What is a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)?

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Congratulations! You have decided that your home could function better for you as you get older. A Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) is the professional who can help.

You’re thinking about eliminating the steps to get into your home because you now use a cane to walk. You’re also wondering how remodeling your kitchen and bathroom could make those frequently used rooms be more comfortable and convenient. Which professional could best help you navigate this journey?

You should be looking for a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).

Why choose a Certified Aging in Place Specialist?

A builder/remodeler/contractor who has the CAPS designation has a particular skill set for aging in place home modifications and likely specializes in this niche area. Other contractors may also have good knowledge of aging in place products and projects, but you can feel most confident choosing a CAPS certified contractor.  

When safety is a priority, you want to be sure that the professional you hire knows the unique needs of older adults. Imagine what could happen if a general handyman installs a grab bar without the correct wall bracing to support body weight, and it comes out of the wall just as your mother is using it to help her get out of the shower?  

Who are CAPS professionals?

The CAPS, Certified Aging in Place Specialist, designation from the National Home Builders Association (NHBA) was developed in collaboration with AARP. Candidates are educated on the topics of home modifications, design-build, and products useful for everyone, but especially older adults live in their own homes safely for as long as possible, a concept known as aging in place.  

Many CAPS professionals are contractors, builders, architects, and interior designers. Some health care professionals, such as Physical (PT) and Occupational Therapists (OT), are also CAPS designated. These professionals usually have a background or particular interest in helping older adults; they have expertise in planning for and building or remodeling homes for aging in place.

What training do CAPS professionals have?

To receive the CAPS credential, a professional must complete a series of courses and pass exams to earn the certification. Class topics include the unique needs of older adults, product selection and installation, and solutions and home modifications for making a home barrier-free for safety and ease of livability. CAPS professionals must also complete continuing education coursework to renew their certification.  

Certified Aging in Place Specialist PTs and OTs 

Physical or Occupational Therapists who are also CAPS professionals, like me, fill a much needed and specialized niche. We are specifically trained to be efficient problem solvers especially those of us who specialize in home health.

PTs and OTs have extensive knowledge (most have a Master’s, Doctorate degree or equivalent) of:

  • The human body
  • Human movement
  • Disease processes
  • Therapeutic assistance

This expertise, combined with specialization regarding aging in place, allows us to provide the most comprehensive guidance to maximize safety and independence in the home.

Where do Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) work?

Many CAPS professionals work for building contractors, 55+ communities, and continuing care retirement communities. Others work in the healthcare field. Some, like me, blend the aspects of health care with home strategies and solutions to help people who want to make their homes ready for aging in place.

How many CAPS are available?

There are over 8000 professionals who have earned the CAPS designation, but considering the total number of handymen, builders, contractors, and remodelers in the United States, this is a small number. As the older population continues to age and need more home modifications, it will become more challenging to hire a CAPS professional due to higher demand.  

Here is an example of how a CAPS PT or OT professional could help you:

  • A CAPS Physical or Occupational Therapist would do a comprehensive home evaluation to identify any safety concerns. He or she will analyze how you walk and move both inside and outside of your home. They will also have you perform various tasks such as getting in and out of the shower and navigating steps.  
  • The PT or OT will ask you a lot of questions about your medical history, including a history of falls, concerns, and goals that you or your family may have, and your future plans for living in your home. He or she would then provide suggested strategies and solutions to address any problems found. Recommendations will be discussed with you and if you would like, your family as well.  
  • The CAPS PT or OT would discuss the planning and design of the project with the contractor you choose to complete the home modification installation, renovation, and construction work. The contractor and PT/OT would continue communicating throughout the construction process as needed to produce the desired final outcome.  

What types of projects might CAPS professionals recommend?

  • Railings
  • Increased lighting
  • Non-slip flooring
  • Zero step entrance
  • Stair glide, lift or elevator
  • Grab bars
  • Curbless shower
  • Hand-held shower
  • Shower bench
  • Raised toilet
  • Floating vanity
  • Pull out drawers
  • Multi-height counters
  • Emergency exit access

As you can imagine, many of these home renovations would be beneficial and convenient for anyone at any age, not just for older adults. They are classified as Universal Design because everyone could benefit.

Discover how a Certified Aging in Place professional can help you 

Actually, the best time to plan for aging in place renovations is before you need them.  Some types of projects take a significant amount of time to complete, and you want to do thorough research and planning.

Having a home that is ready to age in place provides security, safety, and peace of mind and can set you up for a beautiful future in your home. It will also help you to remain as independent as possible in your later years, requiring less dependence on others to help you.  

Choose a Certified Aging in Place Specialist PT or OT and a CAPS building contractor to help you plan, develop, and execute your home modification projects. This wise choice will help to ensure that you are getting the safest and most innovative ideas, strategies, and solutions to produce a home that will work well for you in the years to come.

About the Author

As a home health Physical Therapist for over 20 years, I help clients solve home dilemmas so they can live their best life.

I'm here to use that same problem-solving expertise and training as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist to help you create an optimized home that's forward-thinking and future-ready to support you and your loved ones well for a lifetime.

Ready to discover your Golden Girl strategy for a retirement-ready home?