retrofit their home would be affordability, Stockley said. CAPS certified contractors must devise a cost package that would fit the restrictive financial needs of seniors, she said.
"Expenses are a priority with senior citizens because they pay so much for medication, but I feel sure that people would be interested in this type of thing if it would let them stay at home longer," she said.
Considering each home redesign will be created to meet the specific needs of the homeowner through an extensive lifestyle assessment questionnaire, Bawden said it would be impossible to provide an estimated cost for the service.
For instance, he said one home might need the doorways widened and light switches lowered to accommodate a wheelchair-bound resident, while another might simply need grab bars in the bathtub.
Other possible modifications include the installation of lever-type handles on faucets and doorknobs to help arthritic residents, grab bars in bathrooms and hallways and efficient lighting alternatives. More expensive modifications would involve two story homes where the owner could no longer use the stairs, which could involve renovation of existing living space or installation of a residential elevator system.
"Its more than an approach. Its more than a technique. Its almost a mentality where we contractors begin to think about doing things just a little bit differently," Bawden said. "Its kind of a mindset where you start thinking about how you can make something safer."
Based on Bawdens conversations with contractors across the nation, many firms have already begun to deal with these issues and welcome the guidance.
"Theyre saying, I know a little bit about this because Ive done some of it, but I know theres a lot more to learn out there and Im anxious to get that education," he said. "I dont think were going to have to struggle hard to develop interest in the contractor/remodeler community."
The first series of the three-day classes will debut in the spring at the NAHB Seniors Housing symposium titled "Building for Boomers and Beyond," in Orlando, Fla., with local certification classes being available within the next two years. Although no prices for the classes have been set, Bawden expects the three-day certification program to cost about $450.