In a pioneering new initiative to further support aging-in-place, the New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) has partnered with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the Association on Aging in New York (AgingNY) to launch an innovative home-modification credentialing initiative aimed at bringing safety and security to older adults at home.
Through NAHB’s existing Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) accreditation program, NYSOFA, NAHB, and AgingNY are equipping New York’s aging services providers with training and CAPS certification to work with older adults in assessing and arranging for necessary home improvements so that individuals can remain in their own homes safely as they age, reducing/preventing falls, and preventing injury as well as unnecessary or premature institutionalization.
NYSOFA, NAHB and AgingNY announced the partnership during falls-prevention week, from September 18 to 24, 2022, a nationwide effort to raise awareness that falls are preventable.
NAHB’s existing CAPS credentialing program supports a variety of professionals responsible for helping individuals age-in-place – from builders, architects and remodelers to occupational therapists and physical therapists. Working with NYSOFA and AgingNY, NAHB is providing CAPS training to case managers who serve hundreds of thousands of older New Yorkers annually through county-based Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).
One hundred case managers have registered for this first round of CAPS training, which is being held in three sessions from August through October. NYSOFA filled all of these registration slots within 12 hours, due to overwhelming interest in the CAPS certification. Two hundred more case managers will be certified in the next two years for a total of 300 CAPS-trained staff.
CAPS specialists are trained to assess for and recommend individualized home modifications or updates to help people live independently in their own homes by meeting safety or functional needs, often coordinating with licensed contractors on a plan to make home improvements. CAPS specialists are also trained to provide information about building codes and standards, useful products, and other resources to help.
According to AARP, the vast majority of older adults – approximately 77 percent – report that they prefer to age in place. Aging in place is also more cost-effective. According to Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care study, the average cost of assisted-living facility care in New York State is $54,960 annually. For nursing home care, it’s over $158,000 for a private room. Compare that with $14,600, which is what homeowners are expected to spend on average on home improvements in 2022, according to NAHB. Costs for specific projects can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and can include outdoor and indoor lighting upgrades, installation of grab-bars or curbless showers, single-story living modifications, smart technology, and so much more. A CAPS-trained case manager can help individuals assess their options.
NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen said: “When most people buy a home, they don’t think about whether it’s equipped to meet their changing needs as they age. And most homes, especially older ones, are not designed with longevity in mind. Yet ask any New Yorker, and they’ll tell you that they overwhelmingly prefer to age in place and will do anything to make this option possible. NYSOFA is thrilled at the overwhelming response to this certification program among New York’s aging services case managers. Because case managers are in older adults’ homes, they are naturally positioned to identify and recommend appropriate changes to the built environment that promote independence and help reduce the risk of falls or injuries related to falls.”
NAHB Chief Executive Officer Gerald M. Howard said: “Since NAHB began the CAPS designation in 2002, we’ve seen interest in aging-in-place skyrocket. The first class had just over 50 members. Now, nearly 9,500 individuals are certified with the CAPS designation. This speaks to the need for aging-in-place services across the building sector, and we’re excited to partner with NYSOFA on this endeavor to ensure that homeowners who want to age in their home will continue to have access to qualified providers and services to help them make the necessary improvements.”
AgingNY Executive Director Becky Preve said: “Our aging services staff are a trusted resource for older New Yorkers and their families. CAPS certification allows our case managers to continue to provide the highest level of service and expertise to those we serve. Environmental factors in the built environment can be the conduit for successful aging in place; or, conversely, an unsuitable built environment can force individuals to move into higher levels of care. CAPS designation will allow expert guidance from the aging services network to our most vulnerable residents. We are thrilled that the New York State Office for the Aging continues to be an innovator for successful aging.”
New York State Senator Rachel May, Chair of the Senate Committee on Aging, said: “NYSOFA’s groundbreaking initiative to help older adults modify their homes with safety improvements will ensure they can safely age in place, which provides a comfortable and familiar living space and is the most cost-effective way to care for older adults who do not require the highest levels of care. Thank you to NYSOFA and its partners for this new program to help older adults safely and comfortably stay in their homes.”
New York State Assemblymember Ron Kim, Chair of the Assembly on Aging, said: “This is a thoughtful initiative by the Office for the Aging to provide our state’s case managers the knowledge and training needed to help older adults live safely in their homes. It is encouraging to see policies that support patients and center their needs and preferences. I hope that we will continue to develop new and innovative programs that further this and other related goals for aging New Yorkers.”
New York State Assembly Member Jake Ashby, an Occupational Therapist by trade who holds the CAPS certification, said: “I applaud NYSOFA for moving forward with this important partnership to assist our older residents to age in place. This certification will be a tremendous asset to many professionals across the state and ultimately allow thousands of New Yorkers to remain comfortably in their homes.”