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Senior Citizen's Guide to Detroit

How Can a C.A.P.S. Help You? 

You have probably heard the buzz word CAPS but what exactly is a CAPS and how can it help you?  CAPS is an acronym which means Certified Aging in Place Specialist. This is a designation awarded by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) after extensive training focused on “technical, business management, and customer service skills essential in the aging-in-place market”.  A CAPS has extensive knowledge in creating a safe and comfortable environment for people who don’t need or want to move from their home in order to accommodate their changing needs. According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), there are approximately 77 million baby boomers (persons born between 1946 and 1965). This means the first of the baby boomers will be 65 this year, 2011. AARP also states that more than 84% of people aged 50 and older want to stay in their homes as they age.

As people get older, health conditions may develop requiring alterations to your home. Health conditions such as vision problems, hearing problems, coordination, balance and strength issues. There may also be diminished loss of feeling in arms or legs or a decrease in overall mobility.

With this information at hand, what can a CAPS do for you? A CAPS can come to your home and provide you with a safety analysis making recommendations to improve your home so that you can stay in it safely as you get older. You can do a safety overview of your own home by arming yourself with a basic checklist.

Try using this quick list to see if you may need some alterations to your home by a CAPS.

Doorways / Hallways

  • Ensure full clearance with doors and remove items obstructing hallways –important especially if mobility is impaired
  • Consider single lever handles instead of doorknobs. Much easier to open for arthritic hands
  • Increase lighting in dark hallways


  • Remove any damaged or loose flooring
  • Look for smooth transitions between different types of flooring
  • Remove any loose throw rugs
  • Non-slip flooring in wet areas is recommended


  • Install handrails on both sides of stairways
  • Remove any excess objects sitting on stairs
  • Ensure there is non-slip treads on stairs


  • Make sure there is sufficient counter space with adequate lighting
  • Good ventilation
  • There should be counter space near cook top for placing hot items
  • Sufficient room to move about safely. Remove island if necessary


  • Grabs bars in shower/tub/toilet area
  • Consider side entry tub if mobility is impaired
  • Non-slip materials in the bottom of shower/tub as well as the entire room
  • Single lever faucets
  • Comfort height toilets
  • Increase lighting, including a night light


  • Front loading washer and dryer elevated
  • Non slip flooring
  • Folding table next to the dryer
  • Accessible storage at comfortable height for supplies


  • Adequate room to move around the bed
  • Night light


  • Controls should be easily accessible
  • Outlets should be 18”-24” off of the floor
  • Rocker switches
  • Motion sensor lights at room transitions as well as stairways

After you have surveyed your home, you may determine that your home needs some minor changes or a major renovation. In some cases, a CAPS will work with your health care professional. CAPS routinely coordinate home modifications with Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Case Managers and Social Workers. In order to finance your upcoming project, it may be necessary to speak with a qualified lender who specializes in reverse mortgages or home equity loans.

A CAPS can discuss with you necessary changes which can determine the size of your improvement project. A CAPS can help you by identifying special needs that may be sensitive in nature. A CAPS is also well versed in building codes and regulations.

Once you have a meeting scheduled with a CAPS, be prepared to spend a couple hours discussing in detail your needs for yourself and family as well as your potential needs for the future. The CAPS may ask lots of personal questions pertaining to abilities in strength, dexterity, reach, safety concerns, desires, preferences and challenges. These are necessary in order to plan for a total arrangement that will successfully meet your needs. If you have a family member that assists you in major financial decisions, it may be helpful for this person to be present at the meeting as well.

The bottom line is your home needs to be an environment that is safe, functional, and promotes independence as much as possible. A CAPS will work with you to create a home that not only meets all the above requirements but that is beautiful as well. Most importantly, your improved home needs to be a home that you will love for many years to come.

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