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There Is No Place Like Home For Growing Old
 We would really rather stay at home for as long as possible!
“The stairs are getting harder to climb.”  “Since my wife died, I just open a can of soup for dinner.” “I’ve lived here 40 years.  I can’t imagine any other place feeling like home.”   You may feel this way yourself, or have someone close to you that does. As Americans grow older, the prospect of aging and staying at home typically wins over moving into a long term care or assisted living facility as long as it remains possible to do so!  What makes it possible is good news for many millions of Americans facing this momentous and sensitive time of their lives.  Learn what you need to do to make your home or the home of an aging parent, friend or relative accessible, secure, safe and livable independently and who would be the best to contract to help. 
"Fixing To Stay"
In May of 2000, AARP conducted a landmark study titled "Fixing To Stay."  The study uncovered some not surprising information, as well as some astounding statistics.  Not surprising, more Americans prefer to remain in their homes as they mature rather than seek assisted living or other arrangements.  To be precise, 83% of respondents ages 55 to 64 agreed that they would really like to stay in their current residences for as long as possible.  Determining what modifications they can make to their current residences to help them live safely, securely, independently, and with accessibility to meet their growing health and aging needs can make the differences they are looking for to keep their house their “home” for a lifetime.
Who Is Qualified To Best Help Determine What Home Modifications Are Needed?
Older consumers want a reliable means of identifying professionals they can trust to help make the right modifications to their current homes.  Those professionals need to be reliable, honest and have training in the proper skill-sets to modify, design and build a safe, barrier-free, energy-efficient, accessible home.  There is great news for the 77 million Baby Boomers that will reach retirement age during the first years of the 21st century, as well as for their already aging parents.  Determining what home modifications are right and then following through with the necessary construction work is easier now than ever before thanks to CAPS.  The Certified Aging In Place Specialist program was developed as a result of findings in the AARP study, "Fixing To Stay."  The program was created specifically for the building and remodeling contractor community to provide comprehensive, practical, and market-specific information about working with older and maturing adults to help remodel their homes for aging in place.  CAPS was developed as a collaborative effort between AARP, National Association Of Home Builders Research Center and NAHB Seniors Housing Council. 
CAPS provides very specific training to the dedicated builder and remodeler that wants to focus on providing these services to the aging population.  CAPS addresses the communication and technical needs of this demographic group; building and remodeling codes and standards, common barriers and solutions, product ideas and resources that are relevant and current to these projects.  Beyond completing initial class time, all remodeling contractors earning the CAPS status are required to complete continuing education classes every three years to remain current and / or to participate in community service.  A builder or remodeling contractor who has achieved the Certified Aging In Place Specialist status would be best qualified to advise you on the right steps to take to design modifications to a new or current home with yours or someone else´s aging in place in mind.

Are all remodeling contractors Certified Aging In Place Specialists?  The answer is No.  Only if they have completed the required training and maintained it with the continued education also required.  These remodelers have made a commitment to staying current with required codes and regulations, have devoted time to learn and perfect a new and specialized dimension of planning, designing, building and remodeling, and are dedicated to serving to the aging population.  In the Twin Cities metro, Certified Aging In Place Specialists represent a small percentage of the entire remodeling contractor community, approximately 10% to 20%.
Making Your Home Accessible Doesn’t Mean Compromising Warmth Or Tomco Company, Inc.Beauty
To stay at home and age in place safely and comfortably, a few modifications may need to be made.  Recruiting the help of a Certified Aging In Place Specialist will provide you with the best resource to get that process in motion.  Accessible home designs have wide appeal for active lifestyles.  They can be functional, versatile, and they ensure the pleasure of living in a familiar home throughout one’s maturing years.  Accessible homes don’t have to look industrial or institutional.  Accessible homes do not have to compromise warmth or beauty! 
What Criteria Is Important In Determining Which Modifications Need To Be Made?
Every home and every homeowner has an individual set of needs, abilities and preferences.  There is no cookie cutter approach to Universal Design.  Designing with your future in mind requires a good listener with the right skills and training.  The best way to begin planning for home modifications is by asking some simple questions.  According to the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA), the goal of home modifications should improve the following features of a home:
Accessibility. This refers to making doorways wider, clearing spaces to make sure a wheelchair or walker can easily pass through, lowering countertop heights for sinks and kitchen cabinets, installing grab doors and placing light switches and electrical outlets at heights that can be reached easily.  It should be the primary goal, when approaching best desgin practices for accessibility to comply with the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, the Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility guidelines*, and American National Standards Institute regulations for accessibility.  Unfortunately, often existing space limitations and budgets restrict following these guidelines and innovative solutions are required to best meet accessibility needs.  Any work done must also conform to state and local building codes. 
Adaptability. This refers to changes than can be made quickly to accommodate the needs of seniors or disabled individuals without having to completely redesign the home or use different materials for essential fixtures.  Examples include installing grab bars on bathroom walls and removable cabinet bases under sinks so that space can be used by someone in a wheelchair.  Or an appropriate sized closet can be designed into a project to accommodate a future elevator.
Universal Design. These features should be built or remodeled into a home when the first blueprints or architectural plans are drawn.  These features include appliances, fixtures, and floor plans that are easy for all people to use, flexible enough so that they can be adapted for special needs, sturdy and reliable, and functional with a minimum of effort and understanding of the mechanisms involved.
Visitability. These include features for seniors who may want to entertain disabled guests or who wish to plan ahead for the day when they may require some extra help in getting around their own homes.  Examples include installing a ramp to the front door of a house and remodeling the hallways and rooms to allow wheelchair access. 
Universal Design Contractors are a good resource when it comes to planning a home to fit new and upcoming lifestyles and abilities.  They are trained and listen well to homeowners’ preferences and develop design plans that are both beautiful and practical.  They will give you specific recommendations for home products and accessories, modifications and help you determine the proper placements.  If you are weighing the options of staying at home versus moving into another living arrangement, or you know someone that is, consider consulting with a Certified Aging In Place Specialist first.  If you know you are planning to build or remodel a home for your maturing years, choosing an adaptable design plan that will fit your lifestyle and needs as they change is easy with the right contractor.  There really is no place like home for growing old.  To learn more about individual options for you in your home, contacting Tom Schiebout of Tomco Company, Inc. can provide you with the information you need.

*Only in public buildings or buildings that have received government funding or grants are the Act of 1988 and ADA compliance enforced.  Private party remodeling is exempt from this enforcement, but is something all remodelers should be aware of when designing space in private residences.

For more information or for specific questions, contact Tomco Company, Inc. at 763-434-1522.    Tom Schiebout is a Certified Aging In Place Specialist and can answer any of your questions or concerns.


Tomco Company, Inc. - Quality Construction Since 1979


Call 763-434-1522
Tom Schiebout
Certified Aging In Place Specialist
MN License #8747


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Sources:  Tomco Company, Inc.
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